Our daily life takes place in continuous interaction with the environment that surrounds us, and as a result of this interaction, events occur that, on occasion, give rise to situations that affect us negatively. If a harmful situation (threatening, dangerous, or harmful) persists or is constantly relived through spontaneous thoughts about it, it is easy for it to destabilize the emotional system and cause our mood to decline.
If this depressed state of mind is prolonged over time, its influence on the normal development of our lives will increase and it is very likely that it will end in a major depression disorder, so it is advisable to take preventive measures. For this reason, in this Psychologyorg article, we emphasize the prevention of depression by explaining how to avoid depression.
Table of Contents
Causes of depression
What causes depression? The causes of depression in women and men are the interactions between different factors. One of the risk factors for depression to take into account is the environmental factor, that is, the events that happen to us. The most common causes of depression are situations of loss. Environmental factors can also be
It has been proven that at the root of depressive situations, there is the loss of something important that we had up to that moment, or that the hope of achieving something that we do not have and that we ardently desire has been lost and, on extreme occasions, the situation leads to losing yourself, to not find your place and function in this world and, finally, to not find meaning in life. This loss or lack of the desired good is the main source of decay, discouragement, and hopelessness.
Beck’s well-known cognitive triad, by psychologist Aaron Beck, which relates depression to a negative view of one’s own person, the world, and their future, points out the key elements involved in a depressive process: the person’s psychological characteristics and the circumstances that define the relationships with their environment, therefore, the strategies to avoid depression must be built taking both elements as their objectives and aiming at the elimination of the negative factors that cause the decline in mood.
Symptoms of depression
Depression presents physical and psychological symptoms common to the different types of depression. The red alarm light should come on when we perceive some of these symptoms that appear gradually and weakly and that gradually increase in intensity:
- Emotions of sadness, liking to cry, emptiness, or distress.
- Outbursts of anger, irritability, or frustration, even over minor matters.
- Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all usual activities, such as sexual intercourse, hobbies, or sports.
- Insomnia or sleeping too much.
- Fatigue and deficiency of energy, so even small assignments require more effort.
- Changes in appetite: lack of appetite and weight loss, or more food cravings and weight gain
- Anxiety, agitation, or restlessness.
- Slowness in reasoning, speaking, and making body movements.
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixation on previous failures, or feelings of guilt for situations for which you are not responsible.
- Difficulty in believing, focusing, making decisions, and recognizing things.
It is also worth mentioning one of the symptoms of severe depression: suicidal ideation.
Do you have any depressive symptoms?
The appearance of any of these symptoms announces that we are in a pre-depressive state, a borderline state that is characterized by the fact that, despite the distressing feeling that overwhelms us, we are still in control of the situation and our thoughts, that we are capable of to reflect, to make decisions freely.
since a classic effect of depression is the loss of control of our psychological I, hence the importance of acting in this initial phase to avoid falling into a psycho-centrism in which the disturbing event becomes a recurring and obsessive thought that invades our mind and incapacitates us to direct our thoughts and actions (as a Chinese proverb says: “ You can’t stop the birds of sadness from flying over your head, while you can prevent them from nesting in it .”
To find out if you have symptoms of depression, it is advisable to go to a professional and perform a reliable depression test. One of the most widely used depression tests is the Beck Depression test.
How to avoid depression
How to prevent depression? How to prevent the first symptoms of depression from increasing? How to combat incipient depression? Once we are aware that we are in a pre-depressive state, we must know the nature of the psychological disturbance that causes it, because, by virtue of it, the strategy to be followed is determined. It is evident that if we do not really know what is happening to us, we will not be able to establish the appropriate strategies.
The steps and exercises to avoid depression are as follows:
1. Know the cause of depression
What is the source of the disturbance? The person is intimately linked to their environment through complex relationships (the environment is made up of the people and the physical settings with which we interact, and it defines who I am, what function I have, and what is my place in it).
Therefore that both form a single reality that we perceive as a harmonious unit so that the alteration of one necessarily affects the other, this makes it sometimes difficult to determine its origin with certainty when faced with a disturbing situation: it can be the person, the environment or both together; however, it is important to determine for the purpose of choosing the appropriate strategy if it is the environment or I am the cause of it. In general terms, it can be:
A. A disturbing situation generated by the environment
It occurs in cases in which the family, work, or social environment presents some aspect that we consider hostile (in the sense contrary to our wishes, illusions, expectations, and intentions) and/or stressful (conflicting personal relationships, lack of opportunities, etc.). This negative situation can be maintained over time and suffer it “ live ”, and we can no longer exist and yet experience it in our minds through recurring obsessive thoughts (“ delayed ”), but in both cases, the disturbing experience is the same.
B. An internal perception
It occurs when we perceive discomfort and a feeling of dissatisfaction with ourselves that we cannot attribute to any specific event in the environment. It normally arises when there is a discrepancy between what we perceive of the reality in which our life unfolds and what we would like it to be, our expectations, our ideals, and our illusions. Two frequent situations are:
- Dissatisfaction about some aspect of my person (physical appearance, character, personality, way of thinking, and acting) affects moods of frustration, distrust, insecurity, guilt, shame, loss of self-esteem, perception of incompetence, or negative self-esteem.
- Dissatisfaction in my relationships with the environment. It is difficult for me to integrate into it, as it is not consistent with my beliefs, values , and model of society; or it lacks exciting and stimulating expectations for me, which hinders or prevents my self-realization. The idea that my life is being consumed without having found a purpose and meaning in life causes me a deep and intense bitterness.
2. Try to be objective
The second step or exercise to avoid depression is to know the true reality of the situation. find out if the negative reality that we perceive of our Self and/or of the environment coincides with the authentic reality and if the negative consequences that we attribute to it are justified.
It is possible that the negative reality that I perceive as the cause of my depressed mood, either from myself or my environment, is not the authentic one and is distorted in some way, or that the “toxicity” of the situation is not as big as it looks.
It is verified that we do not see items as they are, but we see items as we are. Reality is constructed by our mind and the problem is that when we create it we do so according to the information we have, therefore, the more extensive and truthful the information on the subject, the closer we will get to the authentic reality.
Keep in mind that thoughts and feelings help determine how we experience the world (under the influence of love, hate, or anger, things look different than they really are).
Therefore, the strategy to find out what the true reality of our situation is will be to gather as much information as possible about what afflicts us, its causes, consequences, attributions, responsibilities, etc., and analyze it objectively, without personal connotations (without cognitive and emotional biases ).
For this mission, you can resort to the help of your partner, family, friends, co-workers, and career counselors, who can provide another point of view. It is evident that errors in information processing cause psychological disturbances by altering the reality that we perceive and activating our emotional system unduly.
If through ourselves or this external source we discover that what disturbs us is really our mistaken perception (that what appeared to be is not; that the consequences that we attributed cannot occur; that there was no reason to feel guilty; that the belief of having made a wrong decision is unfounded; that we have not lost the love of the loved one) the low mood will disappear automatically, the unpleasant bodily symptoms of depression will cease and we will return to normality and psychological balance.
3. Face reality
If, on the contrary, our perception is correct and we are experiencing the true reality of the situation, the question to be resolved is whether it admits to change or whether it is impossible. In the first case, it would be about trying to change it, and in the second to accept it. One of the inspiring and motivating phrases to face reality is the well-known Serenity Prayer attributed to the theologian and philosopher Reinhold Niebuhr and whose best-known version reads as follows:
”Lord, grant me the serenity to accept everything that I cannot change,
strength to change what I am capable of changing
, and wisdom to understand the difference.”
A. Change the situation
If the disturbing situation in which we live can be changed, either to revert to the initial state prior to its disturbance or to partially modify it in some aspect, the strategy will be aimed at finding out what aspects of the environment or of myself should and can be changed to achieve this rollback.
Action on the environment would be to change residence, house, work, friends, partner, hobbies, etc. However, we must be aware that this is sometimes very difficult or impossible to achieve since our influence on the environment is limited there are aspects that are out of our control, they do not depend exclusively on us, they depend on others. factors (such as economic capacity), or other people (such as having the ideal partner, children, social prestige, the desired job position, etc.).
In some cases, the strategy would be to find a new valid option to replace the lost asset that excites and satisfies us. For example, if one is depressed because of being unemployed, what he wants is to have a job, and when he gets it, he very soon recovers his psychological stability and his state of mind.
If the change is focused on us, the mission would be to change the way we see ourselves and our relationships with the environment, how we think about them, and how we act based on these thoughts. It implies a change in our vital references: in the patterns of interpretation and conduct, the hierarchy of values, the purposes, intentions, attitudes, etc.
In any case, as long as the disturbing situation persists, it would be necessary to:
- Avoid environmental factors that influence it (avoid “toxic” people or environments), as they act as triggers for our mental affliction.
- Eliminate recurring thoughts that make the disturbing situation relive in our minds using specific tactics for it (for example, replacing them with neutral or positive ones). In this regard, it has been shown that through the mind one can act on the body and reduce physiological discomfort (an example is meditation ). Likewise, thoughts can be acted upon (through metacognition) to challenge them and remove them from our conscious attention.
B. Accept reality
If we cannot change the disturbing situation, the strategy will lead us to have to accept the things that I cannot change. How to accept reality? Accepting reality does not imply resignation to it, but rather giving a new interpretation or a new function to the elements that make up our daily reality (the SETH model of psychological well-being can serve as a guide for this).
The acceptance strategy must therefore be accompanied by the creation of an internal reality ” overlapping” and compatible with the current reality in which we live, that is stimulating, rewarding, and gives meaning to our lives. Given that, as previously stated, we are the ones who create our reality, it will be our job to design it in those aspects and factors that interest us, using the elements that are at our disposal.
4. Establish the tactic to avoid depression
Once the strategy has been chosen, the appropriate tactic must be established to carry it out, which must be subject to our personal characteristics and the circumstances of the environment in which our lives take place (“I am Me and my circumstances”, said Ortega y Gasset ). We must bear in mind that each one must act in coherence with himself, with his beliefs, circumstances, and expectations.
To carry out any tactic, it is advisable to create a protocol of action with the appropriate instructions that serve as a guide and make us get out of the immobility that lavishes depression and promote appropriate behaviors. It is built by combining the three factors that direct human behavior:
- Cognitive factor: reasoning to propose actions to be carried out, evaluate their advantages and disadvantages, and choose the most appropriate one.
- Emotional factor: seek well-being.
- Motivational factor: encourage a proactive attitude.
A. Realistic goals
An essential condition for the success of the action protocol is to propose actions whose objectives are possible and it is in our hands to carry them out since impossible or unlikely objectives do not lead to anything, and continuing to be committed to an unattainable objective can cause impotence, despair, anger or fear and open the door to depression if in the end it is not achieved.
However, a well-designed and prudent protocol increases the chances of success and anticipates the gratification that awaits us if the goal is achieved, thus avoiding the typical inaction and hopelessness that fosters depression.
B. Positive attitude
On the other hand, to obtain the expected result, a positive attitude is required, a great effort in self-discipline, tenacity, and perseverance, since it implies a change in the way we see things and behave that can last a long period of time until we see the results. expected (Richard Davidson, PhD in neuropsychology and affective neuroscience researcher has shown that mental well-being is nothing more than a set of skills that can be learned and cultivated ).
In addition, the new patterns in the way of thinking, valuing, and acting that are to be established or strengthened compete directly with the previous ones that are to be modified. It is also very important that the attitude is accompanied by the illusion of reaching the objective proposed, otherwise, it will be very difficult to overcome despondency since the lack of motivation is one of the aspects that characterize mental decline.
5. Seek help if needed
If you are experiencing symptoms of depression or are struggling to manage your mental health, it’s important to seek professional help. This means reaching out to a mental health professional such as a therapist or counselor who can provide you with support and guidance.
There are many different types of mental health professionals, so it’s important to find someone who is experienced in treating depression and who you feel comfortable talking to. You can begin by asking your primary care physician for a referral or exploring online for mental health professionals in your location.
When you reach out for help, the mental health professional will likely conduct an assessment to determine the severity of your symptoms and the best course of treatment. Treatment options can include talk therapy, medication, or a combination of both.
Remember, desiring help for depression is a symbol of strength, not weakness. Depression is a treatable disorder, and with the proper support and treatment, you can begin feeling satisfactory and regain control of your life.
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