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Why can't I kick this feeling? Why am I sad all of the time? Why don't I want to do anything? What's wrong with me? These questions run through the minds of millions of people fighting depression. Depression robs people of life satisfaction and hinders their day-to-day lives.

Depression is a mood disorder that affects your mind, emotions, energy level, and physical wellbeing. When you wake up in the morning, your thoughts, feelings, physical wellbeing, and behaviors are directly influenced by your overall mood. In your mind you begin creating a story-it might go something like this: Oh man, is it time to get up already? I feel like I hardly slept. Why am I always so tired? I don't want to go to work. I don't have any energy at all. I wish I could just stay in bed today. I don't even want to face work. My head hurts. Why can't I just snap out of this? I hate feeling this way.

This pattern of thoughts is normal for people who are depressed. Depression is marked by feelings of hopelessness, thoughts of despair, and physical symptoms and behaviors (lack of sleep, not wanting to engage in life). Some general symptoms of depression are as follows:

Did You Know

Depression ranks among the top three workplace problems reported to employee assistance professionals, following only family crisis and stress.

  • sadness
  • loss of interest in activities
  • despair
  • guilt
  • lack of concentration
  • hopelessness

Many people overlook or ignore these symptoms and live months or even years with depression. This is tragic because depression and its symptoms are treatable.

Step 1 - Take the Depression Evaluation

If you have not already taken the depression self-evaluation, please take it now. This evaluation is made up of 18 questions and will help you identify how depression is affecting your life.

Take an Evaluation

Step 2 - Understand Your Depressive Symptoms

In the overview section of this Guided Solution, we gave you a broad description of the various symptoms of depression. But depression affects each person differently, and your case will be unique to you and your personality. In this step we will examine the how depression manifests itself in your life.

Understanding Your Symptoms of Depression - This exercise will help you explore the impact of depression in your life.

There are many symptoms associated with depression. In addition to those listed, one of the worst things about depression is the knowledge that you are not really yourself anymore; you're just going through the motions—and sometimes not even doing that. This awareness that something is wrong without being able to figure out what it is or how to fix it adds to an already heavy burden.

Many feelings of depression mix together to promote a general sense of negativity. But, if you can begin to examine your depression and see it for what it is, you can make some real changes in your life.

As humans, we don't separate our internal lives (what's on the inside) from our external lives (what's on the outside). The two interact without any conscious thought from us. Usually we are not even aware of the difference between our internal and external reactions. But depression affects your thoughts, your body, and your behavior. In fact, chances are you can already recognize what depression looks like because of its effect on our posture, actions, and expression.

A Picture of Depression - This exercise looks at the physical effects of depression. In other words, it will help you see what your depression looks like on the outside.

Because depression can present differently for different people, it often goes undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. This article by Dr. MK Downing looks at the idea of treating depression as a symptom rather than just treating the depressive symptoms themselves.

Read Article

No two people are alike when it comes to what triggers their depressive symptoms and how they are affected. Everyone has a different pattern. If you can recognize your pattern, you can then come up with a plan for changing your depressive reactions. Most people are aware when they are feeling depressed, but not really why. In the next two steps you will work to understand where the depressive episodes come from and how to stop them.

For more information on Step 2, “Understand Your Depressive Symptoms,” see the following resources:

“Measuring and Managing Depression” - Audio by Dr. Kevin Skinner, LMFT, Kenneth Patey, MS
“Depression Today” - Audio by Dr. Kevin Skinner, PhD, LMFT, Kenneth Patey, MS

Step 3 - Work on Overcoming Depression: Thoughts and Emotions

In steps one and two, you learned about depression and how its symptoms affect you personally. The next step is learning how to overcome that depression. Because depression affects your mind and body, you will need to use strategies that address both of these areas. In this step, we will give you information and strategies for dealing with the mental and emotional aspects of depression. When you begin to use these strategies, you may notice some relief from the physical symptoms as well.

One of the things you can do immediately is start a journal. Writing can be a great tool for increasing our understanding of who we are and what motivates us. Many people find great healing power in journaling, as this article by Dr. Kevin Skinner explains.

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In this step, we will be using journaling exercises targeted at helping with depressive thoughts and behaviors

When you have negative thoughts, they can kick off a chain reaction. If you think, "I can't even find the energy to make my kids dinner today," it might trigger other negative thoughts and feelings, like:

  1. I am a bad parent.
  2. I feel like a bad person for being too tired to take care of my children.
  3. Why does my life have to be so complicated?
  4. I'll never feel better.
  5. My kids probably hate me.

One thing that can help ease the cascade of negative thoughts is to look at them for what they are: thoughts, not realities.

What Do You Tell Yourself? - The goal of this exercise is to identify your negative thoughts and see the reality behind them.

When you become stuck in the cycle of depression, you probably automatically think negative thoughts. In fact, they are so automatic, you often won't even realize you are thinking them! A big step in breaking the cycle of depression is to stop those negative thoughts in their tracks.

Negative Thoughts - Do this exercise to learn about some common automatic negative thoughts and identify the ones that affect you.

One of the pitfalls of negative thoughts is that they begin to pervade your entire life. Pretty soon, your negative thoughts become negative beliefs. This means they become the ideas that guide your actions and feelings. When our guiding beliefs become negative, everything feels harder and more difficult. Jobs or activities that were doable feel like they take too much effort, and things we used to enjoy feel like work. Life can start to seem like a complete wreck.

Do You Have Positive or Negative Beliefs? - With this exercise you can learn how to identify your positive and negative beliefs.

Remember the importance of maintaining positive thoughts and beliefs. What you think on the inside can have a profound effect on how you feel on the outside. By maintaining a healthy, positive outlook on life, you will find yourself feeling stronger and more confident by the day.

For more information on Step 3, “Work on Overcoming Depression: Thoughts and Emotions,” see the following resources:

“Learning From Your Emotions” - Audio by Kevin Skinner, PhD, LMFT
“Overcoming Hopelessness” - Audio by Rozario Slack, PhD, Pastor
“What the *** is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?” - Article by Kevin Skinner, PhD, LMFT

Step 4 - Work on Overcoming Depression: Actions and Behaviors

With a strategy to help overcome depression on the inside, it is time to turn our attention to the outside. When we feel good, it shows. When we feel bad, that shows as well. When you are depressed, you may feel achy, unable to concentrate, or tired. This is when people often find themselves disengaged, unable to participate, even in things that they once enjoyed. They often think, If I felt better, I'd be able to go do those things.

When you are feeling depressed, doing anything may seem too overwhelming, no matter how small. But you don't have to wait until you feel better; engaging in activities, even if they are just normal, everyday activities, will actually start to make you feel better.

One Change, One Day - When you feel depressed and disinterested in things, making a change can make a big difference in the way you feel and the way you think.

You should begin to see a direct relationship between how you think (all of the ideas discussed in step 3) and how you act. Negative thoughts will breed negative behaviors, such as avoidance and inactivity. When you become aware of your thinking, you can recognize your negative thoughts and make a plan of action to change them.

Stop, Thought! - Learn to take action when you have a negative thought in an attempt to change it to a more positive one.

Sometimes it is too difficult to make a big change in your activity because you are at school, work, or church. You can still make small changes that can affect your mood.

  1. Change your posture. Sit up straight and put your shoulders back. Lift your chin up.
  2. Change your expression. Relax your face muscles. Un-furrow your brow, turn the corners of your mouth up slightly. Open your eyes wide.
  3. Change your stance. Stand up. Shake out your arms and your legs. Walk a little bit, even if it's just down the hall.

If you can, take a few moments, find a quiet place and do a breathing exercise to calm your mind and body.

Listen Now

Once you are aware of your how your thoughts and actions interact to affect one another and your overall mood, you will find that you have a sense of control over your depressive episodes. This control comes from noticing and then changing your thoughts and actions—the more you practice this awareness, the more control you will have.

For more information on Step 4, “Work on Overcoming Depression: Actions and Behaviors,” see the following resources:

“Using a Worry Journal” - Audio by Brett Williams, LMFT
“Understanding and Overcoming Depression” - Audio by MK Downing, PhD, MFT

Step 5 - Learn More About Healing From Depression

Managing depression and its effects can't be done in one sitting or one day. The purpose of this guided solution is to give you a starting point for overcoming depression by helping you understand the factors in your life that contribute to depression. We encourage you to take advantage of the many other resources that are available, both here at MyExpertSolution and elsewhere.

Use the following resources in the days, weeks, and months ahead as you consciously deal with depression.

In-depth Depression Workshop
This is a fully interactive learning module that will help you evaluate your depression and strategize solutions for your personal situation.

MyExpertSolution’s Top Choices for Learning More about Depression:

Want to know about depression and teens?

College blues or depression - Question answered by Nathan Cobb, PhD
How common is depression among teens? - Question answered by Hillary Goldsher, PsyD
“Insights That My Clients Have Taught Me: Iron Kids” - Article by MK Downing, PhD, MFT
“Suicide: An Honest Discussion” - Audio by Kristen Lamb

Are you worried that someone you know is depressed?

What are the causes of depression? - Question answered by Peter Lambrou, PhD
“When Someone you Love is Depressed” - Article by Ms. Betsy Sansby MS, LMFT

Want More Help Overcoming Depression?

The Depression Solutions Workbook - Book by Jacqueline Corcoran, PhD
Overcoming Depression One Step at a Time - Book by Michael E. Addis, PhD and Christopher R. Martell, PhD, ABPP
The Cognitive Behavioral Workbook for Depression: A Step-by-Step Program - Book by William J. Knaus, EDD

See all depression resources
Get Started with Step 1