This is an archived article.  Although much of the information contained within this article will likely still be relevant and helpful, there may be some content that is outdated or written by a former employee of Center for Change.

Author:  Emily A. Washburn, Recreation Therapist

In this day and age, it is easy to become depressed, and lose hope. For those who struggle with depression, it is a very real thing. The feelings that accompany depression can prevent us from doing the activities we once enjoyed and can even attempt to isolate and separate us from those we love.

People experience the symptoms of depression in many ways. Many feel like they have no energy and can’t concentrate. Others feel irritable all the time with no apparent reason. The symptoms vary from person to person, but health professionals say that if you feel “down” for more than two weeks and these symptoms are interfering with your daily life, you may be experiencing clinical depression. In this case, you may want to consider “talk” therapy and if recommended by a doctor, medication.

The hopelessness we sometimes experience may not necessarily be clinical depression. We might not fully understand the reason for the “down” feelings we may be experiencing. Is it a lack of self-esteem? A bio-chemical imbalance? Stress? Not enough time to do the things we enjoy? Unhealthy habits? Past experiences that cause us worry and pain? There are many causes of depression and hopelessness, and also many answers. Sometimes the hopeless feelings we are going through can be influenced by lifestyle choices we make.

If you are one of those suffering with this trial, what can be done? Is there hope for climbing out of this awful pit? I believe there is hope.

We all struggle with trials and problems that are very different from each other, but we all have to face those trials with the strength and vigor. We have the strength to face the trials that are put before us. We have more power than we may think.

SUGGESTIONS

May I suggest some ideas for attempting the climb out of this dark pit:

Take a look at your atmosphere

Are your surroundings uplifting? Do you listen to uplifting music and involve yourself in positive activities? Surround yourself with positive people and those who love you. It makes a huge difference to be with those who lift you up and help you feel good about yourself. No one needs to be put down. Are you in an atmosphere of hurt, hate or violence? Macrina Wiederkehr says, “Every experience, every thought, every word, every person in your life is a part of a larger picture of your growth.” If you find yourself spending time with people who pull you down, hard as it may be, it is probably the time to take some steps towards a more positive environment.

Recreation

Find an activity that you enjoy — not something compulsive that doesn’t bring inner joy to your soul. This activity may be indoor or outdoor, but often being outdoors can raise your spirits, because of the fresh air, sunshine, and the beauties of nature. Doing something active is a wonderful way to relieve stress.

Service

Nothing can help us forget our own problems quicker than helping someone else. Often we may go into the situation with a mind-set to help someone else, when we are the one who gains as much, if not more, out of the service. Serving others provides benefits to all involved.

Improve yourself

It is so important in life we feel that we are moving forward, and not being stagnant in our progression. Depression can be intensified by the feeling that there is no purpose in life because we are not working toward anything. If this is sounding familiar, may I suggest developing a talent or skill, or taking a class in an area you are interested in—even a “just for fun” class. Improving your mind and talents can help you feel that you are learning and growing. For those who suffer from depression, finding motivation can be difficult but we can set and work toward achievable goals. It is important that they are achievable so that they don’t become frustrating and disappointing, but it is also important that they stretch us and help us improve. Erica Jong said, “…the trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk even more.” In order to set these goals we must ask ourselves, “What are my highest priorities?” “How do I use my discretionary time? Is it used toward my highest priorities?” We must also evaluate how well we are progressing with the goals we have set. Ask yourself, “What am I doing on a day-to-day basis to achieve these goals”? Accomplishing a goal that you have put great effort into can be a very rewarding experience.  Goals take time and baby steps one at a time can get us there.

Take some “me-time”

If stress is contributing to your “down” feelings, remember that it’s necessary to take time for yourself. It is easy to get into the “care-taker” mode and focus on taking care of other people, but we need to remember that we can not help anyone else as effectively, if we are not first taking care of ourselves. I once heard that you can’t cut down a tree with a dull blade; you must take time to sharpen the saw. Give yourself time to refuel. Take some time to meditate, relax, and unwind. Don’t let yourself feel guilty for doing these things. Take a trip to a peaceful setting in the mountains, journal your feelings, or find an appropriate, healthy way to relieve the stress. If being alone is not a positive thing at the time, find a friend you can talk to.

Healthy Habits

I know this has been said a million times, but it can never be said too often. Proper eating habits are extremely important, as is getting a proper amount of sleep. If your body is not getting it’s proper nutrition, your mind is suffering. Just like children, if we are overtired or hungry, we can often become cranky. As an adult suffering from this, we may have a skewed outlook on life and not be able to do the daily things life demands of us.

Attitude

There are things we can learn from our trials and although they are difficult, it is important that we make the best of them. Our attitude about life really can make a difference. The more we are trying to find the positives in life, the more we will find them. Doors will open in places they never have before. I have often found that trials can become a strength, and in turn the pain I have gone through has become an enrichment and blessing in my life and I have become a stronger person. By experiencing the rain, we can more fully appreciate the sunshine.

Find and develop spirituality

In my opinion, a person can never be truly happy until they find and develop their own individual sense of spiritual worth. We may have questions such as: What am I living for? What is my purpose? Knowing that I am of divine worth is a wonderful gift. Sometimes all a person needs, is to know that there will always be someone on your side…by your side. For me, God is that someone. We all have various and differing views on spirituality, but the conclusion that I think will suit us all, is that spirituality will not take away, but can only add a positive dimension to our lives. It will give us hope, identity, and purpose.

Hope in the Face of Depression

As you may well know, depression is a tough and tiring battle to fight. It can drain a person of life and peace. I have personally experienced this struggle and I know that the tough times will come. But I also know that peace and hope are just around the corner. We have the strength to fight and the power to overcome all that life hands us. I hope that these ideas listed above will give at least a small amount of help. Hope is real and you can find it. I promise. Finally, I offer a poem which I have written for you:

Dear girl, do you know
The power you hold?
Do you know of the strength
That is deep in your soul?

Dear girl, do you know
The creation you are?
Do you know of the
Healing power in your heart?

Dear girl, do you know
Angels gave you your wings?
One day they may have thought
They could do no great things.

Though you now live in shadow
The light is so near
God’s arms are extended
There is nothing to fear.

-Emily Washburn