Becoming depressed is a process that does not occur suddenly. Deep sadness and feelings of despair develop over time when they are allowed to continue unrecognized and unchecked. To avoid the pitfalls of depression, recognize the signs of negative thinking before they progress into depression. Becoming aware of the signs of despair is the first step in heading it off and getting your life back on a hopeful course. It is easier to intervene at the start of the cycle of depression than to wait until you have become debilitated and are experiencing serious dysfunction at home, at work, or in your social life.
The three primary types of negative thinking are catastrophizing, filtering, and personalizing. Each can cause you to feel helpless and hopeless, the hallmarks of despair.
· When you catastrophize you believe that situations are bigger than they really are and that they affect far more than they actually do. You see a problem in one area of your life as affecting all areas which makes them feel overwhelming and impossible to solve.
· Filtering causes you to view situations with pessimism, and you see only the worst and avoid seeing the positive elements. Over time this creates negative mental pathways and habitually pessimistic ways of looking at the world.
· Personalizing originates from an egocentric point of view through which you feel that everything is all about you and that all events somehow relate to you. Personalizing takes two basic forms: In the first form you perceive that events are happening to you alone and not to others. In the second form, you view situations as being about you when they may not be.
When you notice negative thinking, consider the following ideas for managing it and adopting a more hopeful, positive outlook:
· Separate areas of your life as much as possible during times of stress and trauma. Leave your work problems at work and your home issues at home. This allows you to feel more in control, at least for part of your day, which makes it easier for you to feel in charge of your life.
· Examine issues and determine if you are viewing them as “right-sized” or if you have attributed more significance to an event than it actually deserves.
· Find balance by recognizing both positive and negative aspects of all situations. When you catch yourself over focusing on the negative, remind yourself to assess the whole situation and identify some positive, or neutral, elements.
· Recognize that setbacks are impersonal. Problems happen to everyone and no one is immune.
· Stay present through crises and avoid ruminating over past failures or anticipating events which have yet to occur. This allows you to generate a plan for the future because hope, not despair, is guiding your actions. The present is the only place where anything can happen in your life ¾the past has already occurred and the future is yet to come.
· When you feel singled out, check out your assumptions to determine if they were accurate.
· Recognize that setbacks are temporary and impersonal. What is happening now will pass because change is the most constant part of life. The most painful of events will either pass or will lose intensity over time.
· Take action to feel effective in making change. Do something¾exercise or an activity. Action generates energy, which keeps you in the present.
· Connect with your support system. Avoid isolating during stressful times.
Consider the quality of your thinking patterns to determine how often you focus on the negative. Noticing your negative thinking patterns helps to ultimately destroy them. Being aware of the frequency and intensity of negativity is the first step in moving away from despair.
Ellen Diana is a psychologist, author of the Lucky Dreamer Tip Series, and co-author of the Charge up Your Life series of self-help books. She has 30 years’ experience working with children, adults, couples, and families in schools and in private practice in
. Helping women to evolve
into their best selves through personal growth and self-awareness is a passion
of hers. Ellen raised three successful children as a single parent and so has
special interests in mentoring other women in transition and helping parents to
raise resilient children. Contact Ellen at email@example.com or through her website www.ellendiana.com Scottsdale,