We are weighed down as a society. The daily assault of news stories, overwhelmingly bad, and the feeling of helplessness to affect change has, at times, felt too overpowering and dark. Many of us feel weighed down by the demands of our everyday lives, leaving little time for self-awareness or self-care. Our culture values achievement, material pursuits, unrealistic body image and socio-economic status, and it’s easy to feel relentlessly driven to keep up and to feel valued. The culture is so polarized that it’s hard to feel connected. Often, we maintain an outward demeanor that belies our emotional reality. “Hi, how are you?” “I’m fine, thanks!” It’s the instinctual, expected response, after all no one really wants to know how you’re truly feeling; that’s not why they asked.
Even those with seemingly everything going for them can suffer from depression. In recent years, we’ve been shocked by acts of suicide among celebrities. Most recently, Anthony Bourdain, whose public persona screamed “best life”, ended his. And Chris Cornell, the front man for several iconic rock bands through the decades, took his own life in 2017. This was a man who seemed to have everything to live for: an enviable music career, a family whom he loved, the promise of a comfortable future and good overall health. And before that, it was Robin Williams who committed suicide in 2014, shocking the world by what appears to have been the tears of a clown. Nobody would’ve thought someone like Robin Williams could be depressed. What did he have to be depressed about, after all?
We are spiritual beings having a human experience, and oftentimes we get caught up in the superficial trappings of this human dimension. Carl Jung wrote about his work around “the shadow”, which is that part of us we feel we need to hide because it causes shame. Our shadow sometimes feels like the part of us we’d rather cut off, like a gangrenous limb. But there is such richness within the dark that, with the right encouragement and direction, can allow us to become “unstuck” and find levity in our lives. Embracing the shadow self through trauma therapy, hypnotherapy, journaling or any manor of thoughtful exploration, will lead to a sense of feeling whole. This is the ultimate act of self-compassion.
Connection is the key to emotional wellness, and when a person feels depressed s/he is less likely to connect with others, resulting in isolation. It can be argued that as spiritual beings, our purpose is to embody love and to share that love with others. A person suffering from depression typically doesn’t feel he or she has anything to offer, and the more s/he isolates the deeper the depression. Those who experience depression feel that they are alone in their suffering, which couldn’t be farther from the truth. We all have wounds in different shapes and from varying origins. There is always someone who will listen. Call a friend, go to a yoga or meditation class, or otherwise engage your Higher Power. The most important relationship any of us has is the relationship with the self. What is ONE good thing about your life? Focus on that one thing, and you will begin to recognize other good things. There is power in becoming aware of self-talk, and challenging those negative statements we repeat like a broken record.
How do you know if you, or someone close to you, is suffering from depression? The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for mental health disorders lists among the symptoms of a depressive episode:
- A depressed mood that last for more than two weeks
- Changes in sleep, whether sleeping more or sleeping less
- Changes in appetite and weight
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- Loss of interest in things a person typically enjoys
- Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
In my work as a psychotherapist with clients who suffer from depression, I encourage them to just change one thing. If you are isolating, being sedentary or otherwise inactive, or simply avoiding life as you used to know it, first of all be understanding and tender with yourself. Acknowledge that you have an emotional need that is not being addressed. And then add one thing to what you are doing:
- Begin journaling about your feelings. This has the effect of getting your emotions off of your proverbial chest, and beginning to sort through things.
- Talk to someone about what you’re feeling, whether that person is a friend or family member, or a therapist.
- Begin a simple exercise practice. Get outside and walk, do some gentle yoga, or jump in the pool for a swim. Exercise releases the “good stuff” in your brain, such as dopamine, serotonin and adrenaline. It can also help to improve the quality of your sleep.
- Strive to accept or extend one social invitation
every week. Ask a friend to join you for
dinner or give in to your sister’s urging to join her for yoga-in-the-park.
If you need help in identifying underlying issues that might be contributing to a feeling of hopelessness and depression, reach out for help from a skilled therapist. Begin today by valuing yourself and finding the self love that allows you to begin to heal. At Life Skills Resource Group, we have gifted therapists whose specialties cover most any emotional need. We can help you piece together the mind, body and spirit so that you can be the best version of yourself. Call us at (407) 355-7378 for a free consultation.