Carl, a company executive in his forties, was going through a rough patch in his marriage. While talks about divorce were on the table, Carl was not looking forward to be separated from his wife. He felt that the marriage could be salvaged. Thus, he tried ways and means to mend the relationship. While initially hopeful, months of trying were met with repeated disappointments and rejections. By the time Carl came to my office, he was downtrodden and riddled with self-blame. Constant thoughts about how sad and terrible life was contributed towards psychological flooding in his mind. He started to interpret things around him negatively. Soon, Carl lost the motivation to exercise or socialise, and sunk deeper into despair.
And sometimes, sadness can be an appropriate response. We all experience this emotion at some point or another. Feelings of sadness can be a result of going through trigger events such as a loss or a difficult situation in life. Overtime, you may learn to manage problems or accept the changes in your life. However, the sadness can sometimes become so overwhelming that it interferes with your everyday activities and normal functioning. Like Carl, your thoughts, emotions and behaviours may be dominated by a sense of profound sadness. And you are not able to cope as you used to.
When sadness of this degree does not go away, you may be facing what is clinically known as depression.
Symptoms of depression may include:
• Persistent sadness and despair.
• Feelings of worthlessness or guilt.
• Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed.
• Feeling tired or lethargic.
• Feeling agitated or restless.
• Difficulties sleeping or sleeping excessively.
• Decrease or increase in appetite and weight.
There’re many reasons why you might be stuck in depression. Some of my clients said that they just couldn’t find it in themselves to accept the circumstances or flaws in their lives. Others are seeking some form external validation, such as success, love or wealth, before they can feel happy. I’m guessing your situation might be unique, with its own sets of challenges and complexities. Whichever the case, journeying with a coach or therapist can greatly compliment medical treatments you might be receiving.
Change… from the inside-out
In Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), there is an adage that goes: You feel the way you think. While the circumstances you find yourself in can be greatly upsetting, there’s also a good chance that your rumination is contributing to your anxiety and low moods. As a coach, one of the many approaches I take with clients is to help them better grasp the nature of their thoughts, and learn to relate to them differently.
When one is depressed, rumination can assume various forms.
Firstly, your mind may dwell on past events – beating yourself up for the things that went wrong, and constantly regret over what could have been.
Secondly, you may anticipate problems that might happen in the future – worrying about the worst-case scenarios and contemplate all the possible solutions in advance.
You might think that analysing these thoughts over and over again can help you solve the problem, or at least bring you closer to a solution. In reality, however, it might be akin to flooring the accelerator when your car is stuck in the mud – it brings you nowhere. And you might be sucked deeper in.
Through techniques from CBT and mindfulness, you can learn to recognise your thoughts for what they are – just thoughts, not facts. The awareness that your thoughts may not necessarily be an accurate reflection of reality is one of the first steps in gaining more effective control over your situation and your life.
Connect with us today to find out more.
Adapted from the author’s book – DEMS: Keeping Depression, Anxiety and Stress at Bay (J. Peter, 2021).
Dr. J. Peter is a specialist in psychological type and cognitive-behavioural sciences. He helps clients build better emotional, psychosocial and relational well-being.