Millions of people struggle with depression and anxiety.
Whatever the source – whether it’s anxiety, life circumstance, loss, biochemical factors, finances, poor health, past trauma, to name a few, I’ve found that many people who have been diagnosed with anxiety and/or depression are unintentionally are depressing themselves and contributing to their symptoms.
Ok, that’s a loaded statement. This isn’t said to blame the sufferers or induce shame and guilt. Quite the contrary. When you become aware of the ways you are robbing yourself of joy, you’re suddenly empowered to change so that life becomes more enjoyable.
It is our approach to life that affects and makes us feel bad.
After years of working with patients, I’ve discovered that there are tiny little things we do every day that ultimately contribute to the way we feel. Our habits, our thoughts or our emotions all play a part. Below are some of things you might inadvertently be doing that contribute to your overall depression and mood.
Put Your Body in Neutral and Let Autopilot Take Over.
Each day you rise, work relentlessly at a job that you liked for maybe five minutes probably five years ago, come home and care for others, fall into bed and repeat the next day. Your life drives itself.
That means that everything joyful falls by the wayside. When is the last time you went out and played in nature? Skipped up the stairs instead of taking the elevator or allowed the world to look brand new?
You Put Yourself Last.
Can you remember the last time you made room for fun, recreation or exercise? I mean, who needs friends, they probably judge you or are bored around you, right? Putting everyone else’s needs above your own may feel noble, but it also contributes to your depression. Perhaps you’ve been told that you’re supposed to be there for everyone, but notice how it makes you feel? Do you feel resentful? Angry? Blaming everyone else without recognizing that you are the one who needs to put you first?
Putting yourself last can take on various forms. It might mean that you lower your personal hygiene standards and ignore your physical health – opting for a diet of processed, hard to digest foods. You forget to exercise, don’t get enough sleep and ignore self-care in its entirety. It even may mean avoiding intimacy, sex or getting involved in a relationship.
Blame is the Name of the Game.
Is your life “beyond your control”? If you’re pointing fingers, you might not be taking responsibility for your life and inadvertently making yourself more depressed and anxious. Listen to the way you speak – who or what is to blame for the way your life looks today? Do you have to be right and others wrong?
If you find yourself running away from responsibility or saying that “things just happen” it might be time to shift. Failure to take responsibility over our life can go beyond blame too – it might mean living beyond our means, taking unnecessary risks or walking away from those we love.
Imagine what life might feel like if we took responsibility. Instead of feeling like life is happening to us, we begin to recognize that we still have the ability to control our responses, the way we feel and our perspective – even when the world throws us a curve ball. How different might life be?
I’ll Take What’s Yours.
The flipside to all of this is that you probably also tend to take responsibility for things that aren’t yours. Are you taking responsible for other people’s lives? Maybe your spouse isn’t showing up the way you want them to for the kids and you step in – reminding him or her of all the things they need to do to be a good parent. When we take on responsibility for the condition of other people’s lives, we tend to avoid taking responsibility for our own – thus contributing to the overall mood of our life.
Denial: Don’t Even Notice I am Lying.
“What we resist, persists. And only what you look at, and own, can disappear.” Neale Donald Walsch
When we deny our life as it is and repress the emotions we feel, our current condition persists. We avoid what we don’t want to feel by going to sleep, addiction, and using technology your primary strategies for avoiding psychological and emotional pain.
It may feel counterintuitive, but the more we deny what’s happening in our life the more likely it is to continue. So, by denying our own anxiety or depression, we’re actually perpetuating a problem we want so badly to disappear. It is only when we look at our life condition and begin to own it that it can disappear.
Be Your Own Worst Critic.
It’s true that most of us are our own worst enemies, but if you are someone who habitually criticizes yourself daily and never gives yourself slack – judging your mistakes every step of the way – then you’re likely contributing to your own negative mood. You even convince yourself you will never succeed evidenced by mistakes you made a decade ago. We can certainly be inventive in the ways we beat ourselves up, but in doing so we change nothing. Perhaps we think that if we judge ourselves, we’ll be different the next time. The only thing we’re doing? Making ourselves feel bad – leaving a scowl on our face throughout the day.
You Keep One Foot In the Past.
You might not realize it but the more you keep going over the past, the more it holds you back from having the future you want. Lamenting about the past again and again does nothing to improve your current condition – it only keeps you in a loop of regret and depression. It also holds you back from being grateful for all the things that stand before you. When we keep one foot in the past, we tend to hold grudges and feel like the world has left us behind. In reality, we are the ones who hold ourselves back. It is only when we release the past that we can see exactly what is before us.
Engage in Distorted Thinking.
Imagine looking at life through the narrowest lens possible. When we look at our life never questioning assumptions or looking only to data that proves your theory – especially about the way others see you or the way you see yourself – you’re engaged in the kind of distorted thinking that limits perspective. If we believe that there is no hope, life will meet our expectations. That kind of thinking leads to further negativity – thinking no one is there to help us, setting impossible standards of perfection and taking everything we see and hear personally. Sound familiar?
Experiencing No Joy.
Are you someone who’s afraid to partake in the joys of life? Never petting animals, holding babies, laughing or taking risks? Do you keep it all in – nice and neat – afraid that if you take part in the joy of life that it might be taken away. If you are, then you might be contributing in the pain you so want to free from.
So, what do you do?
Depression and anxiety can be serious and there is no one size fits all approach to getting better. Discovering your unique way of navigating life is best. Most of us need support at times when steering unfamiliar territory or when life feels overwhelming. It helps to identify effective intervention strategies that include self-learning and productive tools. Sometimes utilizing the expertise of a skilled therapist can be very helpful. If you want to learn how to break free from some of the patterns and habits that contribute to your mood, schedule a time to talk and see what we can do for you.