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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

How to Cure Depression (Professional Advice from a Therapist)

How to Cure Depression (Professional Advice from a Therapist)

Did you know that most people on anti-depressants are depressed again a year later? And between 2005 and 2015, the number of people living with depression worldwide increased by a staggering 18.4%[1].

Even though people are taking more antidepressants than ever, depression is still increasing. It’s paradoxical to think that the estimated 264 million people in the world living with depression are actually together in feeling alone and hopeless[2].

What the pharmaceutical companies seem to make consumers think is that antidepressants cure a chemical imbalance in their brains. But if that were true, why aren’t we seeing depression disappear? That’s not to say antidepressants don’t reduce the impact of symptoms and act as a bridge to effectively address the underlying problems, but relying on them to “cure” depression is not the answer.

We know this.

So how to cure depression?

Johann Hari, a journalist and author challenging what we know about mental health, poses that depression and anxiety arise because our basic needs aren’t being met. He challenges the chemical imbalance argument and argues that masking the symptoms is not the way to cure it.

Overcoming depression starts by understanding that it’s not just a diagnosis but a signal that something bigger needs attention, that something is missing or off-balance. And just as we would do for a car or a computer, we need to look inside to find out what’s causing that flashing red light.

What Causes Depression?

Before we dive in, it’s crucial that you know these three things first if you’re suffering from depression:

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  1. You’re not broken.
  2. You can overcome it.
  3.  It’s probably a natural reaction to the environment you’re in and/or to the events that you’ve been through in your life.

It could be that you’re in an environment that is lacking basic needs such as connection, meaning, and passion, or that you’re holding irrational negative beliefs about yourself based on childhood or traumatic experiences, but one thing is for sure: whatever you’re feeling is real[3].

Whilst this article is not an exhaustive attempt to address all possible causes, we’ll talk about some of the most common causes of depression, namely the lack of meaningful connections and the negative beliefs that we hold from our past.

 

A Lack of Meaningful Connections

One of the most basic human needs is the primal need to feel connected, to be a part of something.

Our ancestral hunter-gatherers needed to be connected as part of a tribe in order to survive. Being rejected meant being exposed to the predators looking for weaklings, people who were alone and vulnerable.

Yes, times have changed, and we’re no longer expecting to be eaten alive in the middle of a city, but we still have that same need for a tribe, to have connection. The great irony is that we’re more able now to “connect” to humans all over the world, but we’re also lonelier than ever. We’re not getting as many real, meaningful connections.

The predators we face now are inside our own heads when we’re sitting alone in our flat feeling hopeless, sad, or (worst of all) feeling nothing. The predator is the belief that death is a way out, a way to ease the nothingness.

This is just one cause, but it’s a big one.

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This isn’t about just talking to or being in the presence of others. You can feel alone in a crowd, and you can feel alone in a marriage. It’s not the physical aspect but the other bit that we get when we form a tribe: the meaning and satisfaction we feel when we share things with others. When we contribute some part of ourselves and improve some part of someone’s something, that’s when we feel a real connection.

In the working environments we’ve created for ourselves, people are working long hours with little to no connection or fulfillment. Our ancestors never had to deal with this type of environment, and it’s something which we need to be acutely aware of so that we can recognize and respond to the signals when we see them.

Professor Caccioppo, previously a psychologist at the University of Chicago and an expert in loneliness stated that:

“The purpose of loneliness is like the purpose of hunger. Hunger takes care of your physical body. Loneliness takes care of your social body, which you also need to survive and prosper. We’re a social species.”[4]

We need these feelings to tell us something is off-balance. Feeling lonely and disconnected means you’re not getting enough of the human connection you need, so you need to change your approach. But if you don’t know that these feelings are signals, and you don’t take the right approach, it’s easy to just give up and say “I’ll never be able to solve this, I’m useless.”

Your subconscious mind believes the things you tell it, and if you’re telling it just how worthless you are, how useless and how unlovable you are, then there’s no wonder you’re feeling worthless, useless, and unlovable. This is another cause of depression: the scripts we tell ourselves.

Your Childhood Scripts

“I’ve always lived with depression, it’s just the way I am.”

Believing that you’re stuck or that you were born with depression is a major block stopping you from overcoming depression. If you’re replaying the same negative scripts over and over, scripts you’ve written for yourself and scripts that others have written for you, then it’s not surprising that your head isn’t an easy place in which to live.

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Not feeling like you’re enough. Not feeling like you deserve to be happy. Feeling like you’re a lost cause.

All of these types of beliefs are things learned over the course of a life, most likely when you were young. Your logical mind didn’t develop until your early teens, so when someone told you that you weren’t good enough or made you feel alone, different or weird, then your emotional brain took that to be the truth about you. But sometimes as adults, we need to revisit the stuff we let in when we were kids because it’s almost always irrational and illogical.

It’s absolutely not your fault that you have them, but it is your responsibility to find and remove them.

A client of mine believed that he couldn’t change because it was the way he’d always been. When we overcame that belief, the next one was that he didn’t believe that what he did was ever good enough. He tried to fit into a career that he thought he needed to, and when he couldn’t face it anymore, he told himself he just wasn’t good enough.

He didn’t contemplate that he was just trying to be someone that he wasn’t and that there were things at which he was amazingly talented. But the shift happened when he started seeing that depression was just a sign for him to keep searching to find his passions, not to settle for a career he hated and to make peace with the relationship he had with his father.

This is something all of us need to work on, and often it’s easier with a therapist who specializes in the subconscious mind (as that’s where it’s all stored), but ultimately you can do this on your own with some real introspection.

How to Cure Depression

By now you’re no doubt aware that there’s no miracle “cure” to depression, but hopefully you can see that depression is a very real and often understandable response to things you’ve been through or things (or lack of) in your environment.

It’s not a matter of just “getting support” or “finding more friends”; that won’t solve it, and it’s not really what you need. Here are some things that will help:

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1. Change Your Scripts

Overcoming depression starts by understanding how your brain works and how other people’s brains work. When you know that your pain has a purpose, that it’s a method of self-preservation, then you can start being aware of what it’s causing you to do and think. When you are aware, you can then change it and rewire it.

For more ways to shift your mindset and rewire your scripts, check out some tips here.

2. Build Meaning and Connection

Building meaningful connections with others will be easier by working on your emotional intelligence and communication skills. Understanding how to read people’s facial expressions, voice, and body language, and focusing on what that person is saying and feeling will help you develop these.

You’ll be able to get control over your self-preservation instincts causing you to feel threatened, and you can see people in a different light. When others feel heard, they’re going to want to hear from you. And if you actually open up, you might find that they feel the same or that you can show them a new perspective.

3. Do Selfless Acts

It has also been shown that we find meaning when doing something for others, doing something where you show human kindness and make a difference to someone. Start by passing on something helpful, or being there for someone, even if it feels really hard.

When you step up and show someone you care, or when you open up about your struggles and be vulnerable, someone who needs it (be it in your office, at a homeless shelter, or just a friend) you’ll be amazed at how good it feels. It’s small, incremental changes here that really help.

Final Thoughts

Depression is really signalling you to stop and take stock of what’s happening around you or what you’ve left unresolved from your past. Just know that you can work on it, that you can find out what ignites your fire and passion, and what makes you feel like you. Above all else, know that it’s all figureoutable and that you’re going to be fine.

More Tips on Dealing With Depression

Featured photo credit: Anastasia Vityukova via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Daina Worrall

Lawyer, C. Hypnotherapist and RTT Therapist - Personal Development & Mental Health

Overcome Fear and Anxiety with These 4 Mindset Shifts Self Care Tips During Difficult Times (A Therapist’s Advice) How to Cure Depression (Professional Advice from a Therapist) How to Turn Negative Thoughts Into Positive Action Now How to Take Personal Responsibility and Stop Blaming Circumstances

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Published on February 26, 2021

3 Common Causes Of Stress That Are Depleting Your Energy

3 Common Causes Of Stress That Are Depleting Your Energy

Are you feeling amplified anxiety, sadness, or anger lately? An astounding 84% of adults have felt at least one of these stress-related emotions in the two weeks prior to being surveyed, according to this recent Stress in America report.[1] Although it’s often comforting to know you’re not alone, the pervasiveness of this particular shared experience is disconcerting. But first, what causes stress?

What Causes Stress?

Lurking beneath the surface of this collective situation are some deeper factors: feelings of powerlessness and a diminished sense of certainty.

Due to a variety of events over the past year, control over numerous elements of our lives has been stripped away, leaving us feeling frustrated, afraid, and unsure about the future. It’s as if someone took the puzzle of our lives, broke apart every segment we had painstakingly pieced together, then shook them up and dumped them into a scrambled mess on the floor. On top of that, we’re trying to put it all back together while slogging through in survival mode, every day, on repeat—it’s enough to make even the Energizer Bunny feel depleted.

From this place of disempowered overwhelm, it’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling like there is little we can do to regain our footing and overcome the stress. However, that is the furthest thing from the truth.

Let’s look on the bright side: We can all improve our energy and relieve stress simply by shifting a few essential habits.

When everything feels out of control, here are 3 often-overlooked areas where you can be in control and obliterate the common causes of stress that are depleting your energy. Each is proven to directly compound stress and deplete energy when neglected but enhance energy and stress relief when managed proactively.

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1. Sleep Quality Secrets to Snub the Stubborn Stress-Fatigue Cycle

You may be well aware of how stress disrupts or prevents a good night’s rest. Frustrations over the day’s events or anxiety about what’s coming tomorrow are common blocks to getting enough zzzz’s. But did you know that the reverse is also true?

Studies have shown that even partial sleep deprivation has a significant effect on mood. One such study found that subjects who were limited to 4.5 hours of sleep a night for one week reported feeling more stressed, angry, sad, and mentally exhausted. They also cited a dramatic improvement in mood upon return to normal sleep. [2]

In addition to these directly mood-related symptoms, lack of sleep can cause muddled focus, fatigue, and impairment of information processing which often result in secondary causes of stress. We feel like the walls are falling around us as we run behind schedule, struggle to collect scrambled thoughts, suffer the consequences of knee-jerk reactions, and fight the inevitable downsides of exhaustion, including clouded judgment, inhibited self-control, and difficulty in making decisions or completing tasks.

Unfortunately, our favorite fixes are actually counterproductive. Two of the most common substances used in direct response to not getting enough sleep—alcohol to relax us enough to fall asleep and caffeine to perk us up after inadequate sleep—only worsen our ability to secure consistent and restful slumber, creating a vicious cycle. Relying on these “band-aid fixes” only amplifies and prolongs our feelings of stress.[3][4]

Ultimately, sleep deprivation secretly undermines our ability to make smart choices when it comes to regaining control over the other causes of stress which are depleting our energy.

Here are two simple tips to help you sleep better tonight:

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  • Turn off all screens at least one hour before hitting the hay to send the signal to your brain that it’s bedtime and ease your mind into sleepy relaxation.
  • Be intentional with your soothing bedtime rituals. Instead of mindlessly passing the time in the hours before you turn in, focus on an activity that feels soothing and nurturing like a foot massage or a few gentle yoga poses.

2. Focus on Comfort Food for Extra Energy and Simple Stress Relief

The word “malnutrition” is commonly associated with poverty-related food shortages. However, in the medical world, the prefix “mal-” is also defined as “defective.” By broadening our understanding of this term, we can see that nutrient deficiencies can happen for people of any socioeconomic status—and they do.

The hustle culture endorsed by the industrialized world has created an abundance of quick and convenient food (and, let’s be honest, “fake food”) options that are minimally nourishing. The USDA’s most recent Dietary Guidelines reports that about two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese, yet inadequate intake of nutrients that are proven to both relieve stress and increase energy (e.g., B vitamins and magnesium) remains common.[5][6] The data clearly shows that, for the majority of adults in the USA, the quality of our food is disproportionate to the quantity.

This reality has been compounded by pandemic-related stress eating, which is so prevalent that participants of a study published in September 2020 averaged a staggering 7 lbs weight gain in only 4 months.[7] This snapshot demonstrates that the foods we tend to crave, either for comfort or convenience, are usually high in sugars, saturated fats, and simple carbohydrates—all of which actually amplifies the stress response in the body.[8]

There is a funny-not-funny irony in the fact that the acronym for the U.S. eating style is SAD (Standard American Diet). We readily sacrifice nutrient needs for the sake of saving our time and money, which are poured right back into the culture that requires us to be so busy. We are drawn to unhealthy comfort foods like moths to a flame in an attempt to soothe ourselves—yet these exact foods only lead to feeling even more stressed and depleted.

So, what can we do?

Making smart food choices in itself is inherently stressful for many people. The internal battle can be just as impactful in causing stress and depleting your energy as the food choices themselves. If you can relate, don’t worry. It’s not necessary to focus on calorie counting or weight loss here.

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Instead, take comfort in a couple of easily doable steps toward shifting your dietary habits:

  • Be mindful of your intake of highly processed foods, and enjoy the benefits of simply adding a few stress-relieving, energizing foods and beverages to your daily repertoire.
  • Water, green tea, Brazil nuts, sweet potatoes, fresh baby spinach, brown rice, avocados, oatmeal, bananas, salmon, lean beef, and blueberries are all great choices to get you started.

3. A Surprising Battle for Your Attention, and How to Win the War

The pressure to be “always-on” has long been a major cause of stress for highly driven people. We live in an internet-centric world that has only been compounded by the circumstances of the pandemic. Working from home has blurred the lines between personal and professional boundaries, and many are suffering the consequences.

The combination of issues culminating from the past year has also kept people glued to the media and their newsfeeds. If you ever feel angry, anxious, sad, hopeless, or exhausted after watching the news or scrolling social media, this could be one of the main causes of stress that is depleting your energy. In fact, a study showed elevated levels of stress hormone (cortisol) and increased negative response to subsequent stressors after watching negative news.[9]

Research even shows that smartphones and social media apps manipulate the dopamine-driven reward system in our brains to create a habit that mimics gambling addiction.[10] Even when these tools don’t cost money, they have the capacity to deplete something much more valuable—our time, energy, and peace of mind.

This volatile mix may be generating a baseline cause of stress that has led directly to some of the other causes of stress mentioned in this article, including lack of sleep, alcohol or caffeine use, and unsupportive food choices/mindless eating.

Now, more than ever, we need to resist the urge to bombard our brains with fear-based information and distraction-inducing habits.

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Forward-focused actions to take now:

  • Create firm boundaries around your “check-in” time for reading and responding to emails or social media, both personal and professional.
  • Disable notifications on your devices to eliminate distractions.
  • Eliminate or minimize news exposure and only consume news from deliberately selected sources.
  • Stay focused on your top priorities and make sure your actions are aligned. Put this note on your screensaver/wallpaper as a reminder: “Is my behavior getting me what I want?”

Putting the Pieces Back Together

By flipping our perspective, we can see these lifestyle choices as the active causes of stress that they are, instead of stress aftereffects that are outside of our control. Circumstance might have made a mess of our puzzles, but we each have the power to pick up the pieces.

With a few simple shifts and a dedication to change, we can stop approaching them from a passive or reactive stance and take intentional action to improve our daily life. Just pause, look at the big picture, and reclaim control—then, watch as the puzzle pieces of your life click back into place with more energized ease and calm.

Tips on How to Handle Stress

Featured photo credit: engin akyurt via unsplash.com

Reference

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