Depression at it’s worst can look like giving up again and again. When things get challenging the depressed mind can magnify that struggle and determine “it will always be this bad” or decide the requirements of living are “too much.” As much as a depressed person may want to get out of bed in the morning, remaining under the covers hidden from the rest of the world may be the choice they make again and again.
How do you know if you’re experiencing depression?
Here are a few of the ways depression can manifest itself.
fears, self-doubt, and discomfort are all involved in the process of trying something new or pursuing something meaningful in life. In short, if we set out to drive toward a meaningful destination these are the passengers we will take with us on the bus.
A common misconception about internal struggles
The common misconception is that conquering or vanquishing the self-doubt, fear, and discomfort has to come before we are able to move toward what we value, when actually the closer we get to things we value, the louder these passengers tend to become and the more we experience self-doubt, fear, and discomfort.
With this understanding it might make sense to employ another strategy; to learn to have these feelings, as challenging as they truly are to have, so they don’t take control or determine where we ultimately end up. Learning to have these unpleasant feelings without allowing them to dictate where you go and what you do is what I mean by resiliency. The more we can tolerate the things that show up internally and cause us discomfort or distress, the less they get to dictate our behavior.
So how do we increase our resiliency?
Here are a few tips to begin to practice the skills necessary to incorporate more resilience in the face of depression.
1. Clarify the “what” and the “why” behind goals you set.
It’s very common to set out toward a particular goal and emphasize figuring out the specific ways you might achieve it, the “how.” While planning is important and valuable, connecting goals with values - the reasons “why” you are pursuing a particular goal - can solidify your motivation and give you purpose during the inevitable moments when you struggle or hit a setback.
The truth is none of us are perfect as much as we may aspire to be, but if we behave in service of our values the outcome tends to matter less than finding the right motivation behind what we do.
Take a moment to ask yourself what you’d like to accomplish? Ask yourself why accomplishing this goal is important to you personally? What values do you connect with pursuing this goal?
and wish to begin dating you are guaranteed to meet with the discomfort and downright pain of rejection. They’re part of the deal. Choosing to avoid discomfort often comes at the price of not pursuing the things that matter (like relationships). The good news is the more often we practice feeling uncomfortable the better we get at it and the easier it is to do the challenging things.
You can practice feeling uncomfortable at any time, but a trained mental health professional can provide guidance on how to practice this in effective ways.
One of the things Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) does well is assist you in feeling better not feeling better, meaning we build skills that allow us to feel discomfort and tune in rather than needing to run away or force out what we may find unpleasant.
3. Make a list and set a deadline.
Another tip for building resiliency is getting used to accomplishing goals you set for yourself regardless of what may come up along the way. While we cannot always reach the goals we set for ourselves in exactly the ways we would like or in the exact timeframe we wish to accomplish them, practicing setting deadlines and striving to achieve a set goal can be a way to learn habits and skills you wouldn’t otherwise have the experience to foster.
As you continue toward a specific goal with a timeline in mind and strive to get things accomplished you learn how to override what the mind is saying to you about your limits or inabilities. You are also putting the emphasis on doing something instead of staying stuck arguing with your mind and not getting anything done.
If you can remember a time when you had a tough deadline experience but pushed through the obstacles in order to accomplish a task, moments like those can teach us we are capable of withstanding much more than we give ourselves credit for and they can remind us of what is possible when we don’t give up.
Take a moment to think about a time you achieved something despite a worrisome deadline; note how you were able to achieve the goal despite the pressure. Notice if it was possible to let go of some desires to be perfect in order to get the job done. Is there anything you’d like to accomplish in the near future that you could realistically set a deadline for? Is there anyone you can tell about your deadline to establish some accountability?
does bring up our personal failures and struggles all the time, it selectively likes to leave out all the things we should be proud of.
Making a list of past accomplishments and intentionally reminding yourself of what you’ve done well is not only healthy but can lead to inspiration as you remember the strategies employed in your past successes or the circumstances that led you to strive to achieve. If you’re struggling to get started with something, you might be surprised how helpful brainstorming past successes and accomplishments can be.
Take a moment to list a past accomplishment and notice all you can about the success. What did you have to overcome to accomplish your goals? What does it mean to be a person who accomplished this goal? How would you feel about a person who accomplished a similar goal? How might you encourage them to continue moving forward? Can you provide similar encouragement to yourself?
5. Seek support from others.
You may not necessarily associate this tip with resiliency, but those who can lean on others during challenging times tend to withstand the challenges much better. A healthy, active support system can provide strength, encouragement, and insight when facing hardships and can provide you with the opportunity to assist others when they may be experiencing tough times as well.
In fact, social connection and support has been scientifically proven to extend our lives. This may take some creativity if you have been living in isolation for a while or are wondering where to start in building a support system. It may be you already have some key pieces in place and just need to reach out to them on a regular basis.
You might be able to find support groups or groups consisting of those with shared interests to begin your search for supportive people to include in your life. There may be family members that tend to encourage and support you or inspire you to think more expansively about things. The good news is there are many options and even a few close supports can be incredibly helpful. Quality can trump quantity when you’re constructing your support network.
Take a moment to think about the people who inspire you. What sorts of things do you admire about these people? What qualities do you appreciate? How can you embody these characteristics in your interaction with others? Where might you go to meet new people and connect in meaningful ways? Who can you reach out to today who has been supportive in the past that you already know?
You can start reclaiming your life today
Dealing with depression is challenging; getting started is often the most difficult part. Even if you're suffering from depression in significant ways, utilizing some or all of these simple tips can put you on the path toward building resilience in your life.
For more on ways to cope with depression, check out my blog post about 5 Things to Understand if You’re Dealing with Depression.
For additional support check out the workbook: The Mindfulness and Acceptance Workbook for Depression: Using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to Move Through Depression and Create a Life Worth Living.
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I am a therapist in private practice working to assist those struggling with self-doubt, guilt/shame, addiction, anxiety, depression, and grief to decreasing the struggle with internal distress and commit to actions that move them closer to the things they value most.