How can I deal with depression, anxiety and low self-esteem?
Last updated May 6, 2017
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Years ago, when I told my roommate that I felt like killing myself, he basically told me, you’ll be alright dude. Just get outside and do stuff.
I’d like to think that, at the time, he wasn’t right and he was absolutely trivializing depression for millions of Americans and I wanted to tell him, go fuck yourself! but I didn’t have the energy to do so.
So I just sat there, and wallowed in my self-loathing and utter disdain for everything in the world, and let that eat away at me for a few weeks.
I cried for no reason. I thought about suicide a lot.
It wasn’t fun.
At some point, I mustered up the energy to go to the gym and to do pushups; I began cooking (mostly mediocre meals) with friends; I went on same dates and hung out with women because I kept telling myself, this is good for you. This is healthy.
Then I joined my school’s student government, and that mostly felt like a complete waste of time and energy but I had fun and I met friends and I felt like I was contributing, because even though my grades were absolutely in the toilet and I felt like I’d been spinning my gears for years, wasting my money and disappointing the shit out of my parents, I felt like I was finally doing something of value.
I felt that twinge of success.
You’re Not Your Fucking Khakis
It’s easy to minimize just precisely what crippling anxiety and depression is and naturally assume that everyone is capable of pushing through those difficult moments with a little bit of positive self-talk, some meditation and maybe a little Kombucha.
Then, close to 20% of America’s population wouldn’t be dealing with anxiety disorders.
I’d argue that the reason why anxiety and depression have become so pervasive is because often, when those disorders start rearing their ugly puppy-monkey-baby heads, we generally feel helpless in dealing with those things and thus push ourselves into this vicious cycle of helplessness and self-hate and it only exacerbates the problem.
The reality is, in those situations when we feel less than capable of doing anything, we’re actually skewing reality to fit our internal thoughts, even though that’s less than true.
In the book, Depression: Causes and Treatment, Aaron Beck et al. explores that notion of performance, particularly during moments of depression. What they found was quite startling:
One interesting group of findings demonstrated that in test situations the depressed patient is able to perform as effectively as matched controls. Experimental studies indicated that the experience of success significantly improves the performance of depressed patients. These findings suggested that the inertia in depression may be related more to factors such as loss of motivation than to physiological inhibition. The studies also indicated that depressed patients greatly underestimate their capacity and actual performance.
In short, we are bad judges of our own capacities, particularly when we’re depressed.
And ultimately, the worst thing we can do in those moments is nothing.
So, in a lot of ways, my buddy was right: the important thing to do is something, anything.
How to Do Something When You’re Depressed
Your goal should never be to move mountains and become a superhero, particularly in a fragile emotional state.
You’ll just get ever more depressed and demotivated.
Your goal should simply be to do something tiny.
A. Start small.
Like, a tiny puppy-monkey-baby. Don’t try to magically become a happy person again. Instead, try to focus on tiny habits that might lead to bigger things: floss one tooth at a time; put your running shoes on in the morning; write down three things you’re grateful for before you go to bed. None of these things should take more than a few seconds. Start with that. Once you complete said thing, give yourself a pat on the back. See, that wasn’t so difficult?
B. Maintain the habit.
Jerry Seinfeld had a strategy for pushing through procrastination and staying creative. He bought a big wall calendar, and every day he wrote jokes, he would draw a bigggg X on the day. His focus was not on creating the best jokes every day, but simply on never breaking the chain. Obviously, that turned out okay for him.
If you floss one tooth for a few days in a row, put your running shoes on every morning or simply write down a few things you’re grateful for in the afternoon, you’ll naturally find yourself: flossing all of your teeth; probably going outside with your running shoes; and finding more things to be grateful for. All of that will naturally start to shift your brain chemistry towards the positive.
Inertia is a powerful force.
C. Tell yourself you’re a fucking winner.
You are not a loser. Look at these awesome things you’ve been doing for a few days/weeks? Keep an eye out for that voice. Every time the little asshole starts rampaging around in your skull and making you feel like shit, pinch yourself. Seriously. Do it hard. (Or better yet, buy one of these bracelets AND SHOCK YOURSELF.)
And focus on something you’ve done recently that was cool: I flossed my teeth!
Once you get into a habit of this, you’ll find that those anxieties and dark thoughts that often pushed you to the edge will be less pervasive and debilitating and, even in those really low moments, you’ll have more anchors to tie your ultimate happiness too.
So tell yourself:
“I’m a fucking winner.”
Smile in a mirror when you say that.
“I’m a fucking winner.”
The first line of defense is therapy. While I firmly believe that depression is a medical issue, I also believe that you need more than traditional medical help to manage depression. Because depression brings sadness and a host of other emotional issues along with it, we need someone to talk to, someone who can help us work on new ways to cope. And sometimes just someone to listen.
Finding someone you’re comfortable talking to is important when it comes to therapy. You’ll need someone who doesn’t make you feel judged, and who you trust to have your best interests as their focus. Personally, I also like someone who will challenge me to question the bullst my brain tells me when in the throes of depression.
Yoga, meditation, exercise and good nutrition are likewise helpful with depression. Though it can be close to impossible to put any of these in place when you are suffering.
I’d also suggest seeing an endocrinologist, if at all possible. If your thyroid is underactive, it can cause depression. Pituitary problems and other hormone imbalances can also cause, or contribute to, depression. (Like testosterone, progesterone and estrogen.) If you can’t get a referral to an endocrinologist, at least ask your doctor to check your hormone levels to see if they may be affecting your mental health.
With anxiety and self-esteem issues, I have several tools I use. One is to question their validity. When my brain is telling me that I’m worthless and don’t deserve even the air that I breathe, I challenge it. Is that really true, or is that just something the depression wants me to believe?
Using a dry erase marker, I leave myself notes on the bathroom mirror to remind me of kindnesses I have committed. I like to change it regularly. This serves as affirmation that I am indeed worthy of good things, of being treated well, of being loved.
I’ve started keeping a gratitude journal. In the morning, I write three things I’m grateful for, as well as three things that prove that I deserve love and comfortable shoes. I often forget to do this, but then I remember again.
Read about other people committing kindness. Right here on Quora, you can find over 100 answers to What’s the nicest thing anyone has ever done for you? Reading these answers makes me feel good, affirms my faith in humanity.
Find ways to commit kindness. Little things that are easy to do – don’t try to take on anything large. Maybe offer to return someone’s cart in the grocery store parking lot. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Bring a sandwich to a beggar and talk to him for a minute. Little things that you do for others make you feel good about yourself and will increase your feelings of self worth.
With anxiety, I challenge the fear. I don’t have much experience with anxiety, but there have been times I’m terrified to go to the grocery store. So I ask myself, what’s the worst that could happen? Someone stops me to say hello, and then asks how I am and I start crying. How likely is it that the worst will happen? In this neighborhood, pretty likely that I’ll see someone I know and they’ll stop to talk. Chances of tears today are xx%. Why is this a bad thing? Because I will be mortified if I burst into tears. It will embarrass me and make them uncomfortable. If the worst does happen, will I survive it? Of course I will. And what would be the long term effects? Embarrassment the next time I see that person. Is the risk worth the reward? In this case, is risking mortification worth getting the food I need? Sometimes yes, sometimes no.
If you can manage it, go for a walk. I only briefly mentioned exercise, because when you are having trouble finding the will to do something as simple as eat, exercise doesn’t seem possible. But it’s a medical fact that exercise boosts our feel good chemicals. Getting some sun and maybe seeing some pretty flowers or wildlife can also be beneficial. So if you can muster up some motivation, a walk is a great thing to do for yourself.
And my last bit of advice, though possibly the most important, is be kind to yourself. So often those of us suffering depression and anxiety berate ourselves for what we’re going through. Try to treat yourself as you would anyone else. Remind yourself that you didn’t choose this.
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TL;DR version is in bold.
Try to at least skim through the answer after reading the bold. I am going to take a slightly different approach to your question.
You are asking for a solution to the fundamental philosophical question of life that humans have debated throughout the history of nearly everything. We each are struggling against the currents of our own downward spirals— so when the existential dread/personal pressure becomes utterly overwhelming, how do we deal with it effectively? Once the negative spiral begins, how long must we struggle for until life becomes enjoyable again? When will you know for sure if you have broken out of the cycle? Is there a point to facing all of the BS life throws at us?
Regarding the struggle of gaining the upper hand of your vicious cycle and whether it is “worth it” or not in the end (whether or not the effort we expend eventually leads to our lives bettering or taking a turn away from one of mediocrity), the reality is:
No one here knows the answer, I don’t have the answer, and you won’t ever know the answer. Just as easily as the majority will argue for the positives that living has to offer, others could argue for the alternative— understandably, not many will openly do so (if interested, take a look at works of Voltaire and Donne attacking the suicide taboo).
What is called a reason for living is also an excellent reason for dying – A. Camus
I love this site more than any other, as the singular positive source when this same “game over” mindset once consumed me time and time again. Users have a tacit sense of respect for differing perspectives, quality discussions develop naturally, people use the newfound knowledge to face their own reality and persist a little more inspired.
However, certain realities leave us to choose from the following options:
- Following coming to terms with reality through acceptance, you weigh options looking forward, and either stay as you are, or make decisions optimizing for results that positively impact yourself and your future
- Prolonged rumination
- Following denying reality and ruminating, you could spiral into a worse state of insanity (however subjective this term is) and intentionally gear what you learned to destructively shape your decisions and worldview
The vicious cycle is absolute psychological and physical torture which greatly exceeds the available coping mechanisms and forces the individual into a state of paralysis. Mental health stigma is becoming increasingly addressed nowadays, but we still have a long way to go in eliminating it.
I will not give you the “It’ll get better, and you’ll be fine”, “You need to help others”, “You’re just ungrateful” that you’ve heard a million times over. These suggestions tend to make those struggling with depression react with worsened frustration, anger, annoyance, etc., even if a select few are not entirely baseless.
I will walk you through a list of specific action items to take that will, at the least, alleviate your struggle with depression, anxiety, and self-esteem issues. Along with this, I will elaborate on some facts that will keep reality in perspective.
To be frank, your physical health and personal hygiene has probably been shitty. When overwhelmed with depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem, the desire to take care of our physical bodies is the first thing that goes out the window. This is the first issue to tackle, which will lead to immediate, apparent, increased confidence and mental/physical health benefits. (“Why would I care to shower or brush my teeth if my existence is utterly meaningless? What’s the point of dressing nicely if I don’t even have a future? I couldn’t care less about what others probably think of my appearance at this point”)
- Brush your teeth. You won’t get away with not brushing your teeth
- Asides from the immediate effect of bad breath, consider the ensuing plaque build-up, root decay, cavities, and gingivitis
- Gingivitis: This hurts a lot. It’s the initial stage of gum disease that begins after about three days to a week of no brushing. Your gums swell, start pulling away from your teeth, and you’ll experience a lot of bleeding. Merely pressing your tongue against your gums is painful (inflammation is a good thing in the short-term for protection of your body, but it causes lasting damage in the gums when it’s present for the long-term). When you finally do decide to go back to brushing after a few days, getting back into it is will feel like the equivalent to scratching open sores with your fingers
- Shower/Wash your face. Whether you do this early in the morning or late in the night, it leads to a good start to the following day. You will feel fresher, your hair won’t be greasy, and you get a small boost of confidence from a clean physical presentation after leaving the house
- I recommend investing in a good face wash suitable for your skin type, especially if you have issues with acne/face oil/other skin problems. If a basic facial cleanser doesn’t fix the oiliness, try one that has an acid (benzoyl peroxide, salicylic/glycolic/beta-hydroxy acid). This helped me a lot
- Make exercise a top priority. Block off at least an hour a day for some type of movement and work your other priorities around it. Exercise is meditation in motion, one of the healthiest coping mechanisms, and the key to releasing your body’s natural antidepressants. The endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine boosts act as sedatives and analgesics— ever heard of “runner’s high”?
- Consider picking up a sport. This is beneficial, because with the benefit of getting exercise in, you automatically build a community of others who share the same interest in said sport— for example, if you pick up climbing, being in the environment of a rock gym puts you in the presence of natural positivity, giving rise to opportunities to learn from climbers who would be willing to teach you techniques if you were to ask. Also, for some people, playing a sport for exercise is “easier” and “less tedious” than, say, working out in a gym purely to work out
- Drink a glass of water first thing in the morning. It kick-starts your metabolism, resumes hydration, and gives you the energy to begin your day.Bonus: Lemons + warm water. Lemons are high in Vitamin C (boosts your immune system, decreases wrinkles, keeps skin clear), potassium (helps control blood pressure), and pectin fiber (aids weight loss)
- Reality: Looks matter in life. No matter how often people will throw cliche bullshit at you, “It’s what’s on the inside that counts!”, “Outer appearances don’t last!”, the reality is that EVERYONE notices looks, often first and foremost before any other internal quality. Those who say such phrases are even likely the most clear on understanding this themselves. Whether or not your appearance sits well with those you surround yourself with has a direct impact on your own confidence, reputation, and capability to “move forward” in life
- I have experienced life as appearing relatively unattractive, to “average”, to relatively attractive. I can say with confidence: Society absolutely treats you better, the better-looking you are perceived as. More people approach you, become interested in getting to know you, and offer favors to you, if you are relatively attractive and take care of yourself regularly
- Try it. Walk out of your house and experience life in public one day with a disheveled appearance. The next day, take a shower and dress to impress. You’ll probably get more smiles/greetings and less stink-eyes
Aaron Beck summarizes it the most accurately.
The studies also indicate that the depressed patients greatly underestimate their capacity and actual performance – A. Beck
You are capable of much more than you think you are. So start small. I mean, really small. Those prone to depression and suffering through consistent negative self-talk are the absolute masters at being their own worst enemy. When I say small, I am talking about goals including:
- If you skipped brushing your teeth today, go brush your teeth now
- If you are about to skip breakfast, go eat a fruit. Or whatever you have
- If you haven’t changed, go change clothes. Even if you aren’t going out
- Write down something that made you smile, even if only for a second
Do not expect yourself to do a 180. I tried this once, failed miserably, and ended up finding myself in a much worse mentality than the one I had initially. When you hold yourself accountable for successfully reaching unrealistic goals, what happens is that it is more likely than not that the goals are not met => you defeat yourself repeatedly with negative self-talk for not meeting your own expectations => confidence decreases => hopelessness increases. Improvement does not work like that.
Honestly, if you follow the action items I listed above religiously, you will see tangible benefits both physically and mentally. Consistently keeping up with those couple of suggestions will better your mentality drastically within weeks to months. Make sure you find what is best for you— everything is trial and error.
The average human lives to be around 75. If you are less than 38, thus having more than half your life remaining, statistics says the future holds a better version of everything you know.
- The most mind-blowing project idea is one you have not come up with yet
- The one you come to love the most is someone you have not met yet
- The best job and position you have is one you have not started yet
- The hobby you become amazing at is one you have not found yet
- The funniest movie you watch is one you have not heard of yet
- The ____ is one you have not ____ yet (now make your own)
You’ve got to weigh all of that shit. You’re not really even conscious of your life until age 7 or 8, so to decide it’s all bullshit after just ten or fifteen more years is like judging a movie by its poster – J. Pargin
No one is anywhere near as content or satisfied as they would like you and everyone else around them to believe. Humans are greedy. We are constantly unsatisfied with our world, our achievements, ourselves. This is both a destructive and constructive characteristic of ours. Though greediness could most definitely beed as a sin in some respects, greediness is what propels us most to advance in uncovering new discoveries and surpassing new milestones.
Everyone is struggling, no matter how well-off they seem. A very common coping mechanism is maintaining a cheery outward appearance or personality, an act which feeds the mental illness stigma, which itself further encourages hiding psychological disorders to remain perceived as competent enough for future opportunities. This 1) prevents unwanted probing 2) guards their reputation, which they may care for greatly for whatever reason(s), and 3) the trouble in wearing their heart on their sleeve simply isn’t worth the potential negative repercussions in their particular situation.
- In the professional world, attitude is everything. People feel a consistent pressure to maintain an image as if their life depends on it, because it does
- Everyone unconsciously compares themselves to others who seem to have everything together (the quote about comparing our behind-the-scenes to everyone else’s highlight reel is periodically evident in each of us)
Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.
And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
“Good-morning,” and he glittered when he walked.
And he was rich – yes, richer than a king –
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.
So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head
– Edwin Arlington Robinson
I have an original answer that elaborates more on the absolute actions to take or avoid when suffering with depression here. Take a look if the above helped you. Nancy Liu’s answer to I’m driving myself to insanity with over-thinking, self-analysis, self-doubt, self-loathing, internal misery and zero action. What the heck can I do to completely change my brain and actually enjoy my life?
Everything is relative. Keep reality in perspective. Others’ harmful actions and criticism directed towards you are merely projections of their own realities. Never take anything personally.
Several people close to me have struggled with this at times. It’s not an easy thought pattern to break. And it often has biological roots. But you can overcome this thinking. Here are a few suggestions on where to start.
First, start exercising every day. You will be amazed at how much the endorphins will help to ease your anxiety and depression. And how your self respect and confidence from taking care of yourself will start to translate into respect from others. Yoga can be really powerful for managing anxiety so you might start there. But walking counts too and it’s easy to do almost anywhere.
Second, help some one that is in worse straights than you. By this I mean volunteer. Help at a homeless shelter, or foster homeless pets or help earthquake victims, or keep the elderly company… Whatever interests you most and fits into your life best. Selflessness also produces endorphins and make you feel valuable in a powerful way, boosting your confidence. And the experience will put your problems in perspective and start to stall those negative thoughts…
Third, and this ties into that perspective that you were gaining by volunteering with people less fortunate than you… practice gratitude daily. In the car every morning, think or mention two things that you are grateful for. The sunny day, or running water or a loving family, or food to eat, whatever it is. My son comes up with some great ones on the way to school…the fact that it’s not taco day at lunch for example. Focusing on all these positives will start to shift your thinking from worry and scarcity or just plain entitlement and peevishness (something 8 year olds can specialize in…I don’t want tacos!) to gratefulness and hope.
Fourth, find something that you are good at and commit to it, and build confidence from there. School is very difficult for my daughter. She’s not wired for it. In many ways it’s like sending a fish to bicycle school. But she is a natural on stage. That center of competence is a source of great comfort and confidence for her. We all have our gifts. Nurture yours and use them to fill you up and help you to accept gracefully and continue to apply yourself in those areas in life that are harder for you. We all have them.
Fifth, make connections. Isolation can exacerbate depression and anxiety. Make connections where you can. Volunteering or sports or the gym or group therapy can be a wonderful place to do this in a safe space while you are rebuilding your confidence. Choose a volunteer role that allows you to make a connection with the people, or animals that you are helping, and with the other volunteers. That comradery and connection will go a long way toward helping you feel worthy of love and connection. And you are!
Sixth, see a doctor and accept help both in the form of therapy and medicine if you have tried all of this, and you are still struggling. They aren’t an excuse for not doing the work in 1–5. But in this day and age, there is help for both the behavioral and thought roots of anxiety and depression (behavioral therapy) and the biological roots (medication). And your doctor can screen for other potential causes, like anemia, adrenal or thyroid issues. I liken not taking advantage of these supports that can help you to going through life unable to see and not trying glasses. Why would you suffer that way when you don’t have to? There is nothing to be ashamed of. And there are no points awarded for toughing it and suffering through it. Believe it or not, it was controversial to use glasses when they were first invented. Kudos to those that pushed through those biases and got the help they needed.
This moment is just a moment. I know with these and potentially other simple steps you can see your way out of this dark spot – that’s all it is – and move forward into a life of gratitude and lightness. It won’t all be easy, or everything you could hope for. It isn’t for most people, even those people that make it look easy. But it can be rich and rewarding in so many ways and free (or almost free) of self doubt and worry…and full of love and acceptance. You are worthy of all of that.
Remember you are here for a reason – to make a positive difference. Don’t waste another moment. Find that purpose and that joy.
Anxiety is the beginning picture mostly. Unable to deal with anxiety, we run away and avoid facing or encountering. Fear and Anxiety produce the same response, the differene is just that anxiety doesn’t have a physical stimuli,rather its based on the thought of some impending doom. The more we run,the bigger and stronger anxiety gets, making more influencing our lives. Mental Disorders usually don’t exist singular,rather one disorder is accompanied by another.
Thats about anxiety, overwhelming anxiety which gets out of our control and not possible to manage and cutail, leads to hoplessness and helplessness. Depression enter our life, symptoms include low mood, unnecessary extreme guilt, lack of energy to do daily tasks,staying tired all the time, lack of enthusiasm and self esteem,confusion,memory hard to remember and forgetfulness, become pesimistic, shut down from the external world,as things appear too taxing and unbearable. Many more symptoms emerge and with time depression grows. We all get depresed at some point in life, but after sometime we are bound to recover and cope with reality.
The disorder is the same but every individual experiences it subjectively. Usually depression has a cause in the past, which we were unable to cope with, its genetical as well, depression during and after pregnancy , overwhelming anxiety can cause depression.
Depreesion and anxiety do require help from psychiatrist and psychologist counselling. Both therapy and medication helps in recovery. Cofnitive Behaviour Therapy is used to treat anxiety. Our problems and issues are interlinked and we get stuck at that point and fail to recover and move on. Anxiety can be treated with Flooding technique, Exposure Response Prevention, and Systematic Desensitisation. The patient needs to be prepared to handle himself well without giving up. In basic anxiety has no tretment alternative rather than facing it had on without giving up, or exposing self little by little to anxiety response by presenting causing stimulus,and gradually completely desensitised anxiety and confirm the fear to be non existent. Fear/anxiety are illogical and in actual reality they don’t exist, rather they are just self sustained ,maintained thoughts and interpretations. These faulty cognition need to be fixed by proving to the individual that all his underlying thoughts were unreal and just a hoax.
Depression is sever and do requires medical help. Besides medicines ,mindfulness technique help us focus,feel better and keeps emotions stable. Depression comes and goes in intervals and is never constant, some times its unbearable and sometimes it manageable. Tranquilisers are given to stabalise the mood , exercise ,lots of water, regular meals and adequate rest is a must requirement.
Depression can’t be handled alone, so family help is required, engage self into socialising situations, writing down feelings or even jumbled worlds which may or may not make sense could help, mandal drawings helpful for anxiety, drawind and colouring is also therapeutic, be flexible and try learn adapt and adjust to the reality. Thoughts are the first that gets contagious, so keep thoughts in check, don’t cling self to emotions,feelings and memories rather just observe them flowing without interrupting them, accepting the reality whether we like it or not, understanding that the disorder is pulling you down and its not you youself, believe that things will get better, let go of things which are beyond your control. Never give up hope, no matter how dark things seems. Those who give up hope give up life. Become resilient and hardy by nature. Learn to trust ,believe,love,respect self at all costs.
Our body is a reflection of our inside. So when one things appear odd, it means something inside is out of balance. Love the Life you Live, Live the Life you Love. Stop caring much, try helping other will mKe you feel good. Moreover Electroconvulsive Therapy is used to treat worst cases of depression and what it really does is erase the depression causing thought aspect. So its all about faith and belief in getting better. Start believing that everythings fine and engage self in work and keep self busy than things might get better fast. Don’t hold resentful thoughts, seek inner peace, remain detached from thungs rather focus on your self and believe everything is okay. People have been in depreesion for lofelong, 20years, and it depicts meds only work to keep stabalise ,while its upto us to handle and deal with our comdition. Sleep early at night, don’t think too much, keep yourself busy and engaged ,don’t think just feel, be mindful always, seek spiritual upliftment , let go of the past, not fear the future, just concentrate and focus on the present.
Everything is possible if we decide to obtain our goal and put all of our mind and soul into achieving it. Believe you’re okay, its that simple, and let the rest be done by meds. Never miss your meds as there would be lots of them and stopping medication and treatment process will worsen the problem.
Your mind is your world,we see through our eyes. The beauty is that the same thing resides within, we just fail to realise, introspect and develop an insight into finding your true self. Much of our problems are due to us not facing the reality fairly and squarily.
What we think we become.
We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.
What we are never changes, what we think we are does.
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Hi Michelle, I answered a couple of similar questions about depression yesterday, but some of these ideas also apply to anxiety as well and maybe even to self-esteem as well. More on that, later. To quote myself from the previous answers- Assuming the level of depression is not too severe, my best advice is to work out a “plan of the day,” in which (in addition to getting a check up with your physician and arranging to get into counseling) you set a goal of completing a “project” of some kind each day, in an effort to accomplish something constructive with your time. If the project is something like refinishing a table top, only one phase (e.g. removing the finish, staining it, etc.) my be possible in a day, but that’s probably enough. I mentioned the medical side of things due to the possibility that some kind of fairly easily treated issue may help resolve things fairly quickly, or a more serious kind of problem at least can be identified. In more serious levels of depression, medication or other treatments may be in order, though may not help in a “fast” way- they tend to take a few weeks to kick in- I’d also add exercise as well for anxiety and depression, and self-esteem, too, as long as a person can be patient enough at the start of the work-out regimen and not get disheartened too quickly. It helps to do an exercise regimen with someone else, as this often helps with motivation. On self-esteem- I don’t really like that term too much, for some theoretical reasons. I prefer “self-respect,” which implies that you actually do something worthy of respect, such as completing your project of the day, walking the half mile to meet the goal you set up for yourself, etc. When I was in school in New York, I took some classes at an institute in Manhattan, geared toward mental health professionals, but they also had programs for the general public, which is where I picked up some of the ideas and concepts noted above. I noticed you live in the LA area, and I believe they have a similar institute out there. You might want to see if they offer any programs that interest you. I have no idea as to cost these days, but probably are not very expensive: http://cbtiofsocal.com
I know what it feels like to be stuck in a vicious cycle of sadness, fear and self doubt.
When you suffer from depression, it is difficult to see the good things. When you suffer from anxiety, you live in constant fear. When you have a low self esteem, you fail to ever consider yourself good enough for Anything.
I don’t suffer from intense depression, anxiety or self esteem anymore. But, I’ve been there.
For mild to moderate depression
If there’s a known/ unknown cause – Allow yourself to grieve. Cry if you need to. Don’t hold yourself back from feeling fully. Once you allow yourself to feel, you always spring back. It may take a while.
What helped me – Watching happy YouTube videos, writing down my negative thoughts every morning when I wake up. When I did this, I locked away the thoughts that are disturbing me into a journal. Slowly, within a few days, I ‘separated’ those thought from ME.
I am NOT my thoughts. My thoughts don’t define me. I will not let my thoughts control my actions.
When you isolate your thoughts from your self, you realize that everybody is inherently ‘good’. Whether you ACT on these thoughts or not, is a good determining factor of the quality of your life.
For Moderate to Severe Depression –
If your depression is so bad, that you are losing your job, your relationships, your interest in everything and your sanity. Get out that Bed. Drag yourself if you need to. Get to a therapist. You need to prioritize ‘getting better’, and the only way that’s really possible (before you engage in self destructing behaviours) is if you GET the treatment you NEED.
For Anxiety –
Do the same, write down your anxieties in a journal. Take one anxiety at a time, make a mental stage and analyze that anxiety from all ends and conclude it. Just like how aer would interpret a movie.
DON’T discuss these anxieties with your partner or family, unless you are sure they ARE true. Most anxieties are a creation of our mind and have no basis in reality. Some anxities like fear of your partner cheating or the likes can REALLY hurt your loved ones and cause unnecessary arguments which will further your anxiety.
For Low Self Esteem –
I have to admit, I still suffer from a low Self Esteem. It has a lot to do with your upbringing and how confident you’ve been growing up.
About the only thing that’s truly uplifted my self esteem was TALKING to MYSELF before a mirror. I literally spend 20 minutes everyday talking to myself and watch myself. I learnt a great deal about what excites me, what upsets me etc by just watching myself. I came out of this exercise feeling Great, Confident and Self Assured.
Your self esteem will skyrocket, when you allow yourself to be indifferent about other’s opinions of YOU. Listen to these opinions and DON’T take them to your heart.
I really hope this helps you. These steps really helped me overcome my fears and actually think for myself.
Just tell yourself that you’ve had enough of missed opportunities and that you will LIVE to the fullest from this day forward. 🙂
I do not know what circumstances you are in so I would not give you a diagnosis and tell you how to deal with it as I am not an expert….and everybody is different. I will tell you how I dealt with low self-esteem, anxiety, and a very brief state of feeling really down and sad, and I hope it helps.
I have had low self esteem and an extreme anxiety in speaking in front of people since I was very young so I was always content to live in my sister’s shadow. Then I moved schools and we were asked to design something then present it in front of the class. I was terrified!! Thank god the teacher noticed this and calmed me down, told me to take deep breaths, pretend there’s no one in the classroom, look at the wall, etc, etc. All the typical things that people say. It helped to the extent that I was able to present projects and receive satisfactory marks (the minimum to pass)….and I stayed that way for years. Then, high school came and I had to present more and more things, and that technique wasnt working too well anymore. So I tried presenting to myself in front of a mirror, recording myself, and finally got the courage to present in front of my friends. I think the last one was the most effective, because they were extremely supportive yet they pointed out my mistakes and helped me correct them. I obviously can’t dictate who your friends are, but they do have a huge impact on you, just as your family does (my family arent the kindest people, they’re very practical…and blunt, that’s why I didn’t dare present in front of them, it’ll make my self esteem worse!!!) Truthfully, I still have a bit of anxiety now and I stutter quite often. I just stop, take a deep breath and start again….I’ve come a long way thank God. I hope this helps…(probably won’t)
About the time when I felt really down and sad….it was when a very very close friend abruptly left me…Anyway, at this time, I found that writing really really helped, initially it was just to vent my frustrations and let out all of my ‘negative’ emotions. Then it just became a bit of a habitual thing, and I wrote once or twice a month, more frequently and more lines if I was under stress, and less if it was a relaxed time.
I sincerely (with all my heart) hope this helps…despite it being me just recounting anecdotes.
Thank you for your time and patience in listening to me rambling on if you’ve reached here.
Many eminent Quorans and highly qualified people have answered this question, so I’m not sure why I’ve been asked to answer, as well, nor what I really have to add.
It’s pretty hard to learn how to cope with depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. It takes years to make significant progress and it’s probably something you’ll be dealing with for the rest of your life. Medications might offer relief, but I don’t think they can make lasting change. The kind of change needed happens inside the brain, in a part of the brain that is not under the control of conscious thought. It requires the learning of new skills and a lot of practice. That means it takes a lot of work. There are no magic pills or diets because the only change that will help in the long run: change in habits of thought; happens by thought-managed chemistry, not by externally-managed chemistry.
There are probably any number of theories about what depression is and how it works, and I’m not an expert in any of the conventional theories, but I think they are pretty inadequate. They don’t seem to explain what happens in the brain and in our thinking when we are depressed. There’s a great deal of talk about problems with brain chemistry, but as far as I can tell, no one has any idea of whether there is an optimal way the brain should work, much less what it actually is. Further, if there is an average brain chemistry function, no one knows whether chemistry causes thought or thought causes chemistry.
I believe that thought causes chemistry. Here’s the significance of that idea. It may be true that various levels of serotonin or norepinephrine or dopamine are correlated with various moods, but if thought causes chemistry, then you can’t flood the brain with one of these neurotransmitters and expect it to have a lasting effect on mood.
Thinking will soon take over, and the brain will adjust to the flood of chemicals introduced via pills, and eventually the brain/body will compensate, bringing the levels of neurotransmitters back to the levels the body shows a preference for. After that, continuation of the medications or increasing the dose cannot change the levels from the body preference for very long. Eventually, the medications stop working, and then you either have to increase the dose, or switch to an alternative. But with medication, you’re always facing a limited window of effectiveness. Maybe a few years, if you’re lucky.
There are other ways to give temporary relief, such as electro-convulsive therapy or trans-cranial magnetic therapy. It’s not really understood yet how these treatments work, any more than it is understood how medications work. I believe that they all do the same thing: disrupt memories of habits of thought. This would be fine if you could target the memory disruption to the habits of thought you want to change. Unfortunately, neither the medications nor the physical treatments can be targeted. They disrupt all memories equally. That’s why so many people report a total diminution of affect under these treatments. It’s not just depression that is disrupted, but positive, desirable emotions, as well.
The way we respond to events in our lives is made up of some analysis, but mostly it is habitual. Depression is a habit. Anxiety is a habit. Low self-esteem is a habit. They are all habitual responses to emotional pain. They are generalized responses that apply to many situations.
There are also numerous techniques for retraining the brain, so you can change your habitual responses to emotional pain. One major technique, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, teaches you to argue back against your ineffective habits. Supposedly, it works for some people, but it doesn’t work for many. In general, I think that using the conscious mind to try to wrestle habits into shape is a very tough sell, because habits usually happen faster than the conscious mind can even see them.
I think that the Dialectical Behavioral Therapy approach, which is based on mindfulness meditation, is a better approach for many people. In this approach, you learn how to accept yourself instead of judging yourself. You learn how to be present in your life, instead of constantly rerunning your memories of the past or fantasizing about how you will fail in the future. These thoughts about the past and future always shame you, and keep you feeling depressed and anxious, constantly reinforcing your low opinion of yourself.
These self-judgments come in many forms and they are all habits of thought that have been long and deeply ingrained in a part of your brain that your conscious brain has no awareness of and no control over. The process of recovery involves learning to recognize all the ways you judge yourself, then learning to accept yourself instead of judging yourself, becoming present, and learning how to know what you want and then doing what you want. You can find this process detailed here: David Ford’s post in Change Habits of Thought.
It takes a lot of self-study to change habits of thought. It also takes lots of practice. I’d say it probably takes an average of ten years to learn what you need to learn and to practice it to the point where you can effectively use your coping methods whenever you need to. Some people may be quick learners and can pick it up faster. Others may take two or three decades, or may not be able to develop the skills they need in time to prevent suicide. I am convinced that anyone can learn how to change the way they think.
However, I do think that society and culture make it harder for people. Many cultures stigmatize those with depression or other mental illnesses, and that turns a marathon into a super-marathon. Loneliness is rampant, and technology is making it harder to combat loneliness. It provides people with easy fantasies of making connections online. Yet these fantasies are mostly a waste of time because they are pale imitations of real-world connectedness.
I’ve developed a method for bringing people together and helping them make real-world connections which is described here: The Sonic Sandbox Music Workshop. It’s one way people can learn to be present that is also an awful lot of fun and that builds deep, satisfying connections between participants. It is something I developed in my own recovery process.
Changing the way you think is hard work. It takes a long time. But I don’t think there is any substitute if you want a long term solution to depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. You have to learn how to stop judging yourself. That makes it possible to learn how to have fun doing what you enjoy doing. You can overcome the habit of beating yourself up at every opportunity. That’s what depression and anxiety are: mechanisms to cope with emotional pain that have taken over and become habits that keep you stuck in depression and anxiety. However, if you put the work in, and you keep at it for years, there is hope for meaningful change. Your brain can be taught to work for you, not against you.
I wrote this to myself back then. Hope you’ll find it helpful.
If you are reading this, you are feeling like shit. Yeah, that’s the most accurate way to define how you feel. You feel anxiety and you don’t know why. You feel scared and sometimes even depressed. You feel weak, sometimes you can’t even stand.
I’ve been through this. Just, like, 10 minutes ago, before I went to read Dushka Zapata’s answers on Quora. I just love how light her writing is.
Don’t forget to laugh.
I am writing this because I know you need it. I didn’t have this before, and I know it would help. I just want you to know it will pass.
I am serious. It will pass.
Not kidding, IT WILL PASS. Everything is going to be OK eventually. You are going to laugh again and smile and feel the warm hug of love. You will smile to your loved ones, you will smile to your self.
The one person that helped me the most. Do me a favor and talk to yourself. It helps. Go to a mirror and start talking passionately. It will ignite emotion. I just learnt this trick a few days ago and it works like charm to get me feeling a bit better.
Laugh. This is the best thing ever. I know it’s cliche and all, laughter cures.. I really don’t feel like googling that. Laughter cures all bad? Good enough.
I hope you’re laughing. I am not a comedian but I am you and you know you are funny. You have wit too, so don’t forget to use that wit to write awesome stuff.
I really love writing. This means you really love writing. The feeling I get right now, writing this for you, future me, is pretty cool. 13 minutes ago I felt like shit. Now I feel better.
If you are still down, which you probably are, try talking to people. Friends, family, whatever. It will get your mind off of what you are feeling.
You are not alone. Even if you are, you have yourself. You are the best person to understand yourself. This is why I am writing this. I want you to know that I understand. I know how you feel. I know I will feel this again.
So I try to make you feel better. Because no one should go through hard feelings alone. So right now, aside from your awesome family and friends, you have me, and yourself.
I will continue writing this to keep you company, even though I am running out of words. What will I want you to know? Oh yeah, this will pass. I promise. I so so promise. You will not feel this way forever. It is a torture and if you find yourself in a position that you just can’t do it anymore, tell someone. ANYONE. It’s better than that other thing I sometimes have in mind.
Love yourself. I am tempted to say I love you, but if someone sees this they will think I am crazy. But as you know, I always like to think that each of us has their own craziness. Even though I never found mine.
Program a bit. Create some website. The mere thought of it makes me feel a bit better.
Play the piano. Play the guitar. Play with your voice. Music is fun. Have fun.
Don’t forget, there are days like this, too. Some days you are up, others you are down.
And now I am going to share this, hopefully no one will think I am nuts, hopefully no one I know ever gets any close to reading this.
No, don’t get this anxiety again. Share it. Trust me, even if no one sees it, it will help you a bit.
OK, I won’t share it. Fuck.
But I promise you, one day I will copy paste this to some question on Quora and this will actually help someone a lot.
But in the meanwhile, this shall help you get past all the shit you are going through.
I do see that you are cornered and feel hopeless. You are depressed and your anxiety is high. Self esteem is out of the door, you are stuck in a vicious cycle.
I suggest you take a seat and allow me to explain myself.
I am not going to offer you any psychological , religious, social remedies. I will also not providing any medical advice.
I do know how to effectively crush depression and low self esteem and i certainly know how to build a substantial amount of self confidence in the matter few months. It is my personal experience.
Are you interested? Then pay attention to what i am about to suggest.
Suppose you are all that, depressed and cornered. Suppose you are also overweight ( not obese) with low sramina, weak body and unfit physique . The reason i am saying this is normally ( not always) these characteristics come along with poor physical conditions.
Suppose you are not a mental patient diagnosed and being treated for bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc.
If that is so, then allow me to show you the path for substantial change.
Change of lifestyle:))
You must figure out a way to change your lifesyle as quick as possible. Change of lifestyle means change of nutrition, sleeping, activities, environment.
It means you start focus on nutrition first, switch from whatever it is to simple unprocessed food items and fresh water. You must ditch all junk food and drinks, tobacco use, alcohol use, drug use. It may sound impossible, but if you don’t change now, your future may not be any brighter than it is now.
For activities you can chose any sport you like. I am not sure if you are a man, woman and i am not sure what your current physical shape is.
Suppose you are a man of middle age or even younger.
Start lifting weights.
For example if you start a program of light powerlifting, combined with a suitable nutrition you can elevate your hormones and your depression and low self esteem will gradually change to high confidence and abundance of self esteem. Your nutrition and sleeping routine are the critical part of this solution.
It is all about homones with weightlifting. Give this program six months and see for yourself how you can tame and prosecute depression and lack of self esteem.
Good luck. I sincerely hope i helped you by providing some clues for your fitness journey. It helps to seek advice from a suitable therapist.