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5 Tools To Cope With Depression

Mew Leaf Counseling Group I Diverse Counselor & Therapist Team I Charlotte, NC


These are only a few recommendations about how to approach symptoms of depression, but everyone’s experience of depression is unique. I want to emphasize that there are as many kinds of coping skills as there are individuals, and no one skill works every time. It also equally important to be in contact with a medical provider to rule out general medical conditions that might be causing depressive symptoms, to take care of your physical health, and to seek out a qualified therapist or (if you are a person of faith) a spiritual leader to discuss the emotional and psychological aspects of what you are going through.


5 Tools To Cope with Depression

#1 of tools to cope with depression - Be Gentle With Yourself


None of this is easy, so give yourself credit for even the smallest victories. I often tell clients that I’m going to make ribbons for them to wear in therapy that say things like: “I put on pants!” “I came to therapy!” “I fed myself!” The reason is that depression can take away 99% of your energy, which leaves 1% to do even the simplest of tasks. Maybe today it’s a triumph just to get out of bed. Maybe today your 1% of energy is spent finding some healthy food. Your worst enemy right now is the voice in your head telling you that you’re a failure because you didn’t do x or y.


That voice says: “You should be more functional.” “You should be able to do more.”

Let me offer you a different message: it is important right now to be so very very kind to yourself. So, yes, it’s a triumph that you showered today. You’re a success for feeding yourself. You’re a success for getting your kids to school. For going to work. For letting yourself rest and sleep if you need to.


5 Tools To Cope with Depression

#2 of tools to cope with depression - Ask For Help


You are not weak because you are going through a difficult time; in fact, trying to keep up appearances and function at “normal” levels often makes depressive symptoms worse.


Recognize that you are currently not at a point where you can do all the things in a day you used to do. As best you can, surround yourself with people who love and support you non-judgmentally. There is often a great deal of fear involved in asking for help and revealing that you are vulnerable; gather yourself and take the risk. Some people may not respond well, but many may surprise you. Self-isolating can be a characteristic of depression, but it also feeds on itself and creates the potential for worsening despair and loneliness.


Remember that humans are fundamentally social creatures. We would not survive a single day in our lives without other humans to care for and tend to us. Humans need other humans. Reaching out for connection could take many forms: intimate partners, best friends, therapists, members of faith communities, and even non-human creatures like pets. Our webs of connectivity are complex and varied; find your outside sources of strength and reach out, even if it’s scary.


5 Tools To Cope with Depression

#3 of tools to cope with depression - Don't Make Comparisons


The symptoms of depression can be debilitating, but sometimes there’s an impulse to minimize your experience by comparing oneself to others’ suffering. But suffering is not something anyone can calculate or tally. Just because you might have a home or a job or any number of other advantages others don’t does not make the difficulties and adversities you’re facing invalid.


Suffering is suffering, and if you are saying to yourself or anyone else, “Well, it could be worse,” or “I shouldn’t complain, I know people who are in worse shape than I am,” you’re denying the reality of what you’re experiencing.

Nothing about your life or your struggles is invalid, and no one can tell you what counts and what doesn’t. Yes, there are other people in the world who are also going through hardships and in distress, but no one holds a giant measuring stick. Give yourself permission to say, “In fact, right now things are not going so well. Right now, my life is hard, and I’m struggling.” This is part of the path to acceptance of the dark emotions that come with depression, and acceptance is far better than resistance.


5 Tools To Cope with Depression

#4 of tools to cope with depression - Practice Grounding


Depression often separates us from physically feeling. Our brains are anxiously working through problems, or possibly we feel completely disconnected from ourselves and everyone else. Grounding is the term I use for getting out of the spinning thoughts in our brains or the numb apathy that depression can create.


Grounding means returning to the body, returning to this moment, to the world as it is around us right now. There are many ways of doing this, but try starting with your primary senses: smell, touch, hearing, taste, and sight. What brings you comfort to smell? Warm laundry? A scented candle? What is soothing to touch? A soft blanket wrapped around you? A warm shower? What would you like to taste that would bring you back to the present?


Focus all your attention on what your body is sensing. Be here, even just for a moment. Find the things that bring you back to ground, that give comfort, that tether you, that call you home. For me, what grounds me are my dogs and the trees that surround my house.


Whenever I’m distracted or stressed, I go out in the yard and “listen” to my trees while my dogs sit with me.


5 Tools To Cope with Depression

#1 of tools to cope with depression - Return to Your Breath


Taking time to focus on breath can create lasting change. For this exercise, set aside five minutes. Find a quiet place (or the quietest possible place) and sit or lie down in a comfortable position. Begin to breathe slowly and deeply so that you can feel air enter your body and fill your lungs, those twin organs that work tirelessly for you every moment of your life. Inhale slowly and imagine the oxygen reaching the deepest spaces of your body, even the parts where the pain lies. Breathe into the tight spaces of your muscles, and let the breath expand the tension, even just a tiny bit. Breathe into the tight spaces of your emotions, creating space. Imagine your breath gently flowing over the places within you that are in pain, and then whispering back out as you exhale.


Even if it sounds awkward, or silly, it’s a five-minute exercise: give it a try. If you get distracted repeatedly, that’s okay as well; just return to your breath and start again. For me, deep breathing helps me slow down. I’m forced to stop any frantic running around and touch back down to the true core of who I am. Usually, if I can find even five minutes in my day to focus on breathing and exploring the areas of my body that are tight, I feel calmer and more focused.


As a final note, recognize that passage through darkness in our lives can be extremely painful and feel as though it will never end. What I believe, however, is that darkness holds its own lessons, and we would never learn them without suffering. No one chooses depression. But I know that I can now look at my dark passage and see that the depression I thought of as a curse opened doors.


I was given the gift of deeper empathy and I use that gift every day in my career; I was given the gift of total surrender because I had no more energy to fight; I was given the gift of having all my goals and my basic identity destroyed so that I could rebuild something new and truer. I hope for you that one day you, too, can see what doors are opening in this dark passage.


Are you struggling with depression and considering therapy for support? The first step is the hardest, but you’ll know when you’re sick and tired of being sick and tired. If you are interested in developing tools to cope with Depression, consider contacting our diverse counselor and therapist team of professional clinicians at New Leaf Counseling Group in Charlotte, NC at 704-774-3078 to schedule a free initial consultation - or click here to book an appointment online. We are ready and waiting with room for you to GROW.