Often time clients ask me to list the most important things they should do if they become depressed. Here are my top five recommendations.
The first is what I call set the intention to heal. This means making the decision that you want to get well, even if you don’t know how. Setting the intention to heal does two things. First, by setting the intention to heal you will stimulate and support your body’s “healing system”—its innate capacity to control disease and bring itself back into balance.”To take full advantage of the healing power of intention, I suggest that people write what I call a vision statement wellness. The vision statement answers the question, “What would my life be like if I were free of the symptoms and depression and anxiety?” I will be posting a blog that outlines exactly how to create an effective vision statement of wellness.
The second thing that a person with depression needs to do is to reach out for support. There are two reasons to do this. First the power of intention is magnified when it is shared with another person. When we state our vision of wellness in the presence of one or more supportive people, that vision becomes strengthened and exponentially magnified. Second, human beings are biologically hard wired for connection; this is why Dean Ornish writes in his book Love and Survival, Anything that promotes a sense of love and intimacy, connection and community, is healing.”
My third recommendation is to take care of your physical body as best you can. Part of this involves making sure that you are getting enough sleep, eating well, and exercising your physical body. Of course all three of these things are problematic to a depressed person. Sleep disruptions are common andmany people who are depressed lose their interest in food and their motivation to exercise. Yet these tendencies can be overcome with counseling, support and medication.
The fourth thing to do if you are depressed is to create structure and routine that allows you to engage with the world. To heal from depression, we need a reason to get out of bed. We need somewhere to go and something to do. Going to an outpatient mental health treatment program is one way to do this. Otherwise, you concrete your own structure by:
Taking a walk with a friend
Going to a movie
Doing some kind of volunteer work
Taking a class in a subject that interests you
Attending a book club
Going to the gym
Going out to eat with a friend.
Going to the library
The final and probably most important thing to do when you are depressed is to Tell yourself, “This too shall pass.” As many of you may know, when we depressives have an episode, our dysregulated brain tells us that us that the episode will never end, that we are condemned to a kind of eternal hell. If this occurs, we must respond to this untruth with statements such as: “This too, shall pass,” “Nothing lasts forever,” “The only constant in the universe is change,” and I can get through this.”
In summary, the five top things to do when you are depressed is to set the intention to heal, reach out for support, do your best to care for your physical body, create structures that engage you with the world, and tell yourself, “This too shall pass.” Now there are many other thoughts and behaviors that can change your brain chemistry and lead you to wellness. I have a diagram of them which you can find by clicking on this link.
Good luck, and I wish you the best in your mental health recovery.