Depression makes you feel like the whole world is on your shoulders, dragging you down. It feels like gravity gets the best of you most days. All you want to do is lay down. Sleep. Escape.

Depression makes you feel powerless. But there is hope. You can break free from the grasp of depression. If you feel like the task is too overwhelming, remember this: Every. Little. Step. Counts. You don’t need to go from the worst you ever felt to feeling ecstatic. You are not moving from valley to mountain top. You can, however, take firm steps towards balancing your mood.

These are the steps my clients took to get rid of depression:

Break Free from Depression Step #1:  Recognize the Signs 

Have you lost your enthusiasm for activities that you once enjoyed? Does it seem like you just don’t have as much energy anymore?

It’s easy to get sucked into the depression hole. You don’t realize it -until it’s too late. I can’t tell you how many clients have an aha-moment just by reading the clinical criteria for depression. Let’s review the most common depression symptoms.

  • Feeling sad or hopeless often.
  • Experiencing changes in sleep patterns, including insomnia.
  • Feeling tired all the time.
  • Feeling excessive guilt about past events.
  • Having trouble concentrating.
  • Losing of appetite, overeating, or experiencing weight gain.
  • Struggling with thoughts of suicide or death.

How many of these symptoms fit how you feel? If you want to see change, the first step is knowing what you are dealing with. You can’t plan to get anywhere if you don’t know where you are. So guess what? By reviewing these symptoms you can now stop minimizing your depression or attributing it to external causes.  You can now take charge of your depression.

Break Free from Depression Step #2:  Get Professional Help

Even though treatment for depression is incredibly effective, many hesitate to seek help. Thoughts like “If I only do x or y,” or “I just have to be more x or y,” keep you stuck.

Depression is a serious mental health issue and it is important to get professional help. Would you forego seeing a doctor if you had another health issue? A therapist who is trained to treat depression can be a valuable resource. Although you may think that a therapist is just listening, they are using skills and experience to identify what keeps you stuck in your feelings. They’ll give you a new perspective, and help you move out of that dark place.

For some reason, people think they should be able to overcome depression on their own… something similar to how many men feel about asking for directions. It’s critical to talk about what’s going on to someone who will help you find answers – and move past this terrible time. Why not use the help that’s available?

Break Free from Depression Step #3:  Change Your Lifestyle

Another way to break free from depression is to start making lifestyle changes.  Depression sucks you dry of motivation. Making changes can be extremely difficult. Here’s a tip: Don’t make the change you think would be the most important one. Start with one that you are most likely to accomplish, and that will also help you feel better. For instance:

  • Eat foods that are nutritious and avoid junk-food. Determine whether you use food as a way to comfort yourself from depression. Unhealthy food provides your brain with a temporary high but then makes you feel worse later.
  • Avoid excessive intakes of caffeine (a stimulant) or alcohol (a depressant).
  • Start working out! You don’t have to become a gym-rat. Even minimal exercise each day does wonders for boosting your mood. Something as simple as walking can make a big difference. Maybe just take walks around the block once a day.
  • Sleeping can be a problem with depression.  Make an effort to get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Researching tips online can be helpful. When I work with clients who aren’t getting enough sleep, I address sleep hygiene before I address anything else. Google it!
  • Create a daily routine that provides structure. Don’t add too much. Maybe one thing each day that will help you feel good about yourself.
  • Spend time outside. Interacting with the natural world boosts your mood. Allow your senses to really notice the outside. Spending a few minutes focusing on the breeze or the warm sun on your skin creates endorphins and dopamine. Do it every day, and you will physically change how your brain functions. It’s science!

Break Free from Depression Step #4:  Spend Time with Other People

Depression makes you feel like you are the only one who is struggling. Everyone else seems able to get on with their normal lives, but you feel stuck. This can cause you to isolate or wall yourself off from the world. Instead, make a conscious choice to reach out to others. For instance:

  • Spend time with friends and family members. If you don’t have the energy to talk, listen and ask questions.
  • Get up for work every day.
  • Consider volunteering. Giving back makes us feel better about ourselves.  Plus, you get to interact with other people positively. Find your favorite charity and go. They love volunteers!
  • Learn a new skill. Learning anything new produces dopamine. A natural way to improve brain function and mood!
  • Participate in athletic teams or sports that you enjoy.
  • Join a support group where you feel comfortable and welcomed. You will notice how reassuring it is to know others who are on the same journey.

If you struggle with depression, you are not alone. You know what it feels like to act as if you are doing fine, but inside you feel completely different, right? Lots of other people are doing the same thing. But hiding won’t make things better. Acting as if does not really do the trick. I have seen countless people step out of depression, and it’s amazing. It is possible! I wish this for you, too.

Depression is a common mental health problem that impacts 40 million Americans. By recognizing the signs of depression, asking for help, and making positive life choices you too can break free from the grip of depression.

At LaunchPad Counseling, we work with individuals who are depressed. If you think we can help you, please let us know by calling 804-665-4681. You can also sign up online and we will call you to set an appointment.