Stage 3: Take Action: The third stage to overcoming depressive symptoms is taking action. Gaining knowledge in Stage 1, and establishing proactive and responsible perspectives in Stage 2, prepares us mentally for the third and final stage of the G.E.T. Healthy approach to healing in depression. We learn in this stage seven action steps that have helped me to heal in this disorder.
7 ACTION STEPS TO HEALING IN DEPRESSION
The following summarizes the 7 action steps of my G.E.T. Healthy! approach to overcoming depressive symptoms. Each step is introduced here and detailed in my book:
Deep Well Perspective Healing: A Proactive, Responsible & Non-medicinal Approach to Overcoming Symptoms of Depression (2017)
Step 1: Defibrillate your mental illness.
Imagine a heart attack victim lying lifeless on the floor. The paramedics apply a defibrillator which sends a thousand volts of electric shock through his system in hopes of reviving his still heart long enough to transport the patient to the hospital, where hopefully, doctors can stabilize him. This is what we aim to accomplish, but in the figurative context, as we take the first action step toward overcoming symptoms of depression.
The underlying principle in this first step is: your feelings or emotions are determined by your thoughts and your beliefs! In depression, when you have a negative belief or perception about a specific situation in your life, this in turn generates negative emotions that can cultivate depressive symptoms. In order to defibrillate these symptoms, you must first embrace a positive belief about that particular situation, one that contradicts the existing negative belief. When you do this, and you truly believe it, you will have created a conflict, or an eruption of emotion. In other words, the negative emotions that you had originally felt about the situation are contradicted by positive emotions stemming from your new positive belief about it. This sends a thousand volts of emotional shock throughout your belief system and creates a window of opportunity that leads to the next step.
Step 2: Get help.
The second step toward overcoming depression is to get help, or specifically, call your doctor. What may appear an obvious step to those who have never struggled with depression, it can be an extremely difficult step to take. It was in my own personal experience.
Depression is a condition that carries with it a perceived stigma, and this alone can be enough to deter a person from seeking professional help. My defibrillator moment in depression subconsciously lowered my defenses, and in that moment, I could see with clarity that I was sick and that my loved ones were hurting. And in that moment, I was exposed to a crossroads and I had to choose either to be reactive and surrender to the debilitating symptoms of this disorder; or choose to be proactive, and take responsibility for my condition by seeking professional help.
Step 3: Forgive yourself.
The feeling of guilt is identified by health professionals as one of the eight symptoms of depression, and this served as one of the most debilitating emotions that I contended with in my struggle with depression. The third step toward overcoming this disorder requires that we genuinely learn to forgive ourselves for what we perceive are regretful choices made in the past.
I created the Ghost of Guilt paradigm which teaches you how to leverage a proactive approach to not only forgiving self, but forgiving others for any perceived wrong-doing that may be serve to feed depressive symptoms. What may be considered the most difficult hurdle to overcome in this journey, I believe it is essential to healing that we genuinely find peace in our hearts and acceptance for ourselves, as well as for others.
Step 4: Create a goal to look forward to.
The fourth step requires that we make a proactive and dynamic shift in mental focus, from living in the past to living for the future. The fundamental purpose of this step is to instill meaning and purpose in your life. I believe that we can accomplish this by creating a goal to look forward to.
I believe that this is a critical step toward overcoming depressive symptoms because as long as you have a goal to strive for, you will have something in your life to look forward to, despite the circumstances. This creates what I call proactive momentum that will help you to not only overcome symptoms of this disorder, but will be an important factor to preserving your mental health down the road.
Step 5: Leverage exercise to alleviate depressive symptoms.
The focus of the previous four steps has been on making proactive and responsible adjustments to our minds, specifically, in our thinking processes, beliefs and perspectives. In this step, we aim to counter depressive symptoms by leveraging our bodies: the direct physiological and psychological benefits that are produced naturally by physical exercise. The mountain of empirical evidence supporting the effectiveness of exercise training in treating depressive symptoms continues to grow, and physical exercise is considered just as effective, if not more effective than anti-depressant medication.
Step 6: Embrace the good in your life.
By the time we reach this step, we should be stronger in both our physical and emotional capacities. Step six is the point where, in the figurative context, we pull ourselves up and out of the deep well of depression. The underlying purpose at this stage in healing is to truly focus on the very blessings that give our lives meaning and value. It is at this point in our journey that we will be able to see things more clearly and establish powerful perspectives in our lives. These perspectives are fueled by a healthy system of beliefs that serve to empower how we think and what we feel about ourselves and our conditions.
The underlying purpose of this step is to leverage everything we have learned in the preceding steps to establish a foundation of productive beliefs. These beliefs are produced by proactive and responsible thinking patterns that position us to deal more effectively with challenges that we currently face, and condition us to deal more effectively with challenges we have yet to encounter.
Step 7: Give back and help others.
It was in this step that I learned the most valuable lesson in my journey toward healing in depression. I believe that to truly heal from this disorder, we must fully commit ourselves to be a difference maker in the lives of others. In other words, we end our journey when, in the figurative context of the deep well of depression, we climb up and out of the deep well and join our supporters by holding on to the rope of support. When we do this, we will give back and truly make a difference in another life. We will serve as a difference maker in depression.