Shhhhhhhh and listen

I have always found that, when depressed, one of the most difficult things for me to do is to shut up and actually listen to others.  This makes sense, of course: When you get depressed, you have a hard time escaping your own head.  After all, depression and rumination are linked; that is to say that when you are depressed, you are more likely to think about yourself.  Your problems.  Your issues.  Your concerns.  Doing so makes you more self-absorbed, which, in the case of many people (me for sure!), can make you feel incredibly guilty and like a burden to your loved ones.

I also want to tie this back to the current political environment in which we find ourselves.  Last week, I went on this FB rant:

tl;dr – I listened and learned something.

I find that there is a big connection with how self-centered I feel and how depressed I am, and that the more I focus on the needs of others, the better shape I’ll be in.  I suspect this feeling is universal – indeed, there is evidence to show that is the case.

On an intuitive level, this makes all the sense in the world.  Thinking of other people makes you more likely to get out of your own head, less likely to ruminate, and more likely to break the cycle of destructive thoughts that are bouncing around in your own brain.  It can be hard.  Really, really hard.  I remember my therapist once telling me that avoiding people and allowing yourself to retreat in to a corner is the absolute worst thing you can do when you are depressed.

He was right, as far as I am concerned.  I think trying to think of others and actively engage with other people when you are down can be next to impossible, given the mood of a depressed person.  That also makes it all the more important that you try and break through and change your focus…get out of your own head.

Now, this is all well and good, but it doesn’t answer the question…how you gonna do it?  How can you break that cycle and start engaging with other people well all you want to do is grab your iPad and dive into a blanket fort?

A few thoughts on that:

  • Most social interaction is casual and almost thoughtless – that is, it lacks conscious effort.  When you are down, you have to actively make yourself talk to someone else.  Get up.  Get out of the chair.  Go find the spouse you’ve been ignoring because you are trapped in your own head.  The kid you were letting watch too much TV.  Talk to them.  As them how they are doing.  Try to start a conversation and hook yourself in.  Make a conscious effort to do something real.
  • Can’t leave the house, or don’t want to?  Pick up the phone.  Don’t text!  No texting!  And don’t send a FB message!  Call someone…you know, like phones used to be used.  Start talking with a real voice.  Engage in that human connection that I think far too many of us have delegated to texting and messages.
  • Read a book.  Alright, this one is slightly different than the first two.  But, staring at your phone, mindlessly scrolling your way through your Facebook newsfeed, isn’t going to help yourself.  Instead, try to break the cycle by getting lost in someone else’s life.  See if you feel better on the other side.

There is more – so much more – but I want to hear from you.  How do you get out of your own head when you are depressed?  Let us know in the comments!

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