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Beat the Blues this Winter

A ten step guide to overcoming depression and feeling better using powerful techniques including positive psychology, acceptance and commitment therapy and CBT.In America, the third Monday in January has come to be known as “Blue Monday” because it’s the start of the week when credit card bills from the December holidays come due. The joyous frenzy of shopping turns into an ugly hangover this time of year.
Which puts us in mind of the remarkable book we published a year ago called Beat Depression Fast by Alexandra Massey. In the book, Massey distils years of hard-won strategies for treating depression. She provides an easy-to-follow ten-step program (loosely based on the 12-Steps of AA) that will help you beat it quickly and without pharmaceuticals. Massey, who has suffered from depression most of her life, refused to take prescription drugs when her symptoms became debilitating. “I was very clear about the root cause of the depression,” she says. “It was very, very low self-esteem. The overriding symptom was deep hopelessness and I had a sense that connecting with others who knew how I felt was what I needed—not drugs.”
According to Massey, the first step toward recovery from depression is acceptance. “Depression is like wet sand. The more you push, the harder it gets. By fully accepting your depression, you will eventually come to find a sense of relief.”

 

Courtesey Fotolia

Courtesy Fotolia

The second step is trust. “When we are dealing with the despair and hopelessness of depression, it’s almost impossible to believe that everything is going to turn out OK,” she writes. Massey attributes her own recovery in part to her years-long participation in 12-step programs. From the recovery movement she learned the power of “letting a greater power into your life.” Says Massey, “For me, real change didn’t happen until I acknowledged that I couldn’t beat depression on my own and that I needed to rely on something bigger and wiser than myself.”
These are the foundation stones. The remaining steps will lead you on a journey to a new, depression-free life. By following the steps, you will find greater peace of mind, more resilience, and, inevitably, the re-emergence of your dreams.

 

Alexandra Massey has a Certificate in Counseling Skills and is the author of four previous titles, including Beat Depression and Reclaim Your Life. For further information see www.alexandramassey.co.uk

 

The following is an overview and excerpt from Beat Depression Fast

 Beat Depression Fast is a book for those people who have suffered from depression but have somehow not been able to find the way out. The medical world says that depression as a result of a chemical imbalance of the brain. However, that was never my experience and there is no real, clinical evidence to support that theory. My experience shows me that depression is an emotional illness which drains life out of the sufferer and whose legacy is to leave us feeling helpless, hopeless and defeated.
Since I wrote my first book Beat Depression and Reclaim Your Life the world of recovery has moved on. My original book was a guide to help sufferers to beat depression through a series of steps that looked at the past and helped the reader to move out of the depression by challenging old thoughts and behaviours that mainly related to the patterns that were usually seated in childhood.
This book is different. It takes on new ideas that are picking up pace and having a real impact in helping people feel better, faster. There’s a new branch of psychology called Positive Psychology which points us towards taking on board what makes us happy rather than trying to figure out all the things that are wrong with us. It explains that it’s not about fixing the problem but rather understanding and accepting the problem so that our natural resilience and healing will help us to get back to our true potential for happiness. This book is also influenced by some of the great teachers that are inspiring us to think in different ways. Eckhart Tolle, Robert Holden, Steven C Hayes and even Oxford University are spreading the word about mindfulness, transcending thought and raising personal awareness, all new ideas to bring about much faster personal change than the old Freudian/Jungian model of long term analysis.
However, the larger proportion of my research from this book comes from my own personal experiences both as someone who suffered for years from debilitating depression and, consequently, in my role as a volunteer for telephone help lines to help others. The discussions that I’ve had with hundreds of people who suffer depression brought me to realise we are all looking for the same thing. What we want to know is, ‘what’s wrong with me and how can I feel better quicker?’ We wanted to know how to escape this blackness and find alternative to recovery other than taking prescription drugs.
If you are depressed, take heart, you are not alone. The World Health Organisation states that by 2020 depression will be the second biggest killer after heart disease. Depression is called the ‘silent killer’ because the shame that surrounds the sufferer often prevents them from getting help. However, things are changing and it’s becoming recognised that suffering from depression is no longer thought of as a ‘self indulgence’ in which should ‘pull your socks up’ but a real threat to emotional, mental and physical health. Those of us who’ve suffered know exactly what that means.
This book will take you on a journey of self discovery and understanding that will help you to beat depression fast. The aim is to completely recover from depression with guidance that can help prevent you from ever falling into that black hole again. There is no point in trying for a temporary reprieve. Although we have been grateful when the depression lifts for a while, what we want is to know how to completely recover so we will never feel the fear of its return. That is how this book will help you.
There is a linear path to this book; it starts at the beginning by showing you how to stop fighting the depression through acceptance and then how to release the feelings that are buried deep inside. It will take you by the hand and show you how to trust yourself and then to meet your hidden self – your inner child. It moves on to explain how your feelings can guide you and help you mend the broken pieces of yourself by healing toxic shame. Once you have mastered those steps your strength will grow through self parenting. Bodywork gives you clues to how the depression has affected your body and fast ways to make yourself feel better, quicker. You will then become more autonomous and feel ready to take full responsibility for your emotional well being which will give you the energy to light your fire – that all important sense of who you really are without the depression.
In spite of this book having a linear path, like many self help books, it doesn’t have to be followed step by step. It’s the sign of good self help book when you can leaf through the pages and randomly stop at a page that will offer some guidance that fits perfectly with where you are at that moment. This is what Beat Depression Fast hopes to do.
No one said the road to recovery is easy. It’s often called ‘the road less travelled’ and that’s exactly what it is. Recovering from depression can bring us to painful realisations but in learning to accept them, let go and find new ways of taking care of ourselves we come to a totally new way of living which, in the end, far exceeds the life we lived before.

Preparing For Recovery

You may have had many failed attempts at trying to beat depression. I certainly had times when I thought ‘Yay, that’s it, I’m better’ only to find that a few days later I was pole axed with depression and wondered what happened to put my back into that hole. It takes an understanding of the recovery path to be able to see the bumps in the ahead and take action to avoid them.
One thing you may find helpful is to know that the path of recovery comes in three phases. The first phase consists of alleviating the worst of the depression symptoms so you feel safer with yourself and your environment. The second phase is to explore the reasons for your depression and challenge them so the fear and confusion is removed. And the third phase is to reconnect with important others who we may have lost touch with whilst the depression ‘took us away’. Rebuilding our close relationships will help us build a bridge back to a sense of wholeness and purpose.
You may need extra help to get through these phases. In preparing for recovery you may want to identify some people you could talk to. These must be people who offer a safe house for your thoughts and feelings. Whether you find a counselor, a supportive group or an organization that can be there for you, what counts is that they will not judge what you say or criticize how you feel. Friends are great but it maybe worth seeking out others who will know how you feel. There is a list of resources for you at the back of this book.
Let’s talk about fear. The fear of change is the biggest fear of all. Depression becomes a way of life and, even though it sounds weird, sometimes staying depressed can be a comfort. The fear of wondering what demons lurk beneath the depression can drive us into activity doing almost anything not to have to deal with what’s going on inside. In preparing for change it helps to begin by observing the fear with your ‘third eye’. If you stand back and watch it without acting on it you can diminish it. Instead of acting out the fear, observing it will hand you back some control, a feeling that you aren’t ruled by it.
In preparing for your recovery, a journal is essential. A journal becomes your best friend and journaling has been shown to have a powerful affect on anyone who uses it as a tool for recovery. Buy or make something you’ll enjoy writing in and keep it somewhere safe as you don’t want anyone else to be reading what you’ve written. It’s for your eyes only.

The Power of Acceptance
Modern life can be very confusing to people who suffer from depression. On the one hand it seems that everyone else is living an amazing life with goals to achieve, relationships to work on, jobs to snap up and ladders to climb. On the other hand, those of us who suffer from depression know only too well what it feels like to be on the opposite side to that life. For those of us on that other side it can seem like we’re in a dark room trying to feel our way out while the rest of the world is ‘getting on with their lives.’ We have our noses pressed up on that glass window wondering how to get out of this dark room and into the sunshine.
Then again you may have given up hope that you will ever get out. If you’re suffering from depression it may seem like the chance of ever living a ‘normal’ life again is simply a world away; so far, in fact, that you’ve given up the idea that it could ever happen to you. The drudge, the hopelessness, the feelings of meaninglessness and nothingness may be all you know. It really feels like a physical barrier separates us from them.
Many of us have tried lots of alternatives to fight our way out of the dark room. We may have engaged in a plan that’s going to help us think our way out of it or take the right medication in the hope we will automatically change the way we feel without having to do anything else. Some of us have embarked on a journey of high achievement in the hope that when we get that perfect job, house, girlfriend, husband, outfit etc., then we would feel better. We’ve read a lot of stuff on the web, bought books and paid for spa days, positive thinking seminars or even therapists, tried new interests, got a new job or forced ourselves to be more sociable all in the hope that something out there will take away the gut wrenching hopelessness of depression.
Many of us have also committed to eye wateringly, high risk behaviours to try and escape the inner torment. Whether it’s alcohol, drugs (recreational and prescription), extreme exercise, crime, workaholism, pornography fixation, food bingeing, chain smoking etc., we find that after the bender is over, we are left with a bigger hole than we imagined possible. Not only do we have to deal with the initial depression but we also have the voice that beats us up and tells us how useless and pathetic we are for entertaining this destructive behaviour.
In a bid to make sense of all of this, it’s time to accept the unacceptable, that you are totally powerless over the depression in the way that you are totally powerless over your beating heart. The feelings of depression come from another place – a place inside us that’s there to protect us and make us work properly. Excuse me? Did you say protect us? Yes I did. There is a very, very good reason why you suffer from depression and it’s the very essence of your emotional being that has brought you to this point.
You are in this bottomless place for a reason even though that reason may not be apparent yet. At this moment can you hold the thought that you are in the right place at the right time? This may sound utterly defeatist, and to a point it is because the depression defeats us. But being at the point of defeat is a starting point. Before you can find your way out of this seeming annihilation, the best course of action is to accept the defeat.

One sufferer wrote:

I’m always beating myself up for not being where I could be by now if I had done this or that, etc, not being where people my age are at.  Is it fair to say “that’s because all this time I’ve been suffering depression/anxiety at various levels” and it was a part of my life just like any other thing would have been?  I don’t mean using it as an excuse, like to say “it’s not my fault, I was busy with depression then” but I’m trying to find ways of living with myself, accepting myself and not hating myself as much.

Whilst trying to find ways of beating the depression this sufferer explains what so many of us know, that by going over and over what we should do to try and pull us out of the depression, we end up simply diving deeper into it. There is no salvation in trying to work out the why’s and how’s at this first critical point. Those thoughts only drive us deeper into the abyss. How many of us have woken up one morning DETERMINED not to suffer today only to discover by night fall that nothing worked. By not accepting the depression we move further into the dark room that envelopes us. By accepting the depression you take away all resistance to it.

Move Away From The Resistance

Resisting depression creates an inner conflict. The conflict swings from right up high on one end of the pendulum saying: ‘I don’t want to feel like this’ and feeling angry and frustrated, all the way down and back up to the other side saying: ‘I will never be able to conquer this’ whilst feeling hopeless and defeated. This swinging from one side to the other is exhausting but doesn’t help us in our search for peace. We want to feel something other than depression. We would give anything to feel peaceful.
The irony is that as long as we fight depression, we strengthen it and lose our way. But, by accepting it, step by step, we diminish the power it holds over us. If we can find the courage to accept the depression for what it is – a phase of our lives that we have to pay attention to – we will begin to create an opening that will help us to move towards the peace we crave. We will also release energy that we need to recover, energy that’s taken up with non acceptance of the depression; energy that we can now use to our advantage: to get us on the path of recovery from depression and towards hope and light.

You Won’t Come To Any Harm

Many of us can hardly bear the thought of accepting the depression because doesn’t that just take us deeper into the hole of darkness and hopelessness? No, you won’t come to any harm. Instead you will start the healing because you will begin to value yourself. You put down the weapons that you use to fight the world and the idea that you can be a pacifist and become strong will grow. Many of us fear that if we stop fighting we will lose all control. This doesn’t happen. It’s the same when people fear that if they start to cry they will never stop; again this doesn’t happen. We are given what we can handle and no more. The expression what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger is never more apt than at this moment. You will become stronger because you will release your fighting energy and put it to more useful achievements.

Acceptance Doesn’t Mean Accepting Everything – Just The Depression
Accepting the depression as we experience it is about accepting that at this very moment we are unable to fight it any longer. It’s something that happens inside us; a shift from believing we can change this moment to recognising that this moment is the reality of our situation. People who become totally accepting of their depression are taking positive action. The positive action is: ‘I don’t judge myself for being in this place’. This is the starting point of healing which leads to profound change and a new life.
We don’t have to accept that we will be depressed forever and there will be nothing else. Just as if you were stuck in quicksand, you would not accept that you were never going to get unstuck but you would accept that until help comes you are powerless to get out. Once you’ve accepted where you are you in this moment you can take a breath and choose what action to take from getting out of the quicksand. To keep stepping and fighting your way out of it won’t work – you’ll only sink deeper. Stopping your legs from pedalling and finding another way to get out of the quicksand is the only chance you have of freeing yourself. With depression, acceptance is about moving away from ‘the struggle’ and finding new ways of releasing yourself from the hold is has over you.

How this helps us beat depression fast
The first reason that acceptance helps us to beat depression fastest is because accepting the depression helps us to accept the reality of our situation and ourselves. In saying out loud ‘I accept I’m depressed’ we inadvertently accept that we cannot manage it any more or that we can’t go on with the ways thing have been. We allow the relief of that knowledge to flood into us.
Non acceptance is stepping away from recovery. So, in totally accepting the depression we allow ourselves the luxury of hitting our ‘rock bottom’. When we hit ‘rock bottom’ we have no place else to go. When we accept, we feel in harmony with ourselves because we can start to accept ourselves as being imperfect and fallible. Yes you may go to your lowest ebb but this is where the soul whispers its secrets and shows us the road to healing. There is a nobility about accepting the depression, and grace. Nobility and grace live within all of us and they are the purest form of humanity which can serve to caress us as we put aside our weapons against the depression.

The second reason that acceptance helps us heal is because we accept the past. Those of us who’ve suffered from a deep, ‘life-eating’ depression have a tendency to ruminate about what’s happened in the past. Our head is full of thoughts about trying to fix the past, regrets about how we handled situations, guilt about our past behaviour or shame about who we are. When we accept the depression we also accept that life hasn’t always turned out how we wanted. Out of this acceptance comes serenity, true spirituality and salvation. You will become free of the past, no longer pulled back like you’re on a bungee rope, free to flow to your true horizon. We come to see acceptance as the only way forward.

The third reason that acceptance helps us recover from depression fast is because it takes away the fear. When we accept the fear instead of running from it, we turn around and accept it which fills us with hope and gives us the courage we need to pull us towards the light. We don’t allow the deflectors of fear and denial to hold us back any more.

If you do nothing else but accept the depression, it maybe all you need to move towards the healing. To feel acceptance is a letting go of everything you’ve had to hang onto in your past to try and stay afloat in today. Yes this can seem a foolish strategy at first and one that may seem too hard to take. However, practice this one day at a time and if you allow yourself this gift – regardless of the shape it comes in – you will feel the reward: an inner space which frees you from the fighting.

Practical Suggestions
If you can, take some time out. For example: stay in bed, relinquish unnecessary commitments, keep life to a minimum and try to delegate tasks.

Put away your social masks for now because now is the time to pay attention to you and your recovery and you don’t need the pressure of entertaining anyone else too.

Take a break from playing the hero. Many of us try to maintain the image that we are achievers. Yes, we have achieved many things but now is the time to achieve recovery from depression; make this your priority.
Slow down and allow the natural healing process to begin. As you give up the resistance you will need your energy to caress yourself. Finally the time has come where you are ready to accept this depression and, to beat it fast, you need time and space for you.

EXERCISES
Open your journal and take some time to study these questions and answer them as honestly and thoroughly as you can, safe in the knowledge no one else will ever see your answers.

  1. How am I powerless over the depression?
  2. What does my depression look/feel like?
  3. What does my depression give me? And am I ready to let that go?
  4. What does acceptance mean to me?
  5. What will I lose by accepting the depression?
  6. Conversely, what will I gain if I accept the depression?

Meditation on the acceptance of depression

Get yourself into a comfortable place either lying or sitting down. Close your eyes and take several deep breaths in and out which will instantly decrease stress levels. After you have made yourself comfortable and relaxed, it’s time to discover the depression.
The depression lives in your body so begin by checking all over your body and see if you can find it. It may live in a stiff neck, or feel like a concrete overcoat on the shoulders or a sinking feeling in your stomach. Don’t worry if you can’t find it. You can check daily until you find it and each time you check you will be nudging away the denial. If you do find it then have a good look at it. What color is it? How big is it and what shape is it?
Spend a few minutes observing the depression. Watch how it moves around your body. Become aware of the thoughts running through your head. See if you can pick up on any feelings sitting under or alongside the depression.
When you’ve had a good look at the depression, tell yourself you accept it as part of you. But also tell yourself you are NOT the depression but that it lives inside you. Tell the depression you will allow it to stay for now, until its work is done.

Affirmations

Say out loud at the beginning and end of each day:

I accept every part of me including the depression which lives inside me.
I no longer have to struggle with the blackness; today I can accept it and it won’t overwhelm me.
I’m not a depressed person but I experience depression sometimes.
I have many sources of strength to help me recover from the depression.
The way out of this depression will become obvious to me, and it won’t be long.

Beat Depression Fast continues the search for sanity through the following chapters. Order your copy today from wherever books are sold.

  1. Touching The Void

There is something inside every depressed person that we don’t want to look at. However, there’s a really good reason why we don’t want to look at it and that’s because it’s painful. We’re caught between a rock and a hard place. Continually running away from what’s hurting inside feeds the depression. Not looking at the depression makes us feel worse by the day. What most people are running from is sorrow and grief.

Touching The Void encourages the sufferer to release these emotions and explains the grief process which will help them see how the process is doable. This is a critical part of beating depression and must be satisfied before healing can take place. Anyone undertaking this step will be able to cut through the depression fast because as soon as emotions are released the depression lifts.

  1. Trust and flow

In the dark rooms of depression trusting that something else can help us is a tall order. However, there is something bigger than us and by trusting that we have access to that unworldly power can be the greatest comfort and help heal depression faster. Depression is a spiritual dilemma, not a religious deficiency. As our minds become clearer we need to release the grip of our control and allow our spirit to emerge. We can learn to re-connect with that hidden part of us, the part that we can turn to and knows that the future will be OK. As our trust in that powerful part of ourselves grows, we learn to lean into the flow of the river rather than push against it. We can heal faster if we let the greater good take care of us.

  1. Meet Your Inner Child

The hidden inner child holds our feelings as opposed to our minds which hold our thoughts. Re-connecting with the inner child helps us to uncover and understand what we need to feel good and happy. However, many of us don’t understand this concept and wonder why we feel disconnected and isolated. We also may not realize that the way we communicate with others may come from a child like part of us that is reacting rather than responding thereby not getting our needs met. By meeting this inner child and understanding the motivation for some of our behaviour can help us to change our responses for our own good. This is one way of helping to beat depression fast because it gets into the inner workings of our engine.

  1. Let Your feelings Guide You

Our feelings, otherwise known as the intelligence of our unconscious self, are the heart of our inner guidance. How many times have we judged a situation with our gut instinct and were proved right even if we didn’t follow it through at the time? Our feelings are the bridge between our inner child and adult self. They show us exactly what we need, who or what to trust, which path to take and how to respond to others. When we’re depressed, this dashboard is blocked by the grey, dank fog that settles on the soul. In order to recover fast it’s vital to get back in touch with that inner radar. For those of us who’ve been out of touch with our feeling radar for a long time, this is a guide to get back in tune and learn to trust them again so they can guide us to making the right decisions.

  1. Healing toxic shame

Toxic shame comes as part of the package of depression. Some experts would suggest that shame is at the root of all depression. Essentially shame is when we feel bad about who we are – as opposed to guilt which is when we feel bad for what we’ve done. Some shame is healthy but for many of us our shame is so toxic that we find away of running from it and have to disown the inner part of ourselves because we feel so bad about who we are. Recovering our sense of self by diminishing and healing the toxic shame will help us to become whole again. By accepting and reuniting with this hidden self we touch the core of the depression and learn how to overcome this toxic shame habit. Again, this helps us beat depression fast by cutting through the layers to the roots of the problem.

  1. Become the loving parent to your inner child

As the trust flows and the healing speeds up it’s important to re-connect with your authentic self, your real self, your inner child and re-educate yourself. New rules and beliefs need to be put in place. A new childhood needs to be arranged and new anchors need to be fixed. This is done through guided mediation and exercises. This stepping stone gets to the core of our internal beliefs and challenges them faster than any other therapeutic technique possible. This is the work gets into the engine then cleans and turns the cogs so it can work to its full potential.

  1. Bodywork

This section comes in three parts: Stored physical memories, stress and nourishment.

Many of us who suffered from depression also suffered from physical symptoms. This is known as a somatoform and is a result of the body storing pain in the physical body. This pain can manifest as aches, chronic illness or physical tension. The body stores memories and these memories signal themselves with automatic responses. For example, you flinch when someone raises their arm to touch their head. The body needs to be cleared of these old memories and there are therapies that are now recognised as being extremely helpful like acupressure and tai chi. This step fully explains this.

The link between stress and depression has finally been recognised. The link is disturbed sleep. Stress creates disturbed sleep patterns and this in turn can lead to depression. This is explored fully with guidance on how to change this pattern.

Nourishment is more than popping a vitamin pill. Nourishing the body is a soulful preoccupation helping to re-focus on the body resulting in a calmer, yogic approach to life.

  1. Release others for responsibility for you

Releasing others from being responsible to us is a powerful affirmation of who we are as we take power over our own lives, choices and decisions. Feeling solid in the knowledge that every decision is our own helps us gain strength and a positive energy that can lift us up and out of the misery of depression. The gift that comes with this step is that we also release feeling responsible for others which leaves us free to be who we are without relying on others to confirm our identity. This is the last piece of work to do before feeling the liberation of beating depression.

  1. Baby you can light your fire

By throwing off the shackles of who you think you should be and embracing new beliefs, ideas and thoughts – a miracle happens. The energy that comes with this new part of us can seem too good to be true. We find a new fire in our heart and a spring in our step. We re-discover our self love and let the fire drive us forward. For those of us who had been depressed for a long time, this fire can feel like anger which frightens us. This step explains how to hold that energy and use it to propel us towards a better life. This is the final key to beating depression fast but as important as the rest.

The Gifts of Recovery

Here we look at what we can expect as a result of recovering from depression – for good.

Not enough is written about the amazing things that happen when we delve deep and reconcile old patterns of behaviour. Not enough is talked about the release and relief we feel when we pluck up the courage to let out our sorrow and pain. We don’t flag up the amazing results we see when we stand up for ourselves with the conviction of an adult who’s recovered. These things must be written down so we understand the promises that lay ahead. This will be a two thousand word section on all the great things to come.

 

 

Vicky Hartley is the Marketing Director and Head of Digital for Watkins Publishing Limited (including Duncan Baird Publishers)