Your question: What should I do if I feel depressed?

My reply:

Hi, I hope this message finds you well. My name is Cesar Guedez, a psychologist trained in cognitive behavioral therapy.

All emotions are important in life, that includes sadness. Even if sadness makes you feel down, empty and distracted, occasionally you need to allow yourself to connect with that emotion and let your feelings flow. The problem is when an emotion becomes so excessive that it disrupts overall functioning and well-being.

In the case of sadness, when it is very intense and recurrent, we would already speak of a depressed mood. It is worth remembering that depression and depressive disorders as such are clinical entities that can only be diagnosed by a qualified professional.

It is common for people to go through periods in which they feel sad and down for one or more reasons. Sometimes even when the person does not find a clear reason to explain their mood, there are reasons behind the depressed mood.

Depression is an extremely common problem, which while annoying and undesirable, does not have to define your life, as there are strategies that make you feel less lonely and allow you to alleviate your emotional discomfort.

How can you tell the difference between sadness and depression?

Being sad is a normal reaction to difficult times in life. But usually, the sadness goes away with a little time. Meanwhile, depression is more intense and persistent than normal sadness, and unlike sadness, it prevents people from performing basic daily activities such as working, sleeping or eating(1).

A person can experience a depressed mood without necessarily having a depressive disorder, since the depressive feeling can appear for different reasons at any stage of a person’s life.

In general, the feeling of depression is characterized by tiredness, fatigue, deep sadness, irritability, recurrent urge to cry, lack of appetite, trouble sleeping or excessive sleepiness, difficulty concentrating, lack of energy to do basic activities, feeling of loneliness or abandonment, self-criticism, low self-esteem and in some cases thoughts of death and suicide.

Why are you feeling depressed?

There are several reasons why you may be experiencing a depressed mood. These factors are biological, social and psychological, and in many cases they occur together:

Biological causes

During the feeling of depression your brain is affected. Neurotransmitters, which are the chemicals your neurons use to communicate, become destabilized. This causes your mood to become irregular and can fluctuate easily. So you may experience a depressive episode one day, but feel stable again the next morning.

Social causes

Social pressures and demands can cause a depressed mood. Work and academic demands, interpersonal relationships, experiences of rejection, violence and discrimination are some of the most common causes for people to experience depression.

Psychological causes

Self-esteem problems and feelings of loneliness are common causes of depressed mood. So are recent experiences of loss of a loved one, love breakups or dismissal from a job.

How can you deal with the depressed feeling?

Although the feeling of depression causes deep hopelessness and makes you feel that there is no solution to your problems, the truth is that there are strategies to improve your mood. If your depressed mood persists and worsens, and especially if you begin to experience thoughts of suicide, it is imperative that you seek professional help as soon as possible.

Record your thoughts and emotions

During depression, you experience automatic thoughts that send you upsetting and hurtful messages. For example, a recurring thought in depression is the feeling of loneliness and misunderstanding. A useful technique is to write down these negative thoughts in a journal as well as the emotion that triggered the thought. If the thought you had is “everyone is going to leave me at some point,” the related emotion is likely to be hopelessness or sadness.

Writing down these thoughts and emotions will help you externalize and eventually confront them. Your thoughts are not always true, and during depression, most of the thoughts you experience are distorted and biased by your mood. Therefore, you should try to question these thoughts that you record in your journal by comparing them to reality. For example, “I have loved ones who remind me that they love me, so I shouldn’t worry about them leaving me.”

Learn relaxation strategies

Progressive relaxation and slow breathing can help you cope with your depressive episodes and diminish the symptoms. Whether you are alone or in public, relaxation allows you to relieve these symptoms. You should close your eyes and inhale and exhale in 3-second intervals. In the meantime, repeat in your mind key phrases that generate motivation and pride. “You can deal with this situation,” “You have been through this before and have been able to get through it,” “You have the strength to deal with this problem,” to name a few examples.

Express your feelings to someone you trust

Telling someone you trust how you feel, whether it is a family member, a friend, your partner or a loved one in general, will help you reduce the feeling of loneliness and incomprehension associated with depression. In addition, it will help you verbalize your emotions, identifying exactly how depression makes you feel and understanding that you will not be alone in the process of dealing with it.

In my experience…

There is hope in depression. In my experience as a psychologist, I see people improve from the moment they begin to open up emotionally by explaining their problems and being honest with their emotions. Sadness is part of life and it will never go away. You must learn to accept it and let it flow into your life from time to time.

However, depression can impair your life to the point of making you feel inadequate. Seeking professional help is the next step so that in your own time and way you can learn to strike the right balance between normal sadness and depression, and to properly manage your mood so that it does not impact your daily life in such a negative way.

I hope that with these suggestions you can improve. I recognize and applaud you for seeking professional counseling, because it shows that you want to feel better and you are on the right path to change the things that make you feel bad. I believe that you have the capacity to improve, although sometimes our mind makes us believe that you have no solution

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