Having suffered from bouts of depression early on in life, I decided to help myself through study, therapy and natural remedies – the following is what I discovered. I hope these self help tips for depression are useful for you too.
Physiological Factors First
It is wise to seek medical advice in order to rule out any health problems (i.e. nutritional deficiencies and/or hormonal imbalances) that may cause depression before you go looking for psychological causes which may not exist. Sometimes regular exercise and/or moderate sun exposure is enough to elevate your mood. If you have ruled out the former and tried the latter with no success, then it is time to deal with your emotional state.
The PTSD Connection
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a result of tremendous stress after a trauma (e.g. the death of a loved one, abuse of any kind, a natural disaster, war time experiences and so on). It is characterized by a mixed bag of many negative emotions (anger, fear, guilt, sadness), as well as insomnia, nightmares and ‘flashbacks’ of the traumatic occurrence(s). These symptoms may arise immediately after the event(s) or it may be a delayed response by days, weeks, months or years. Depression can be one of the most crippling effects of PTSD especially when it involves an inability to function as well as suicidal thoughts and/or attempts. If you are at this stage you must seek professional assistance as you will require more help than what is mentioned below.
A Simple Definition
Depression is almost always anger turned inward. It is about not getting what you want but instead of externalizing the hurt you hold it in thus experiencing disappointment and disillusionment. This may involve self-pity. If you do not get out of this frame of mind you will most likely experience despair (i.e. hopelessness).
Sometimes depression is confused with grief because of the heaviness of both of these emotions. Grief is a natural response following a loss – sadness and sorrow in relation to what/who has been lost. Depression usually involves self-hatred. Hate is related to anger – this is what you are directing at yourself. This self-directed loathing is often anger that you feel toward someone else but believe that it is inappropriate to lash out at that person (e.g. a loved one, your boss, God etc). That is, you feel guilty about being angry with this individual. (Tips on expressing anger appropriately are listed in the section “Emotional Releasing and Reinforcing Techniques.”)
The Flip Side of Depression
You heal depression by having faith. That is a very important point for depression self help, you must trust yourself to take the appropriate action in order to get what you want, by being willing to wait – patience – for it to happen and to believe that all things are possible – hope. Faith is about trusting God/Universal Energy or your Soul to assist you to fulfill your goals and dreams. Even when these things do not come to pass there are reasons which you may understand at some point in the future or you may not. This is also an aspect of faith. As a human being you cannot control everything. However, the way life turns out is often far more beneficial for everyone concerned than anything you could have imagined or created.
Searching for meaning in your experience of depression can greatly help to alleviate it, as you will come to understand that there is a purpose for it or some life lesson you need to discover. Finding meaning assists in the letting go of pain as well as empowering you through the transformation of such a negative emotional state into something positive.
The following (fictional) scenario will demonstrate how finding meaning, purpose or a lesson in depression can help you evolve and move on with life.
Stacey had become aware that her husband was cheating on her. Her image of him was shattered (i.e. he was not the person she thought he was: a good husband who put his family first). In other words, she was disillusioned. Even though she felt much anger toward him she could not unleash her fury as she was still in love with him. Stacey knew that he had not been honest with her about his whereabouts for some time but chose to ignore this reality. She confronted him then listened to his excuses – the main one being that she spent too much time with the kids. He promised to end the affair if she would pay more attention to him – she agreed. However, as time went on she found herself unwilling to trust him again and became more and more disappointed with herself for not ending their marriage when she found out. These feelings were bottled up for a few months until one day she found it difficult to get out of bed as she did not want to face the day (despair). This scared her enough to talk to a friend who helped her understand that she had to be true to herself and that this would also be best for the kids.
When they separated Stacey began to keep a journal to help her through it. She wrote down her recent dreams which were about the times she had been betrayed by others and how she turned a blind eye in order to keep them in her life. Some of these people were former boyfriends, some her current friends and family. She understood that she needed to treat herself with the same respect she had shown others so she ended these abusive relationships. She had ignored the lessons life was trying to teach her for some time: discernment and self-respect. Stacey also realized that there were good people around her and this helped her to have faith in humanity. In time (patience), she made new friends by following through with what she sensed about the integrity of their character.
Emotional Releasing and Reinforcing Techniques
To Release Negative Emotions:
- Hit or punch a pillow, punching bag or dummy.
- Smash plates on a brick wall or on the floor the way Greeks do in Taverns (make sure it is safe to do so).
- If you are angry at someone in particular, confront them in person or through a letter.
- Write down what you need to say and burn it.
- Play some angry music (e.g. heavy metal).
GRIEF (if you are sad instead of depressed):
- Cry, howl if necessary.
- Write a letter to whom or what has been lost and burn it.
- Keep a journal and document your thoughts and feelings on sorrow and sadness.
- If it is difficult to cry, watch a sad movie or listen to a melancholic song.
- Talk about it with someone compassionate.
To Reinforce Positive Emotions:
- Believe that you can have what you want.
- Do inspirational things: read affirmations or create your own; find out how others have succeeded in attaining their goals or overcoming challenges.
- If you are religious and/or spiritual: pray, meditate or go to your place of worship and/or talk to your spiritual advisor.
- Pay attention to your body as the barometer of your intuition/self-trust – a sinking, heavy feeling is a ‘No’; a light, uplifting and warm bodily sensation is a ‘Yes.’
Depression: Geranium, Bergamot, Clary Sage (Grief: Rose, Chamomile)
Faith: Rose, Frankincense, Cedar Wood
Bach Flower Essences:
Depression: Sweet Chestnut, Mustard, Gentian (Grief: Star of Bethlehem)
Faith: Gorse, Gentian
The Rescue Remedy is a Bach flower essence which effectively alleviates many negative moods even though it is primarily used to deal with extreme stress.
For more on how to use these remedies refer to the following books:
- Patricia Davis, Aromatherapy: An A-Z, Hillman, Somerset, 1988
- Deborah Nixon, Practical Aromatherapy, Lansdowne Publishing, Sydney, 1995
- Edward Bach, The Twelve Healers and Other Remedies, C.W. Company, Essex, 1933
- F.J. Wheeler, The Bach Remedies Repertory, C.W. Company, Essex, 1952
© New Age Power (Helen Papadopoulos)
(Modified excerpts from DIY Therapy Chart: An Emotional Healing Guide)
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