As I take on more clients who struggle with severe clinical depression, there is something that has become incredibly transparent to me. The majority of individuals have already been to a host of different therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, etc. and have been told to utilize the basic coping skills that people should try, in order to manage their depression. These may include, but are not limited to the following: exercise, meditation, or participation in an activity that you enjoy. There are numerous other anecdotal tips we as therapist, have been taught to encourage clients to attempt. Below is a link to a website with several other options as to how to manage not only depression, but also anxiety and stress.
My guess is that the majority of people who struggle with depression have attempted these interventions, or find it hard to find the motivation to get out and operationalize these coping skills. For those of you that may be reading this and have had the experience of some ignorant therapist (yes, I’ve been that therapist) giving the advice of “Just go exercise” or “Just find something to do to stop eating so much”. I have news for you all, IT AIN’T THAT EASY FOLKS! I once had a client provide very meaningful insight into this approach that therapist and members of individuals’ respective support systems possibly have provided in the past. To paraphrase, this individual reported the following:
I want to feel better, and I’ve tried a variety of healthy and unhealthy coping skills to attempt to feel better. I know myself better than anyone, why do people have the audacity to feel like they have a better idea on how to make me feel better than I do?
I encourage therapist and friends to take a step back in your sessions and/or with family members and “Ask what might be helpful?”, rather than offering your opinion on how someone should operate their life.
Now to the tough part, assisting clients in identifying ways to grind through their rough patch or operationalize the steps to starting the change process; it is difficult, but achievable. Remember it’s a process, things will not fix themselves quickly. I encourage conversations with individuals who struggle with depression about recognizing where they are in understanding that discomfort will be apart of this process. For example, if you are serious about making changes, there will need to be a decision made about doing something different in your daily routine. Are you ready to commit to that right now? If not what are the barriers to starting the change process?
In my experience in working with individuals who struggle with depression, there seems to be a correlation between depression and the thought distortion all or nothing thinking. Please try to manage this thought distortion, as it is costly to the change process. Remember, in making a change to your daily routine, you do not have to move from severe depression to training for a marathon in a week, or even a month. Getting out of bed and walking around the block is a change in your daily routine, if you have been locked away in your home struggling to find motivation to complete tasks for several days or even weeks. To move from being paralyzed by depression to getting out of the house to go for a short walk, should be celebrated as an accomplishment.
Grinding it out is about operationalizing healthy coping skills that can cause discomfort and maybe to some extent, hurt a bit physically, cognitively or emotionally. Whether you are someone who is trying to manage a stressful day or if you are someone who is struggling with severe mental health disorders, grinding it out is what may get you to a place where you can gain skills to manage your difficulties in an effective way.
Thanks for taking the time to read.