Dr Isabelle Hung on two things that are proven to help when you feel depressed
When getting divorced, it’s normal to feel floored. It is a blow to your hopes, dreams and confidence. If after a couple of days you are finding that you are seriously struggling to stay on top of the basics such as get out of bed, get dressed and go to work, do consult a doctor or accredited therapist. Seek help rather than experiencing sadness alone.
In the UK, you are entitled to free therapy. Your therapist is likely to use a therapy called CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) which focuses on these two things: challenging thoughts and being more active. This therapy has been proven to alleviate people’s moods.
How to be your own therapist
It is always better to go to a qualified professional but you can try and be your own therapist by doing the CBT steps yourself. In order to do this, you must:
- Identify and challenge negative thinking
- Get out and do more – fighting against the strong urge to stay in bed/watch TV
Putting these two theories into practice can be pretty challenging.
Identifying and challenging negative thinking is not the same as thinking positively.
The first step is to identify common thinking errors. See if you can catch yourself thinking catastrophically or jumping to negative conclusions.
Thinking errors might include thoughts such as:
‘My children will never forgive me’
‘I will never meet anyone again’
‘I will never get over him/her’
‘No one understands what I am going through’
‘My whole life is rubbish’
‘What is the point of going out, I won’t have a good time.’
‘What is the point of going out? I’m too miserable to be around others.’
These are all examples of thinking errors because they are extreme statements and not realistic.
When you go through a divorce or separation, or any life change, you are more likely to feel depressed or anxious. Therefore you will have more thinking errors and negative thoughts and you will even conjure up more depressing memories!
The next step is to challenge these thinking errors so that you don’t overlook the good things which you can take pleasure or comfort from.
Try replacing those thoughts with realistic ones and focus on good memories and things to look forward to in the future!
Tell yourself/Think about:
- You will be able to meet others eventually and they do have the potential to be better for you.
- Time will make things less painful, just like other painful experiences you have dealt with.
- People will and do understand what you are going through, lots of people have had heart ache and feel lonely (1 in 4 will be depressed in their lifetime).
- There will be some things in your life that are good, e.g. work, friends, your health, your love of tennis….
- If you go out, you will feel slightly better than if you don’t.
- Your friends will understand you are not in the best mood all the time.
- You can also read more abut thinking errors on this site by clicking here.
Get out and do more – fighting the urge to stay in bed/watch TV
Being depressed is very tiring. People who are depressed often feel like staying in bed and have difficulty finding the energy to do anything.
When you are feeling depressed, predicting negative outcomes about your life and future, and feeling exhausted, you are more likely to stay in and watch TV.
The more you stay in and avoid others, the more lethargic you feel, the more isolated and the less confident as you are not having a good time.
So it’s easy to slip into a vicious cycle of depression and inactivity.
So make sure you get out of the house and do something you will enjoy, even if it is on your own: go to a gallery, see a film or go for a run. Exercise is particularly good at stimulating endorphines.
To avoid missing your ex, do something or go somewhere your ex might have hated but you’d love.
Sitting at home in an empty house is not always going to be good for you. Even if you don’t enjoy something as much as before or do not feel quite yourself, you will more often feel better for going out than if you had stayed at home.
So go and do something you love or used to love!
Please write up your suggestions for what to do when you’re feeling down on our forum and let us know any questions.
For more divorce advice go here.
Dr Isabelle Hung is a co-founder of divorceclub.com and clinical psychologist. Having got through her own divorce just three years ago, she is now remarried and happy to report that divorce really is an opportunity for growth and positive change.