FEELING DEPRESSED? TEN GUIDELINES FOR STARTING DEPRESSION RECOVERY
By Terence T. Gorski
Depression is a serious problem that leads to relapse for many recovering people. The book, Depression and Relapse, helps people understand how similar tools can be used to treat both illnesses simultaneously.
Here’s a list of ten simple things you can start doing today to stay
sober and begin to feel a little bit better.
Start acting better even if you don’t feel like it. You can’t wait until your depression is gone to start your recovery. You need to act in spite of your depression by forcing yourself to start thinking and acting better even if you don’t feel like it. If you do nothing, your depression will probably keep getting worse.
You also need to resist the urge to do things that are not good for you that you want to do. To do this, you have to put Intellect over Emotion, whether we feel like it or not.
You won’t start feeling better until you start thinking better and acting better.
Set realistic goals that you are willing to accomplish in spite of your depression. Managing your depression is your responsibility. You have a choice to make. You can allow your depression to slowly get worse until you relapse back to your addiction, or, you can choose to put the energy that you have into doing things that will make you feel better. You can get into therapy, go to Twelve Step Meetings, talk about the battle you’re having with your depression, and listen to others and try to hear things that they did to help them deal with their depression. You can get up and go for short walks. You can call a friend. You can schedule activities to get you out of the house. You can tell your friends and family about your depression and your efforts to recover. You can ask them to help and assume a reasonable amount of responsibility.
Easy does it though, don’t push yourself too hard or expect unrealistic results. On the other hand, don’t just give in and do nothing and become an isolated couch potato who refuses to do anything.
Create a schedule of recovery activities and write it down. Give yourself a definite time to get up in the morning and set an alarm clock. Schedule a morning ritual that gets you up, showered, and dressed to face the day. Have something to do each morning, afternoon, and evening. Eat three healthy meals each day and take some extra vitamins and amino acid supplements.
Break large tasks into small ones, set priorities, and do what you are able to do. Recovery from depression is a lot like starting a weight training program. You start with light weights and work your way up to heavier weights. If you try to lift weights that are too heavy, you’ll fail, become discouraged and quit. Recovery from depression is similar in that you build strength slowly. Start by putting small simple things that can make you feel better on your schedule every day. Then, make a commitment to do them, no matter how depressed you feel. You can break a big task into smaller tasks and activities. For example, write out each activity of your morning ritual, then, you can check off each activity as you do it.
Don’t isolate yourself – schedule time each day to be with other people. This social time does not need to be complicated. Eat meals with your family whether you feel like it or not. Sit with others who are watching TV. Get to your Twelve Step meetings a few minutes early, and sit with some other people. Introduce yourself to people you don’t know at meetings. Ask others to have coffee after a meeting. Watch the news every day so you have some current information for simple conversation.
Find someone you can talk to and confide in. It’s important to have someone that you can talk to about how you feel. Twelve Step Program meetings give you a perfect opportunity to meet people who you can feel comfortable talking with. Getting a sponsor gives you a close relationship that can help you apply the steps to managing both your addiction recovery and your depression. Don’t wait until you feel like being with other people. Most depressed people prefer being alone and never feel like being with others. If you isolate and stay alone, you’ll end up getting more depressed and feeling worse. You have to be willing to act in spite of your depression. Force yourself to get up and be around people whether you want to or not.
Participate in small activities each day that can make you feel better. Make a list of the things that you used to enjoy doing and put at least one of those activities on your daily schedule each day. These can be simple activities like watching the sun go down, going to a movie or a ballgame, or getting involved in religious, social or other activities. The idea is to distract yourself from your depression and give you a few minutes of enjoyment. Don’t wait until you want to do it. Your depression will drain you of your motivation. Force yourself to schedule these activities in spite of your depression.
Do a little bit of mild exercise each day. Get yourself up and take a walk. Join a health club and go swimming two or three times a week. Even if you don’t want to exercise, force yourself to do it. Moderate exercise three times a week for twenty to thirty minutes has been proven to significantly reduce depression.
Expect your mood to improve gradually, not immediately. Feeling better takes time. Recovery results from the small decisions that we make each day to start thinking and acting better in spite of our depression. Prepare small steps you can take every day. Build in social support and expect slow and gradual progress marked by ups and downs in your depression. Try to detach and be philosophical about it. Yes, you’re depressed and feel down, but it’s not the end of the world. You can do little things each day that will either make you feel a little bit better or a little bit worse. The choice is yours. What happens in the long run will depend upon the sum total of the small choices that you make each and every day. It’s not hopeless unless you decide it is.
Postpone important decisions until your depression has lifted. If possible, put off making important decisions until the depression has lifted. When you are depressed, your judgment is impaired. Depression causes pessimism and a negative view of the future. Try not to put yourself in the position where you need to make decisions about significant life changes such as changing jobs, getting married or divorced, buying or selling houses or making geographical moves to other parts of the country. If you absolutely need to make such decisions, discuss it with other people who know you well, and who have a more objective view of your situation. Remember, your depression will create feelings that will motivate you to make bad decisions.
People rarely “snap out of” a depression. But they can feel a little better day-by-day. Remember, positive thinking will replace the negative thinking that is part of the depression and will disappear as your depression responds to treatment. You can start doing little things each day that will help you feel a little better.
Make a check list of the ten things we just discussed, make a copy of it, and put it somewhere where you will see it during the day. Remember, right now your depression is running your life. You have to start doing things to put the sober and responsible you back in charge. This means starting to do things every day even if you don’t feel like it.
Medication will help: Antidepressant medication can be a life saver for recovering people suffering from depression. If you start using an antidepressant medication, make it a part of your recovery program and be alert to the possibility that taking antidepressants could reactivate your desire for “better living through chemistry. Take your medication as prescribed and discuss your reactions, positive or negative, with both your doctor and your counselor.