Seven Keys to Overcoming Loneliness in a Disconnected Society


Loneliness involves a deep sense of isolation and disconnection from others, and it occurs when persons feel that they have no one with whom to share the joys and hardships of life. Some have stated that their loneliness feels less like sadness and more like an imprisonment that leaves them despondent toward life (I suppose that is why solitary confinement is such a severe punishment).

While everyone can benefit from some amount of alone time, a healthy and fulfilling life needs close interpersonal relationships. Unfortunately, people today feel more isolated that ever. The average family unit is severely fractured, the divorce rate is at almost 50%, and more people live alone today than ever before in American history.

In my counseling practice (, more than half of the clients who solicit therapy—no matter what their presenting problem (depression, addiction, anxiety, sexual issues)—are also presenting a severe lack of interpersonal relationships. In direct response to their loneliness, many feel cynical and depressed; they lack confidence, feel rejected, feel alienated, and feel inadequate to build meaningful relationships.
Some time ago I began asking myself, “why are the majority of my clients—many who are young, attractive, intelligent, even well-to-do—profoundly disconnected from others?” I have identified several reasons, and in doing so have identified a number of strategies for overcoming isolation and building those important relationships, that I have found helpful. 



It is easy, even in vogue, to blame society for our problems. And while I am going to go ahead and say that society is a major part of the loneliness problem, I would also like to remind everyone that society is not some tyrannous robotic that operates our lives. Our society is each one of us. We are the society we blame.

So how is our society affecting the number of relationship-starved clients pouring into The Counseling Center of New Smyrna Beach? Harvard professor Daniel Gilbert points out that people today have to answer three major life-questions that their parents, grandparents, and great grandparents didn’t answer. Those questions are: 1) Where to live, 2) What to do, and, 3) Who to do it with. 

Less than a century ago most people were born, raised, lived, and died in one community. They did the job their parents did. They would build friendships in grade school and at church, and then keep those friends for the duration of their lives. They wed early, and had several children in their early 20s. Making new friends and families was not an issue. They lived and died surrounded by their family or long-term friends.

However, today it is the norm to leave one’s family and friends behind as we pursue our educational and vocational goals. First we leave for college, where we usually build new friendships. However, those don’t last either, because when undergrad ends we move again—a series of times in our 20s and 30s. Each time we travel alone, leaving old relationships behind. We need to reconnect and establish new relationships at every juncture. All the while, we are more focused on our education or career than we are personal relationships, so the task of making friends is always at the bottom of the to-do-list. And nothing at the bottom of the to-do-list ever gets done.

The result: Many of us have no close friends, we are unmarried, and we live lives that feel empty and bleak.



Community and Family are becoming foreign words. We place a low value on “community” because we don’t really understand what community is anymore. Many of us, when we think about community, envision a small town with cantankerous old couples walking down the street, sheriffs with big hats, corner stores that close at 6pm (and all day Sunday), and one-dimensional suburban nuclear families. This image of community has little that interests us, and even less to offer. It makes us feel all the more disconnected. Thankfully it is a lie.



Community is what you want it to be. Community means joining a kickball team. Community means being surrounded by friends who love you, who you respect, and who you want to share your life with. For many of us, an acceptable community looks more like “dorm life” than a Norman Rockwell painting. Community is having three friends who show up at your place at 8 in the morning, with coffee. Community is having those same friends knock on your door as 5pm on a Thursday to pull you away from the computer. The corner store in your community is open 24 hours a day, even on Christmas.



Here is a short list of hit shows: Grey’s Anatomy, Scrubs, Friends (ok Friends is a bit old), Lost, Laguna Beach, and The OC.

Why are these shows so popular? Or, better put, what do all these shows have in common? Answer: Every hit show on this list displays profoundly close relationships that most of us don’t have in our lives. The Grey’s Anatomy cast lives together, the Lost cast is lost together, and do you remember that episode of Scrubs where three of Dr. Cox’s patients died? His colleagues took shifts sitting with him in his apartment, as he drank himself silly.

I am willing to bet that more than the lavish lifestyle, the beach, the adventure, or the interesting job, what draws us to these shows is the close relationships between the characters. The TV mocks us, because we miss this truth all the time. We watch Grey’s and think we want to be a doctor. All we really want is to live in a big old house with six close friends.

Kill your TV. Move into a house with six close friends. You will miss two seasons of your favorite show and not even notice.



In the video game “The Sims” the players controls the actions of an average person (a “sim”), living a normal life. You start with a basic house, and help your sim to get a job, build friendships, and buy stuff. Buying stuff is a lot of fun. There are hundreds of items from work out centers to flat screen TVs to modern art you can buy for your sim that can make his/her life more enjoyable.

The creator of the video game “The Sims” was once interviewed, and questioned about the materialism about the game. The items are a “Red Herring,” he explained. The way to win the game—to have a happy sim—is has nothing to do with the items. A happy sim has strong relationships with the other characters in the game.[ii]

The same mistake players of the Sims make we make in our real lives. We work 50-plus hours a week to buy things we think we want, or to live in lavish spaces we can hardly afford. All the while we would be happier sitting on milk crates with a group of close friends. A house full of nice things but without friends is hell.

Here is the secret to personal success: People, not stuff. Community, not career.



Not long ago I was listening to a lecture by a Stanford Professor who spoke about a research study that investigated people’s priorities. Here’s how the study worked: Participants of different ages were shown two different marketing campaigns. One of the campaigns appealed to the person’s desire for learning and adventure; the title read something to the tune of “Explore and learn from far off places.” The second campaign appealed to the person’s desire for relationships. The title read something similar to “Build relationships with those you care about.” Which marketing campaign do you think people preferred? It depended on age.

The younger participants chose adventure, and the older participants chose relationships. The older people are wiser, right? Maybe not. When the older participants were first asked to imagine that a drug had hit the market that was guaranteed to extend their life by several decades, they also chose adventure and learning.

I found this interesting, and then saddening. Not because I don’t like exploration —but because adventure and learning without relationships is hell. The participants were continually prioritizing something that would ultimately make them less happy (Interestingly, it was only the idea of death that led them to prioritize what was of real value).

A client of mine, let’s call him Doug, is profoundly unhappy (and lonely). His solution is to leave the ivory tower of Harvard and move to Florida. There he would buy a jet ski, and a satellite dish. He would build computers and fix four wheelers. “Not bad!” I tell him, “Close your eyes and imagine being there. Imagine being there for two days alone. How happy are you?” As we explore the idea he begins to see, after only an hour on the Jet Ski he would be bored, wanting to talk to someone.

The idea of the lonely traveler seems romantic. But when you are that traveler, you don’t care so much about the museums after a few days. You watch people on the street. Friends laughing, and lovers holding hands. Soon you are on your cell phone, making oversees calls to connect to the people you thought you didn’t need.

Here is the secret to personal success: People, not places.



Every choice we make costs a price. The choice to build a support system is no different. It takes an investment of time and resources. You are going to need to put some margin into your schedule if you are going to be successful in building relationship. You might need to work as hard for relationships as you do at your career. Warning: this could slow your business, career, and even your money making potential. It can also increase your life satisfaction exponentially. So consider—what are relationships worth? How much money would it take for you to live a life of solitude (I am hoping there is no sum high enough)?

I know someone who recently left a lucrative position to be with friends in another state. Society might scoff at this, but she if happier now than she has been in years.



This strategy could be a book.

One reason persons remain in solitude is that they have been alone for so long they begin to think that others will not understand them, others will reject them, or they think they are not able to build and maintain close relationships.

First, I communicate to my clients is that they have nothing to lose, and the world to gain, when they try to build relationships. I also remind them that other people—when it comes to building relationships—might feel as disconnected and worried as they do. I counter the idea that no one will understand them by telling them the truth that I talk to people all day that are feeling and saying the same exact thing they are!

If they say they are not “a person who can just go up to someone and talk to them,” I remind them that there is no such thing as talent and that practice and experience is the only way to become “a person who can just go up to someone and talk to them.”



There are three criteria any relationship must meet for it to be a deep relationship.

1) You must interact with the person outside of the venue in which you met them. For example, if you meet someone at the gym/coffee shop/a friend’s house, the person cannot be considered part of your inner circle unless you arrange to meet the person somewhere else.

2) You must have spent time with the person for the sole purpose of spending time together. Having friends who you play basketball with does not count as having “inner circle” friends—the focus is on having a good game of basketball, not on building relationship. I ask my clients, “Have you gotten together with the person to just ‘hang out?’ Have you gone to get coffee or a meal with this person? Have you gotten together just to ‘Catch up?’”

3) You must meet with this person one-on-one, and be willing to be intimate, to share both the joys and hardships of life with the person. Does the person go to you with his/her triumphs and problems? Do you do go to him/her with your triumphs and problems? Do you trust the person to keep a confidence? Does he/she trust you to keep confidence?

Isolation and Loneliness are real but they can be overcome by using some of the strategies listed above.


We hope that this handout has been helpful to you. At the Counseling Center of New Smyrna Beach we have several therapist who can assist you in getting the treatment you need. If we can be of help please call 386.423.9161 today. Start living your legacy!

Postpartum Depression: Unexpected (and sometimes scary) Signs & Symptoms of Postpartum Depression (PPD) & Anxiety (PPA)

By Erin Tobiasz, MS, LMHC, psychotherapist


Depression and anxiety do not always look the way they do on TV ads – with images of women in bathrobes huddled on the sofa crying or sadly gazing out the window. Often times, depression and anxiety take on various forms with unexpected emotions that can make us think we’ve gone crazy! When women are pregnant and after giving birth, hormone surges can have major impact on their emotional state. If you experience some or all of these symptoms you may have PPD or PPA, which can look differently in different people. You are unique – so are your PPD and PPA. Talk to your doctor or midwife if you are experiencing any of these signs or symptoms and seek therapy right away – we can help – you don’t have to do this alone.

Signs & Symptoms of PPD & PPA

Irritation – "This will be the best time of your life – cherish every moment". Not feeling it? Does the sound of people's voices bother you? Do you feel like you're going to "jump out of your skin"? Some women report high levels of irritation with PPD & PPA. Some mention that even their other children annoy them and things they used to love, like reading a magazine or going for coffee, have become pure aggravation.

Rage – Irritation's one thing, but outright rage is another. Some women experience rage they never knew they had. Feelings of anger so deep they want to physically tear things apart and throw them across the room. They want to yell, scream, cry, and throw a fit. The massive amount of hormones surging through and leaving your body after pregnancy can play tricks on your emotions and may leave you feeling like you've gone mad…then leave you feeling sorry afterward. 

Brain Matters – Forgetfulness, scattered thoughts, "brain fog", feeling dazed, "all over the place", and "not with it", are common for some women with PPD or PPA. This lack of clarity does not make it easy to care for a newborn and can feel overwhelming and complicated. 

Scary Thoughts – Intrusive thoughts can be very scary – they are thoughts you do NOT want to have and wouldn't normally think. They can be very upsetting and can be about things you wouldn't want to tell anyone else or even admit to yourself. Ruminating thoughts can drive you crazy! They can be any kind of thought, from what you need to do, to what you could have done better, to what you wish your husband would do, to how skinny you were in 10th grade – usually they're pretty self-destructive and unproductive. These thoughts seem to go on, and on, and on, with no end in sight.

Physical Symptoms – "Just nap when the baby naps" – yeah right! Not with all those thoughts racing through your mind. Insomnia is a common physical symptom of PPD & PPA and may be contributed to a number of factors. Lack of sleep can increase the severity of depression and anxiety related symptoms, making things seem worse. It can also make you feel lethargic and exhausted. Some women experience physical pain like stomach aches and headaches or exacerbated pains in old injuries. Some feel achy or like everything hurts. Smells may nauseate you, the sight of food may turn your stomach, or food may become an emotional support or outlet.

Baby Bonding Issues – It can be really scary when you don't feel connected to your baby, especially when those around you keep talking about how wonderful it is to be a new mom. You may feel like your baby is a series of non-stop chores and a constant aggravation that must continually be managed and maintained. Some women with PPD & PPA do NOT experience feelings of loving or caring toward their baby – they feel indifferent, apathetic, and disinterested. 

Numbness – Not all women experience strong emotions. Some women feel…nothing…which can be the scariest of all. Some say that they feel empty or disconnected, as if they are floating above their lives, not really a part of it. Some just go through the motions, a shell of a woman looking out at the world from behind listless, hollow eyes. This can be an incredibly isolated, lonely, and remote place where you think no one could possibly understand you. Come to therapy, we understand, and we can help you.

While PPD and PPA are common, they are not normal – you do NOT have to feel this way. This is not how motherhood should be and not how your life should be. 

There are effective treatments that can help you. Take the first steps on your road to recovery and talk to your doctor or midwife and seek therapy today! 

We are here to help you. You can do this.

For more information on PPD & PPA, visit

Erin is especially equipped at treating PPD and PPA from her years working with OBGYN doctors and midwives as a birth assistant, working closely with trauma victims through the processes of pregnancy, birth, and postpartum.

We hope that this handout has been helpful to you. At the Counseling Center of New Smyrna Beach we have several therapist who can assist you in getting the treatment you need. If we can be of help please call 386.423.9161 today. Start living your legacy!

Depression: Signs, Symptoms, Treatment and Self Help Secrets Only A Therapist Can Teach You


When you’re depressed, it can feel like you’ll never get out from under its shadow. However, even the most severe depression is a treatable condition. There are many effective ways to deal with depression, including lifestyle changes, therapy, medications, and alternative treatments. Learning about the treatment options will help you decide what measures are most likely to work best for your particular situation and needs.



Are you clinically depressed?

If you identify with several of the following signs and symptoms, and they just won’t go away, you may be suffering from clinical depression.


• You can’t sleep or you sleep too much.

• You can’t concentrate or find that previously easy tasks are now difficult.

• You feel hopeless and helpless.

• You can’t control your negative thoughts, no matter how much you try.

• You have lost your appetite or you can’t stop eating.

• You are much more irritable and short-tempered than usual.

• You have thoughts that life is not worth living.



What is depression?

We all go through ups and downs in our mood. Sadness is a normal reaction to life’s struggles, setbacks, and disappointments. Many people use the word “depression” to explain these kinds of feelings, but clinical depression is much more than just sadness. Some people describe depression as “living in a black hole” or having a feeling of impending doom. However, some depressed people don't feel sad at all — instead, they feel lifeless, empty, and apathetic.


Whatever the symptoms, depression is different from normal sadness in that it engulfs your day-to-day life, interfering with your ability to work, study, eat, sleep, and have fun. The feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and worthlessness are intense and unrelenting, with little, if any, relief.


Depression varies from person to person, but there are some common signs and symptoms. It’s important to remember that these symptoms can be part of life’s normal lows. But when these symptoms are overwhelming and disabling, it's probably time to seek help.



Common Signs and Symptoms of Depression

Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. A bleak outlook—nothing will ever get better and there’s nothing you can do to improve your situation. Loss of interest in daily activities. No interest in or ability to enjoy former hobbies, pastimes, social activities, or sex. Appetite or weight changes. Significant weight loss or weight gain—a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month. Sleep changes. Either insomnia, especially waking in the early hours of the morning, or oversleeping (also known as hypersomnia). Psychomotor agitation or retardation. Either feeling “keyed up” and restless or sluggish and physically slowed down. Loss of energy. Feeling fatigued and physically drained. Even small tasks are exhausting or take longer. Self-loathing. Strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt. Harsh criticism of perceived faults and mistakes. Concentration problems. Trouble focusing, making decisions, or remembering things.



Depression in Teens

While some depressed teens appear sad, others do not. In fact, irritability—rather than depression—is frequently the predominant symptom in depressed adolescents and teens. A depressed teenager may be hostile, grumpy, or easily lose his or her temper. Unexplained aches and pains are also common symptoms of depression in young people.



Depression in Older Adults

The difficult changes that many older adults face—such as bereavement, loss of independence, and health problems—can lead to depression, especially in those without a strong support system. However, depression is not a normal part of aging. Older adults tend to complain more about the physical rather than the emotional signs and symptoms of depression, and so the problem often goes unrecognized. Depression in older adults is associated with poor health, a high mortality rate, and an increased risk of suicide, so diagnosis and treatment are extremely important.



Depression in Women

Rates of depression in women are twice as high as they are in men. This is due in part to hormonal factors, particularly when it comes to premenstrual syndrome (PMS), premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), postpartum depression, and perimenopausal depression. As for signs and symptoms, women are more likely than men to experience pronounced feelings of guilt, sleep excessively, overeat, and gain weight. Women are also more likely to suffer from seasonal affective disorder.


Many new mothers suffer from some fleeting form of the “baby blues.” Postpartum depression, in contrast, is a longer lasting and more serious depression triggered, in part, by hormonal changes associated with having a baby. Postpartum depression usually develops soon after delivery, but any depression that occurs within six months of childbirth may be postpartum depression.


Depression in men Depression is a loaded word in our culture. Many associate it, however wrongly, with a sign of weakness and excessive emotion. This is especially true with men. Depressed men are less likely than women to acknowledge feelings of self-loathing and hopelessness. Instead, they tend to complain about fatigue, irritability, sleep problems, and loss of interest in work and hobbies. Other signs and symptoms of depression in men include anger, aggression, violence, reckless behavior, and substance abuse. Even though depression rates for women are twice as high as those in men, men are a higher suicide risk, especially older men.



Types of Depression

Depression comes in many shapes and forms. The different types of depression have unique symptoms, causes, and effects. Knowing what type of depression you have can help you manage your symptoms and get the most effective treatments.



Major Depression

Major depression, or clinical depression, is characterized by the inability to enjoy life and experience pleasure. The symptoms are constant, ranging from moderate to severe. Left untreated, major depression typically lasts for about six months. Some people experience just a single depressive episode in their lifetime, but more commonly, major depression is a recurring disorder. However, there are many things you can do to support your mood and reduce the risk of recurrence.



Atypical Depression

Atypical depression is a common subtype of major depression. It features a specific symptom pattern, including a temporary mood lift in response to positive events. You may feel better after receiving good news or while out with friends. However, this boost in mood is fleeting. Other symptoms of atypical depression include weight gain, increased appetite, sleeping excessively, a heavy feeling in the arms and legs, and sensitivity to rejection. Atypical depression responds better to some therapies and medications than others, so identifying this subtype can be particularly helpful.



Dysthymia (recurrent, mild depression)

Dysthymia is a type of chronic “low-grade” depression. More days than not, you feel mildly or moderately depressed, although you may have brief periods of normal mood. The symptoms of dysthymia are not as strong as the symptoms of major depression, but they last a long time (at least two years). These chronic symptoms make it very difficult to live life to the fullest or to remember better times. Some people also experience major depressive episodes on top of dysthymia, a condition known as “double depression.” If you suffer from dysthymia, you may feel like you’ve always been depressed. Or you may think that your continuous low mood is “just the way you are.” However, dysthymia can be treated, even if your symptoms have gone unrecognized or untreated for years.



Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

There’s a reason why so many movies and books portray rainy days and stormy weather as gloomy. Some people get depressed in the fall or winter, when overcast days are frequent and sunlight is limited. This type of depression is called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Seasonal affective disorder is more common in northern climates and in younger people. Like depression, seasonal affective disorder is treatable. Light therapy, a treatment that involves exposure to bright artificial light, often helps relieve symptoms.


Bipolar Disorder

When Depression is Just One Side of the Problem Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is characterized by cycling mood changes. Episodes of depression alternate with manic episodes, which can include impulsive behavior, hyperactivity, rapid speech, and little to no sleep. Typically, the switch from one mood extreme to the other is gradual, with each manic or depressive episode lasting for at least several weeks. When depressed, a person with bipolar disorder exhibits the usual symptoms of major depression. However, the treatments for bipolar depression are very different. In fact, antidepressants can make bipolar depression worse.


The cause of your depression determines the treatment Understanding the underlying cause of your depression may help you overcome the problem. For example, if you are depressed because of a dead end job, the best treatment might be finding a more satisfying career, not taking an antidepressant. If you are new to an area and feeling lonely and sad, finding new friends at work or through a hobby will probably give you more of a mood boost than going to therapy. In such cases, the depression is remedied by changing the situation.



Causes and Risk Factors for Depression

• Loneliness

• Lack of social support

• Recent stressful life experiences

• Family history of depression

• Marital or relationship problems

• Financial strain

• Early childhood trauma or abuse

• Alcohol or drug abuse

• Unemployment or underemployment

• Health problems or chronic pain



The Road to Depression Recovery

Just as the symptoms and causes of depression are different in different people, so are the ways to feel better. What works for one person might not work for another, and no one treatment is appropriate in all cases. If you recognize the signs of depression in yourself or a loved one, take some time to explore the many treatment options. In most cases, the best approach involves a combination of self-help strategies, lifestyle changes, and professional help.



Make Healthy Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle changes are not always easy to make, but they can have a big impact on depression. Take a good look at your own lifestyle. What changes could you make to support depression recovery? Self-help strategies that can be very effective include:


• Exercise. Regular exercise provides natural, mood lifting chemical changes in your body. You don’t have to train for a marathon; even a short walk every day will help.


• Nutrition. Eating a regular, balanced diet is important for both your physical and mental health.


• Sleep. Poor sleep has a strong effect on mood. Make getting the right amount of sleep for you a priority.


• Social Support. Strong social networks reduce isolation, a key risk factor for depression. Keep in regular contact with friends and family, or consider joining a class or group. Volunteering is a wonderful way to get social support and help others while also helping yourself. Stress Reduction. Make changes in your life to help manage and reduce stress. Too much stress exacerbates depression and puts you at risk for future depression.


Practicing Relaxation Techniques Challenging Negative Thought Patterns



Ruling Out Medical Causes of Depression

If you suspect that you may be depressed, and lifestyle changes haven’t worked, make an appointment to see your primary care doctor for a thorough checkup. If your depression is the result of medical causes, therapy and antidepressants will do little to help. The depression won’t lift until the underlying health problem is identified and treated.


Your doctor will check for medical conditions that mimic depression, and also make sure you are not taking medications that can cause depression as a side effect. Many medical conditions and medications can cause symptoms of depression, including sadness, fatigue, and the loss of pleasure. Hypothyroidism, or low thyroid, is a particularly common mood buster, especially in women. The more medications you are taking, the more the risk for drug interactions. This is especially important to consider in older adults, who often take many different medications every day.



Psychotherapy for Depression

Talk therapy is an extremely effective treatment for depression. Therapy gives you tools to treat depression from a variety of angles. What’s more, what you learn in therapy gives you skills and insight to help prevent depression from coming back.

There are many types of therapy available. Three of the more common methods used in depression include cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, and psychodynamic therapy. Often, a blended approach is used.


Some types of therapy teach you practical techniques on how to reframe negative thinking and employ behavioral skills in combating depression. Therapy can also help you work through the root of your depression, helping you understand why you feel a certain way, what your triggers are for depression, and what you can do to stay healthy.



Therapy and “The Big Picture” in Depression Treatment

One of the hallmarks of depression is feeling overwhelmed and having trouble focusing. Therapy helps you step back and see what might be contributing to your depression and how you can make changes. Here are some of the “big picture” themes that therapy can help with:


Relationships. Understanding the patterns of your relationships, building better relationships and improving current relationships will help reduce isolation and build social support, important in preventing depression.


Setting healthy boundaries. If you are stressed and overwhelmed, and feel like you just can’t say no, you are more at risk for depression. Setting healthy boundaries in relationships and at work can help relieve stress, and therapy can help you identify and validate what boundaries are right for you.


Handling life’s problems. Talking with a trusted therapist can provide good feedback on more positive ways to handle life’s challenges and problems.


When the going gets tough in therapy... Like house remodeling, taking apart things that haven't worked well in one's life often makes them seem worse before they get better. When therapy seems difficult or painful, don't give up. If you discuss your feelings and reactions honestly with your therapist, it will help you move forward rather than retreat back to your old, less effective ways. However, if the connection with your therapist consistently starts to feel forced or uncomfortable, don’t be afraid to explore other options for therapy as well. A strong trusting relationship is the foundation of good therapy.



Self-help For Your Depression


Self-help Tip 1: Cultivate Supportive Relationships

Getting the support you need plays a big role in lifting the fog of depression and keeping it away. On your own, it can be difficult to maintain perspective and sustain the effort required to beat depression. But the very nature of depression makes it difficult to reach out for help. However, isolation and loneliness make depression even worse, so maintaining your close relationships and social activities are important.


The thought of reaching out to even close family members and friends can seem overwhelming. You may feel ashamed, too exhausted to talk, or guilty for neglecting the relationship. Remind yourself that this is the depression talking. You loved ones care about you and want to help.


Turn to trusted friends and family members. Share what you’re going through with the people you love and trust. Ask for the help and support you need. You may have retreated from your most treasured relationships, but they can get you through this tough time. Try to keep up with social activities even if you don’t feel like it. When you’re depressed, it feels more comfortable to retreat into your shell. But being around other people will make you feel less depressed.


10 tips for reaching out and building relationships Talk to one person about your feelings. Help someone else by volunteering. Have lunch or coffee with a friend. Ask a loved one to check in with you regularly. Accompany someone to the movies, a concert, or a small get-together. Call or email an old friend. Go for a walk with a workout buddy. Schedule a weekly dinner date Meet new people by taking a class or joining a club. Confide in a counselor, therapist, or clergy member.



Self-help Tip 2: Take Care of Yourself

In order to overcome depression, you have to nurture yourself. This includes making time for things you enjoy, asking for help from others, setting limits on what you’re able to do, adopting healthy habits, and scheduling fun activities into your day.


Do things you enjoy (or used to) While you can’t force yourself to have fun or experience pleasure, you can choose to do things that you used to enjoy. Pick up a former hobby or a sport you used to like. Express yourself creatively through music, art, or writing. Go out with friends. Take a day trip to a museum, the mountains, or the ballpark.


Come up with a list of things that you can do for a quick mood boost. Include any strategies, activities, or skills that have helped in the past. The more “tools” for coping with depression, the better. Try and implement a few of these ideas each day, even if you’re feeling good.


Spend some time in nature. List what you like about yourself. Read a good book. Watch a funny movie or TV show. Take a long, hot bath.


Listen to music. Take care of a few small tasks. Play with a pet. Write in your journal. Do something spontaneous.


Push yourself to do things, even when you don’t feel like it. You might be surprised at how much better you feel once you’re out in the world. Even if your depression doesn’t lift immediately, you’ll gradually feel more upbeat and energetic as you make time for fun activities.



Adopt healthy lifestyle habits:

Aim for 8 hours of sleep. Depression typically involves sleep problems. Whether you’re sleeping too little or too much, your mood suffers. Get on a better sleep schedule by learning healthy sleep habits.


Expose yourself to a little sunlight every day. Lack of sunlight can make depression worse. Make sure you’re getting enough. Take a short walk outdoors, have your coffee outside, enjoy an al fresco meal, people-watch on a park bench, or sit out in the garden.


Practice relaxation techniques. A daily relaxation practice can help relieve symptoms of depression, reduce stress, and boost feelings of joy and well-being. Try yoga, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or meditation.



Fight depression by managing stress:

Not only does stress prolong and worsen depression, but it can also trigger it. In order to get over depression and stay well, it’s essential to learn how to minimize and cope with stress.


Identify your stressors. Figure out all the things in your life that are stressing you out. Examples include: work overload, unsupportive relationships, substance abuse, taking on too much, or health problems. Once you’ve identified your stressors, you can make a plan to avoid them or minimize their impact.


Go easy on yourself. Many depressed people are perfectionists, holding themselves to impossibly high standards and then beating themselves up when they fail to meet them. Battle this source of self-imposed stress by challenging your negative ways of thinking.


Plan ahead. If you know your stress triggers and limits, you will be able to identify and avoid many landmines. If you sense trouble ahead, protect yourself by dipping into your wellness toolbox and saying “no” to added responsibility.



Self-help Tip 3: Get Regular Exercise

When you’re depressed, exercising may be the last thing you feel like doing. But exercise is a powerful tool for dealing with depression. In fact, studies show that regular exercise can be as effective as antidepressant medication at increasing energy levels and decreasing feelings of fatigue.


Scientists haven’t figured out exactly why exercise is such a potent antidepressant, but evidence suggests that physical activity increases mood-enhancing neurotransmitters in the brain, raises endorphins, reduces stress, and relieves muscle tension – all things that can have a positive effect on depression. To get the most benefit, aim for 30 minutes of exercise per day. But you can start small. 



Short 10-minute bursts of activity can have a positive effect on your mood. Here are a few easy ways to get moving:


Take the stairs rather than the elevator Park your car in the farthest spot in the lot Take your dog for a walk Pair up with an exercise partner Walk while you’re talking on the phone.


As a next step, try incorporating walks or some other enjoyable, easy form of exercise into your daily routine. The key is to pick an activity you enjoy, so you’re more likely to keep up with it.


Exercise as an antidepressant:

The following exercise tips offer a powerful prescription for boosting mood: Exercise now…and again. A 10-minute walk can improve your mood for two hours. The key to sustaining mood benefits is to exercise regularly. Choose activities that are moderately intense. Aerobic exercise undoubtedly has mental health benefits, but you don't need to sweat strenuously to see results. Find exercises that are continuous and rhythmic (rather than intermittent). Walking, swimming, dancing, stationery biking, and yoga are good choices. Add a mind-body element. Activities such as yoga and tai chi rest your mind and pump up your energy. You can also add a meditative element to walking or swimming by repeating a mantra (a word or phrase) as you move. Start slowly, and don't overdo it. More isn't better. Athletes who over train, find their moods drop rather than lift.



Self-help Tip 4: Eat a Healthy, Mood-boosting Diet

What you eat has a direct impact on the way you feel. Aim for a balanced diet of protein, complex carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables.


Don’t neglect breakfast. A solid breakfast provides energy for the day. Don’t skip meals. Going too long between meals can make you feel irritable and tired, so aim to eat something at least every 3-4 hours. Minimize sugar and refined carbs. You may crave sugary snacks, baked goods, or comfort foods such as pasta or french fries. But these “feel-good” foods quickly lead to a crash in mood and energy. Focus on complex carbohydrates. Foods such as baked potatoes, whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, oatmeal, whole grain breads, and bananas can boost serotonin levels without a crash.


Boost your B vitamins. Deficiencies in B vitamins such as folic acid and B-12 can trigger depression. To get more, take a B-complex vitamin supplement or eat more citrus fruit, leafy greens, beans, chicken, and eggs.


Consider taking a chromium supplement – Some depression studies show that chromium picolinate reduces carbohydrate cravings, eases mood swings, and boosts energy. Supplementing with chromium picolinate is especially effective for people who tend to overeat and oversleep when depressed. Aim for 600 mcg per day.

Practice mindful eating. Slow down and pay attention to the full experience of eating. Enjoy the taste of your food.



Self-help Tip 5: Challenge Negative Thinking

Depression puts a negative spin on everything, including the way you see yourself, the situations you encounter, and your expectations for the future.


But you can’t break out of this pessimistic mind frame by “just thinking positive.” Happy thoughts or wishful thinking won’t cut it. Rather, the trick is to replace negative thoughts with more balanced thoughts.



Ways to challenge negative thinking:

Think outside yourself. Ask yourself if you’d say what you’re thinking about yourself to someone else. If not, stop being so hard on yourself. Think about less harsh statements that offer more realistic descriptions.


Keep a “negative thought log”. Whenever you experience a negative thought, jot down the thought and what triggered it in a notebook. Review your log when you’re in a good mood. Consider if the negativity was truly warranted. For a second opinion, you can also ask a friend or therapist to go over your log with you.


Replace negatives with positives. Review your negative thought log. Then, for each negative thought, write down something positive. For instance, “My boss hates me. She gave me this difficult report to complete” could be replaced with, “My boss must have a lot of faith in me to give me so much responsibility.”


Socialize with positive people. Notice how people who always look on the bright side deal with challenges, even minor ones, like not being able to find a parking space. Then consider how you would react in the same situation. Even if you have to pretend, try to adopt their optimism and persistence in the face of difficulty.



Self-help Tip 6: Raise Your Emotional Intelligence

Emotions are powerful. They can override thoughts and profoundly influence behavior. But if you are emotionally intelligent, you can harness the power of your emotions.


Emotional intelligence gives you the ability to:

Remain hopeful during challenging and difficult times Manage strong feelings and impulses Quickly rebound from frustration and disappointment Ask for and get support when needed Solve problems in positive, creative ways.


Emotional intelligence isn’t a safety net that protects you from life’s tragedies, frustrations, or disappointments. We all go through disappointments, loss, and change. And while these are normal parts of life, they can still cause sadness, anxiety, and stress. But emotional intelligence gives you the ability to cope and bounce back from adversity, trauma, and loss. In other words, emotional intelligence makes you resilient.


We hope that this handout has been helpful to you. At the Counseling Center of New Smyrna Beach we have several therapist who can assist you in getting the treatment you need. If we can be of help please call 386.423.9161 today. Start living your legacy!