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In part 1 of “Your Toolbox for Tackling Depression” we discussed the first nine suggestions to help address depression. In this article we will discuss suggestions 10-15:
- Get Active
- Get Enough Sleep
- Eat Healthy
- Connect with People
- Get Some Sunlight
- Engage in Process Writing
- Do Meditation, Mindfulness or Yoga
- Stop the Stinkin’ Thinkin’
- Try EFT Tapping
- Smile and Laugh
- Accept Yourself and Practice Self-Compassion
- Get Educated about Depression
- Take Supplements and/or Medication
- Participate in Counseling or a Support Group
- Turn to God
- Smile and Laugh. Any time you see a mirror smile at yourself even if just to exercise your facial muscles. It sends a signal to the brain that you are happy. It may take some time to change the mental message, so keep on smilin’!
Humor can put a pause on depression as well. Give yourself a mental break by watching a funny movie or find some comedy clips to keep you laughing. Smiling and laughing can counter the default negative thinking of depression telling you that life is always sad, dreary or depressing.
- Accept Yourself and Practice Self-Compassion. Women seem to be especially good at guilt and shame—feeling like they are never good enough. Learning to gently accept things as they are, trusting that the Lord is mindful of you and has a purpose for all things (Doctrine & Covenants 122:7), and seeing yourself through the eyes of compassion are all necessary in breaking the spell of depression.
Good enough really is good enough. We are all imperfect humans having an earthly experience where we get to practice being okay when we might not actually be okay. By partnering with God, we can do that.
We all have our own struggles that show up in a variety of ways at any given time. I love how Elder Henry B. Eyring recommends that we assume that everyone we meet is fighting a hard fight of some kind. I also love how Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf reminds us that we are all imperfect and all in different ways from each other.
Sometimes people feel like it’s their fault if they have depression. But depression isn’t anyone’s fault any more than any disease. No one chooses cancer. No one chooses depression. All the ways we beat ourselves up and think we are not good enough, not worthy enough, not perfect enough, not lovable enough are just tools of the adversary to keep us stuck in the muck of self-denigration, which fuels depression.
A helpful tool in addition to the grateful list we discussed earlier, is keeping a daily numbered log of 10 specific things you like, love, or appreciate about yourself. This list helps you accept yourself and have more compassion for yourself.
You can begin to reprogram your self-view to that of a person with strengths and worth by keeping this list and by listening to the audio book Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff. Perfectionism is a perfect poison for anyone—especially anyone struggling with depression or anxiety. Self-compassion is great way to combat perfectionism that fuels depression.
- Get Educated about Depression. After doing some of the other suggestions here to start feeling better first, it can then be helpful to seek out learning about the specific struggles you are having. I believe the Lord will direct you to the specific resources you need.
Some good books on depression to consider are: The Depression Cure by Stephen S. Ilardi, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy by Ryan James, Undoing Depression by Richard O’Connor, any of the Change Your Brain resources by Daniel G. Amen, M.D., or You Can Heal Your Life by Louise L. Hay. You might start by reading some of the reviews to see which ones seem best to you.
- Take Supplements and/or Medication. Mild, situational or seasonal depression may resolve itself with some of the other suggestions here, but many times some kind of physiological assistance will be needed. If the above suggestions haven’t been enough to get you back onto a happy track, then a supplement and/or an antidepressant may be needed to get your brain’s neurochemistry back in balance. Often times this physiological step will be needed in order to do the other psychological work necessary for overcoming depression.
Many people who are hesitant about taking medication will often consider trying some other helpful supplements. Check out the naturally occurring compound – SAM-e, or EmpowerPlus Q96 a multi-vitamin for the brain. (You can learn more about SAM-e in the book Stop Depression Now by Richard Brown and search for more information on Q96.) These two supplements have shown the most success in naturally assisting my clients in the physiological processes to combat depression. There are also many other supplements like Omega 3 fatty acids (fish oil) that can help.
People have found that these supplements help them reduce stress, feel more at peace and have an overall improvement in their sense of well-being with no side-effects. I personally found SAM-e to be a life saver when I experienced post-partum depression many years ago. SAM-e is backed by research and is even being recommended by the medical community, which is rare for an alternative supplement. Talk to a doctor and do your own research to see what makes sense for you. Not all doctors will be familiar with supplements or alternative health approaches for mental health issues.
Many people also find medication to be a lifesaver. See what makes the most sense to you. There is no shame in having to take something for depression any more than there would be in having to take insulin for diabetes.
- Participate in Counseling or a Support Group. The two key steps in overcoming depression are counseling plus addressing the brain chemistry with either supplements or medication as I just mentioned. Having a nonjudgmental and therapeutically helpful person to talk to is pretty vital in being able to address the underlying experiences and beliefs that fuel depression.
A good counselor can help you change the depressing cognitions and reprogram the way you see yourself and the world. A good counselor can offer a profound gift of helping you to truly feel seen and heard. Since depression can sometimes lead to suicidal feelings, a counselor can work with you to collaboratively determine a good safety plan with helpful coping strategies.
If you don’t know where to start with all these tools your best first step is to find a good counselor who can help you figure out your next best steps. Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is a common empirically validated approach to addressing depression. In addition to CBT, a counselor has many tools and approaches to help with the specific aspects of your struggles as well as the challenges that depression can bring to your relationships.
Couples or family counseling can also help a spouse or loved ones who are trying to love and support you through your depression and give them some support as well. Support groups can be so helpful in decreasing your feelings of loneliness and isolation by sharing your journey with others having similar challenges. You are not alone. You’ll probably want to start with a counselor, though, before a support group to get the more specific and personal direction you’ll need in the beginning.
One of the most comprehensive resources for finding a good counselor (or a support group) in your area is to search PsychologyToday.com. You can specify all the specific characteristics you would like (i.e. gender of the therapist, counseling issue, therapeutic approach, insurances taken, etc.)
- Turn to God. This is the most important step in this whole process and should technically be the first step, but many people overlook the practical need to turn to our Savior, Jesus Christ, and submit our lives and our challenges to Him. Those who have actively worked the “12 Steps” of addiction recovery know that some challenges are simply out of our human reach.
When we turn our lives and our will over to God and humbly trust in Him, His will and His timing—even when things aren’t happening the way we think they should—we are able to access His mighty enabling power. Confidence and faith in Him to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves according to His will allows us to endure better, longer or overcome the challenge when we couldn’t have done so on our own.
The faith and humility of partnering with God and surrendering ourselves to Him brings peace despite any of our challenges. Many of the suggestions here will help you stay in closer contact with your Savior even while you may continue to struggle with feelings of depression.
Depression is a great refiner’s fire. Trust the Lord. Trust that He knows what He is doing with you and why He is doing it. Let Him refine you by willingly submitting to whatever He would have you go thru (see Mosiah 3:19). He may be simply developing compassion, endurance, patience, or a host of other Christlike characteristics, which we came here to develop. Trust that he loves you and knows what He’s doing with you. Know that He will consecrate your afflictions for your highest good (see 2 Nephi 2:2).
I like to remind myself that God is a lot smarter than I am. His ways are higher and better than our ways (see Isaiah 55:9). I can truly say I’m so grateful now for my trial with depression. Because of it I have learned to turn to Him and turn my will over to Him. I have grown in so many ways and can now help others who struggle. With spiritual submission comes peace and eternal hope despite the difficulties in our lives. All of our difficulties are designed to turn us to Christ. I hope you will let that happen for you.
Consider this beloved quote about our mortal afflictions:
“No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God, . . . and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire”
I pray you are able to find some hope and healing amongst the 15 suggestions shared to help you overcome your challenges and find more peace, contentment and even joy. Please feel free to share this toolbox with anyone else that may be in need.
BIO — Laura M. Brotherson, LMFT, CST, CFLE
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and Certified Sex Therapist, Laura M. Brotherson is the founder of The Marital Intimacy Institute with a mission to help couples create “Sextraordinary Marriages.” She counsels with couples, individuals and families in private practice (and online). Laura is the author of the best-selling book, And They Were Not Ashamed: Strengthening Marriage through Sexual Fulfillment, and her latest book, Knowing HER Intimately: 12 Keys for Creating a Sextraordinary Marriage.
Laura is actively engaged in providing marriage education through Couples’ Cruises, articles, newsletters, radio and television broadcasts, and presenting at conferences and workshops. Laura is passionate about helping couples navigate the intricacies of intimacy to help build strong marriages and families. Laura and her husband are the founders of StrengtheningMarriage.com—your trusted resource for education, products and services to strengthen marriages … intimately!
Connect with Laura:
 Henry B. Eyring, Ensign, Nov 2018, “Try, Try, Try.”
 Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Ensign, May 2012, “The Merciful Obtain Mercy.”
 Orson F. Whitney, quoted by Spencer W. Kimball, in Faith Precedes the Miracle (1972), 98.