11 Ways to Beat Depression
I do not know the anguish of the severe depression Robin Williams, often called the American Treasure, experienced. As noted in testimonial after testimonial, the world will miss him, his unique brand of humor, and his many contributions to making each of us laugh as he did in Mrs. Doubtfire or change our perspectives as he did in Dead Poet’s Society and Goodwill Hunting for which he won an academy award.
I do know about the depression that can come from missed deadlines, lost clients, debt, problems with growing children, and a myriad of other experiences you inadvertently have as you live a full life of striving to thrive.
If you experience the natural and normal depressions of life as described above, I offer you my suggestions for overcoming the dips and the downers of mortal existence. If you suffer from the clinical and severe depression Robin Williams experienced (which is more than a few down days), please seek professional help.
1- Decide to ‘let go’ of depression. I remember a time when I was depressed. I don’t know what I was depressed about, but I had been depressed for several days. I cried myself to sleep each night. One night I found the courage to say, “I’m tired of being depressed. I am going to wake up happy tomorrow.” And I did.
It felt so good to shed the darkness of depression and make a conscious decision to have hope. I followed a proven principle of self-help: Don’t just think positive thoughts, replace them with more balanced thoughts that make you take action.
2- Give up perfection. This is a tough one for me. My perfectionistic tendencies were reinforced by my dear Mom who often quoted, “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing well.”
It was twenty years later when I read “Perfectionism: What’s Bad about being too Good?” by Miriam Adderholdt-Elliot that I learned for myself that not everything is worthy of 110 percent effort. You have to pick and choose where to put your energy and mindshare. Understanding this principle, you accept the fact that some tasks will not be done to perfection. You can be comforted by a quote from Annette Funicello, American actress and singer who rose to prominence as one of the most popular “Mousketeers” on Walt Disney’s original Mickey Mouse Club TV show. Funicello wisely said, “Life does not have to be perfect to be perfectly wonderful.”
3- Get outside and get some exercise. I believe “get outside” and “get some exercise” go hand in hand. Several years ago I visited a friend who was extremely depressed. I was shocked when I walked in her living room. The window curtains were closed. My eyes had to adjust to the dark. I remember thinking, “No wonder she is depressed. There is not a sunbeam of light in this room.” There is something magical about sunlight that makes me feel better.
In a similar manner, walking, jogging, running, lifting weights, swimming, and tennis – any kind of exercise may be the last thing you want to do when you feel down, but once you get moving, the psychological and physical are significant. Exercise reduces anxiety, releases feel-good brain chemicals (endorphins), and improves your mood by taking your mind off your worries. Studies show that exercise can be as effective as antidepressants and you skip the annoying side effects.
4- Hang out with positive people. A friend once said, “Don’t walk away from negative people, RUN.” Combine this with Funicello’s quote and you have two of the best remedies for depression I have ever experienced. Jim Rohn, American entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker who wrote motivational thoughts entitled Vitamins for the Mind, said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” That is a scary thought. It is worth evaluating who you spend the most time with because a large amount of your success (or your lack of success) can be attributed to them.
Overcoming hardships and the resulting depression is made much simpler by surrounding yourself with successful friends and mentors who can lend a listening ear and give you practical steps to triumph over the bad luck you may have had.
5- See every hourly event as an opportunity. I have been working on a project with a friend who has a great deal of struggle with one particular relationship which caused a ripple effect through several relationships.
He confided in me his secret to staying positive and sane. His secret is to print on his hand the word opportunity. When any event happens, negative or positive but especially the negative, he looks at the word opportunity printed on his hand and proactively decides what he can learn or how he can turn the happening around and make it positive. Try it. You will be surprised how this technique cures depression.
6- Stop beating yourself up. We often dump on ourselves with ‘Should of, could of’ and with ‘should not have’ and we beat ourselves up for making the best judgment call we could make at that moment. It has taken me years of maturity to step away from this nasty habit and say, “At that moment in time, I made the best decision I could.” Repeat this simple statement to yourself when the ‘Should of’ thoughts come into your mind. They will keep you from starting the downward spiral of depression.
7- Get the amount of sleep you need. Each individual seems to have their own internal clock and need for sleep. I need about 6-7 hours of sleep a night. I had a friend who swore he only slept for 3 hours a night. I asked him if he was productive all of that time and he said “Yes.” When I looked at his impressive life accomplishments, earnings in the financial world, and volunteer work for the Boy Scouts and VOAD (volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster), I knew he was telling the truth. I was jealous.
My lesson, however, is that you must get the proper amount of sleep you need or it will be easy for you to find yourself in a downward spiral of depression. At least I have found that when frustrations are mounting to the point of total confusion and lack of focus, disengaging with a short nap brings clarity of thought and calmness of mind.
8- Find an organization and volunteer. Organizations that need volunteers are prolific and they are a great place to find friends but more importantly, volunteering enables you to fight depression by getting outside of your personal problems and challenges.
Whether you choose to serve in a professional organization in your chosen field of expertise or a non-profit that feeds the homeless, helps kids learn how to read, or fights domestic violence, you have many chances to replace depression with service. In addition to learning new skills, you will expand your network, boost your leadership and enhance your social abilities. As a volunteer you become the glue that holds a community together. As you increase your self-confidence to tackle the problems in your volunteer organization, you have more ability to take on similar problems in your company and you become the super glue that holds your team together and helps them find solutions to nagging daily problems. Everything you learn by volunteering can advance your career and be positive replacements for depression.
9- Look for a friend less fortunate and serve them. A famous Jewish proverb reads: “I felt sorry for myself because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.” My reality is, “I was upset that I didn’t have the right shoes for my new suit. Then I attended the event and met a person who had been in a plane accident and survived but had burns over his most of his body.”
You will lose your depressing thoughts fast when you realize there are millions of people in the world that are enduring worse circumstances that you. Pick one. Listen to them with empathy. You will be amazed when you understand that you have something to offer them. Listen to them. Look for ways to help them and you will start an upward spiral of hope and happiness, pulling you out of the downward spiral of depression.
10- Find a trusted friend to confide in. My trusted friend is my sister. I know that whatever I tell her is in the “vault” as a Seinfeld episode made popular. When I call her, there is give and take and a deep transparency. She can tell me what demons she is struggling with and I can tell her my demons – all without judgment and some laughter as we have learned to look on the humorous side of the “bad” things that happen to us.
Once I told her about an issue I was struggling with and she made the statement, “I can’t imagine how bad that made you feel.” Amazingly, by her acknowledgement of my pain, I felt better. My depression seemed to dissolve into thin air and my normal fight was restored. A feeling of tension release is important in the dialog you engage in with your trusted friend. These discussions should never become pity parties or both participants will be vulnerable to depression – the opposite of what you want to achieve.
11- Decide to live by your values. What really matters to you? Are you doing things every day that give your life meaning? Living by what you value is a key ingredient to fighting depression. Being out of integrity with your values can cause depression to spiral out of control. There are easy exercises to help you discover what you truly value – not what your friends or parents think you should value. Two of the best exercises are (1) write your obituary and (2) write down what people who know and love you would say about you at your funeral.
Both of these exercises may cause a certain uneasiness or queasiness inside but don’t let that stop you from picking up a pen and going to work on a blank piece of paper. Click here for a sample obituary: Write Your Obituary
Another exercise is to assume you have 100 points to divide between Fame, Fortune, and Family. How many points will you give to each category? As I run this exercise in my keynotes and training exercises, I find that participants give the most points to family and the least points to fame. They then come face-to-face with the fact that even though they value their family/personal relationships the most, those relationships are on the back burner because of the requirements made by their work. Facing this truth helps them reprioritize and strive for more time with the people they love, thus helping them live by their values.
Try these 11 tips and hopefully you will be empowered to pull yourself out of those irritating downward depression cycles. We don’t want you to repeat Robin William’s devastating end of life. To honor his life, watch his clips on YouTube, laugh and find yourself in a better place emotionally as you fight the depression that life’s challenges may bring your way.
Karla is an Atlanta-based Keynote Speaker. Her iExpect Success keynotes address stress techniques as well as positive mental strategies to live a more fulfilling life. Use the form below to bring Karla to your next retreat or conference.