Depression is no joke. It is a real condition that drains energy, hurts productivity and performance, and can impact concentration, memory, decision-making, morale, relationships, health, and safety. It is a leading cause of absenteeism and disability, affecting more than 19 million American adults, and costing U.S. businesses and individuals over $50 billion annually.
Depression goes beyond unhappiness, and often involves persistently sad or irritable mood, loss of interest or motivation, fatigue, sleep and appetite problems, decreased concentration, hopelessness, and guilt. In serious cases, it can trigger substance abuse, self-injury, and suicidal thoughts.
When accurately identified and treated, nearly 80% of people with depression improve. Furthermore, it’s possible to prevent or lessen the impact of depression. Here’s what you can do…
People can overcome almost anything with quality social support—including adversity, loss, and trauma. The comfort of friends, family, or anyone you trust is perhaps the most powerful antidote to depression. If you have social support, use it. If you don’t, start building it. Professional help counts, too, and is often an effective supplement to an existing support system.
In its most basic form, depression is inertia—doing nothing. In severe cases of depression, people may cease to work, interact, talk, eat, bathe, or even get out of bed. Since activity represents the opposite of inertia, it can hold off depression.
Think about it: you can’t be busy and inert at the same time. Often, just showing up and taking on tasks creates energy, leads to some form of accomplishment, and lifts spirits.
Physical activity is a “natural anti-depressant.” It releases endorphins, builds energy, and provides a sense of accomplishment. If you have any history of depression, do whatever it takes to maintain a consistent exercise regimen.
Insufficient sleep lays a welcome mat for depression. Anyone can become depressed without enough sleep. Conversely, getting 7-8 hours of quality sleep can help promote a more stable mood.
The most common recreational substances—alcohol and marijuana—are also central nervous system depressants. Both are notorious for lowering activity levels, stifling motivation, and triggering depression. Furthermore, using substances to relieve stress or numb painful feelings can block healthier coping strategies and lead to dependence.
Build Positive Emotions
Depression often clouds a person’s mood and perceptions to dwell on the negative. Regardless of circumstance, people have the ability to deliberately seek happiness. Savor good times, soak up compliments, and obsess about things that make you feel good. Mathematically, your opportunities to feel depressed will shrink.
Pick Your Battles
There is no limit to the amount of injustice or unfairness you could confront in this world, but since the energy you need to fight these battles is definitely limited, taking on too many can deplete you. Try to focus on a few that are truly important, and let go of the rest.
Holding in thoughts and emotions is like filling a bag with rocks and carrying it everywhere—eventually, the weight slows you down, drains your energy, and hurts your health. Venting those feelings can unburden that weight and free you. Even if it’s not your style to pour out your heart to others, you can still write it down, talk it out confidentially (i.e. with a licensed clinician), or even narrate into a digital recorder. Afterwards, you can always shred or delete the evidence.
Change Your Thinking
Certain styles of thinking—pessimism, cynicism, and self-blame—can increase the risk of depression. To help inoculate against depression, consider adopting the following styles of thought:
- If something bad happens, its causes are temporary, specific, and related to circumstances out of my control.
- If I obviously have a role in an unfortunate event, then I will learn from my experience and prevent, avoid, or overcome the challenge in the future.
- What seems like misfortune may actually be fortunate—only time will tell.
- If I suffer a failure, it will only help me build greater resolve.
- If I suffer a loss, it will eventually lead to an opportunity.
- If I suffer a string of bad luck, the Law of Averages says I’m due for a break.
- If something good happens, then I had a contributing role in it, and the additional causes of that good fortune are enduring (not temporary or accidental).
Don’t Put Up with Depression
If depression sneaks through despite your best prevention efforts, you don’t have to simply tolerate it. In most cases, depression is highly treatable. If you have concerns, setting up a consultation with a Professional Staff at the Center for Work and Family Life is a great place to start. Just call us at 213-821-0800, or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can schedule a consultation usually within a week or less. Our trained, expert staff will assess your needs, explore options, and collaborate with you on a plan of action in a quiet, confidential setting. Our service is free of charge to all USC benefits-eligible faculty and staff (as well as their benefits-eligible dependents), and conveniently located in both University Village (UPC) and Soto Street Building (HSC). We look forward to hearing from you.