Viktor Frankl (2004) lived through the most horrific period of time, known to human kind as the Holocaust. Frankl learnt a lesson that proved invaluable on keeping himself alive. He learnt that a person can endure any suffering possible if there was a why, a reason, a meaning to it. He taught this vital message to other in mates in the camps and kept people alive due to this profound understanding. It is how we create meaning in our lives that makes or breaks us. How we choose to respond to any given situation affects the outcome.
How can a person with depression find meaning? It is a very unique experience. For one person waking up to see the sun rise may provide enough meaning to have the will to live another day. For another person making sure they leave the house tidy gives them enough meaning and purpose to keep going. Look within and ask yourself what gives me meaning?
A person suffering from depression has a flat mood. They experience a lack of interest in social activities, and they lack motivation. A person with depression often ‘slows’ down ‘in body as well as in mind.
This leads us therefore to the understanding that if a person moves their body and engages in regular physical exercise even a gentle walk their mood increases. If a depressed person establishes for themselves a routine for example each day getting up, showering, eating breakfast then going for a walk this can be seen as a huge accomplishment.
The idea of going to sleep in the middle of the day sounds appealing to many people struggling with depression. I would suggest limiting the time sleeping in the day as it often has a knock on effect to night time sleeping. Perhaps set an alarm to give yourself no more than one hour . You can rest on the couch with a book or music but actually sleeping in the day can be a difficult habit to get out of. Sleep often acts as an anaesthetic to the pain depression can bring, are there other ways you can soothe yourself?
Depressive thoughts can arise from looking backwards. In the past I may have regrets about something I did not do. Can I change it now? Not always depends on the circumstances. If you cannot change it then how can you move beyond the regret into a more positive future? Allow yourself the gift of forgiveness. You did what you did, you cannot change it, so gently challenge your thinking “What would need to happen to be able to let this go?’. Sometimes forgiveness or self acceptance is the key.
Some people who are depressed need to take anti depressant medication, others do not. It is a very individual situation and important to consult with your personal doctor (md). Some people may not actually be clinically depressed they may be fed up with their life situation and talking to a psychotherapist to work through their options and steps to making changes for themselves may be all that they need. Others who have been diagnosed with clinical depression or perhaps manic depression otherwise known as bipolar may need a combination of medication and taking therapies to support them.
Existential psychotherapists view people as struggling with living as opposed to ill, so a person who is presenting with depressive mood would be challenged on their world view. What makes like depressing for them? It is a fascinating therapy that walks alongside the client in their journey of life.
Aviva Keren Barnett (PgD, M.A ) is a UKCP registered existential psychotherapist and counselor. Aviva holds a Master of Arts in Existential Psychotherapy and Counselling. Aviva, a very passionate therapist, works with individuals on a private basis.