When depressed it is very challenging to operate at one’s normal level of functioning. Depression is often accompanied by significantly low energy levels, feelings of hopelessness, difficulty concentrating and making decisions, trouble sleeping, and loss of interest or pleasure in activities previously enjoyed. Moreover, other symptoms associated with depression include a significant change in weight or appetite, feelings of extreme guilt, and thoughts of (and when severe enough actions towards) ending one’s life. These symptoms make it extremely difficult to just snap out of it and re-engage in life as usual. Depression clouds one’s thoughts regarding oneself, one’s future, and the world and makes it difficult to imagine things could get better.
While people who are depressed often feel hopeless, the positive news is that there are highly effective treatment interventions to help alleviate depressive symptoms. Feeling depressed often causes an increase in isolation and avoidance; however, these behaviors unfortunately maintain or worsen the depression. Behavioral activation is an empirically supported technique to help break the self-perpetuating cycle of isolation and avoidance by systematically increasing engagement in routine activities, values-based activities, and previously enjoyable activities. Activity monitoring and activity scheduling are useful tools to help individuals get an objective assessment of their daily structure and provide opportunity to plan ahead and track their behavioral activation progress.
Other validated treatment strategies in depression-focused treatment include cognitive reframing, self-compassion focused techniques, and mindfulness. It is also important to focus on relapse prevention. Awareness of one’s potential future roadblocks and pre-planning on how to handle the challenging situations before they actually transpire is a proactive versus reactive approach and leads to greater long-term success.