Overcoming Depression: 10 Steps To Help Yourself Through

by Moses Olurotimi Olawoye
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According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease. Depression in Nigeria is more common than we think, and WHO’s figures also show that Nigeria has over 7 million people suffering from depression.

What is Depression?

Depression is typically considered to be the most common psychological condition among adolescents and adults. Lifetime prevalence rates for females and males are quite high, reportedly ranging from 10% to 25% for women, and from 5% to 12% for men (APA, 2000; Kessler et al., 2005). Prevalence rates differ for specific age groups (APA, 2013).

Depression is prolonged sadness of over 2 to 3 weeks. Not just sadness, but misery and emptiness. People do not just have depression; they suffer from it. In a nutshell, depression is the common cold of mental illness because it is actually common.

Types of Depression

  1. Major depression

This interferes with the ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy life. An episode may occur only once in a person’s lifetime, but more often rather than not, a person has several episodes.

  1. Persistent depressive disorder

A depressed mood that lasts for at least 2 years. A person diagnosed with persistent depressive disorder may have episodes of major depression along with periods of less severe symptoms, but symptoms must last for 2 years.

  1. Psychotic depression

This occurs when a person has severe depression, as well as some form of psychosis, such as having disturbing false beliefs or a break with reality (delusions), or hearing or seeing upsetting things that others cannot hear or see (hallucinations).

  1. Postpartum depression

This is much more serious than the “baby blues” that many women experience after giving birth when hormonal and physical changes and the new responsibility of caring for a newborn can be overwhelming.

It is estimated that 10 to 15 per cent of women experience postpartum depression after giving birth. The mother gets pretty much attached to the baby to the extent of losing interest in other things. And this becomes detrimental in the long run.

  1. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

This is characterized by the onset of depression based on a particular season. For example, during the harmattan season in Nigeria, when there is cold.

  1. Bipolar disorder

This is different from depression, but it is worthwhile to note that someone with bipolar disorder experiences episodes of extreme-low moods and extreme-high moods. The extreme-high moods are mania, while the extreme-low moods are depression.

Symptoms of Depression

When you are depressed, you do not want to get out of bed or be bothered by anyone because your mood has been distorted, your behaviour has been distorted, and your cognition has been distorted. The following are symptoms of depression:

  1. Change in mood

This is your temporary state of mind that can change to having a lack of interest in things. You tend to be sad and also start to exhibit anxiety. You end up having feelings of guilt, hopelessness and worthlessness.

  1. Change in behaviour

This is your actions, especially towards others. You tend to be restless, become irritated easily, have excessive sleep, and eat too much or too little.

  1. Change in cognition

This is the mental action of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thoughts. This can be affected when there is a lack of concentration and an inability to handle pressure, as well as difficulty in remembering and making decisions.

  1. Insomnia or inability to sleep.
  2. Fatigue and decreased energy towards activities.
  3. Weight gain or weight loss.
  4. There may be a regular complaint of ailments such as muscle aches, constipation, heartburn, headaches, and dizziness.
  5. Suicidal thoughts and attempts.

Causes of Depression

The causes of depression definitely vary among people. For some, the combination of different factors may cause depression, while for others, only a factor can cause depression. The following are the causes of depression:

  1. Early years experiences

Research has shown that one of the causes of depression in people includes going through bad and difficult experiences in their early years of life. Some of these experiences include:
i. Physiological abuse
ii. Sexual abuse
iii. Emotional abuse
iv. Unstable family situations
v. Neglect from parents

  1. Behavioural disorders

Causes of depression can as well be traced to behavioural disorders. When you struggle to cope with your mental health problem symptoms, you tend to trigger depression. Some of these behavioural disorders are:
i. Hypochondria: This is a disorder characterised by excessive preoccupation and worries about having a serious illness that might not be serious or even present.
ii. Bipolar: This involves both poles at the same time, that is, having the extremes of high moods and low moods.
iii. Phobia: This is the persistent, irritational, and intense fear of a particular object, activity or situation.
iv. Mood disorder: This is a variety of conditions characterised as a disturbance in mood as the main feature.
v. Schizophrenia: This is a severely impaired condition were thinking, emotions and behaviours are distorted.
vi. Somatoform: This involves persistent physical complaints that cannot be fully explained by a general medical condition or a direct effect of a substance. This simply means having no physical or organic cause.
vii. Anxiety: This is the psychological and physiological state of uneasiness, apprehension, and nervousness.

  1. Medication

Some medicines that are used for illness might have serious side effects that can end up being part of the causes of depression.

  1. Recreational drugs and alcohol

Recreational Drugs and alcohol have effects on your body, and they can either make you feel pleasant or unpleasant; the effects may either be for a short or long time. It is therefore worthwhile to conclude that recreational drugs and alcohol are one of the subtle causes of depression because people tend to use them so as to feel better, and to distract themselves, but they can make you feel worse in the process.

  1. Life crises or life events

This is a period of disorganisation that occurs when a person meets an obstacle to an important life goal or event. People get their depression triggered by stressful and traumatic events. Some of these events can be:
i. Death of a loved one
ii. Relationship breakup
iii. Losing your job
iv. Being a victim of racism
v. Major changes like change of job, getting married, having children, migration or relocation.

How to Overcome Heartbreak and Depression

Overcoming heartbreak and depression can be overwhelming, especially when they come as a shock. Most often, rather than not, someone going through a heartbreak usually go through a lot of hurting emotions and even physiological hurts like headaches. With time, people tend to gradually get over these hurts, and when they do not, it usually led to depression.

Romantic feelings trigger the “feel good” chemicals in your brain. When these feelings are no more there, they can cause emotional stress and physiological problems. Emotional stress can send out stress hormones because you are in physical and emotional discomfort. And this in turn makes you feel as if you are experiencing a heart attack.

What makes it really hard when asked how to overcome heartbreak and depression is that; in romantic love, there are two halves, and after a breakup, one-half of the romantic relationship leaves, leaving just you, and you might struggle to adjust to your new self-image.

People who are heartbroken tend to feel sad, feel lonely, and get irritable easily. They also lose their appetite, and sleep too little or sleep too much. All these aforementioned symptoms are pointers to depression; therefore, the following are how to overcome heartbreak and depression:

  1. Avoid your ex

Limit your contact or totally cut off contact with your ex, after a breakup.

  1. Avoid social media

You might not be able to totally avoid social media, but you can avoid your ex’s accounts on social media.

  1. Thoughts-stopping and thoughts-setting

When you are working on how to overcome heartbreak and depression, you must be willing to control your thoughts. You cannot afford to ruminate on the heartbreak. Try as much as possible to stop the obsessive thoughts and think about something worthwhile for the future.

  1. Meditation

For someone working on how to overcome heartbreak and depression, a simple technique of focusing the mind on a particular object, thought, or activity for as few as 10 minutes per day, can help you to reduce stress, reduce anxiety, feel relaxed; and in turn, make you worry and ruminate less.

  1. Exercise

Research has shown that participating in physical and sporting activities regularly can help in overcoming heartbreak and depression.

  1. Talk to people around you

Try as much as possible not to bottle up your feelings. People tend to feel better when they discuss their problems with others.

  1. Do not isolate yourself

You can also overcome heartbreak and depression by not isolating yourself. You might not be comfortable talking about your heartbreak, but you must be able to connect with other people. This can be physical, via chat, via audio call, or even via video calls.

How to Overcome Anxiety and Depression

Anxiety is a negative emotion; it affects the perceptions of individuals (Weinberg and Gould 2000). Anxiety is an emotion characterised by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure. People with anxiety usually have recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns. They may avoid certain situations out of worry, they may also have physical symptoms such as sweating, trembling, dizziness or a rapid heartbeat.

Categories of anxiety

Trait anxiety: Trait anxiety is a relatively stable aspect of the personality. Those who show a more developed trait anxiety are much more prone to react to a large number of stimuli and will tend to worry also in situations that for most individuals would not represent a source of threat.

State anxiety: State anxiety manifests itself as an interruption of an individual’s emotional state, leading to a sudden subversion of one’s emotional equilibrium. A person experiencing state anxiety will feel tension, or worry, or might enter a state of restlessness. In such moments, the individual may feel very tense and easily react or overreact to external stimuli.

State anxiety can be in a form of cognitive state anxiety or somatic state anxiety. Cognitive anxiety is the mental manifestations of anxiety or the specific thought processes that occur during anxiety, such as concern or worry. Somatic anxiety is the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as sweating. It is also known as somatisation.

As a human, challenges are normal. When you are worried, that is anxiety; and anxiety is a symptom of depression. Knowing how to overcome anxiety and depression is paramount, as they are both flip sides of the same coin.

There are several steps to follow on how to overcome anxiety and depression, and some of them are:

  1. Psychotherapy: This is a very effective way of handling anxiety and depression. Psychotherapy is the treatment of people diagnosed with mental and emotional disorders, with the use of dialogue.
  2. Medication: Antidepressant drugs that treat both anxiety and depression symptoms such as; selective serotonin reuptake (SSRI), and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) can be used, if prescribed by the doctor.
  3. Exercise: Anyone looking forward to how to overcome anxiety and depression, must be willing to participate in physical and sporting activities.
  4. Engage in relaxation meditation.
  5. Eating healthy can also be of help. Try as much as possible to avoid comfort food, as it can put your eating habits out of balance. Limit or totally avoid sugar, caffeine, and alcohol; and replace them with fruits and vegetables.

How to Overcome Depression

The mind is not a bin to store anger, hatred, jealousy, sadness, or emptiness; the mind needs to be healthy. How to overcome depression is about your total well-being. Just like physical health, you have to maintain it by taking care of your body, eating the right food, and going to the doctor when you are injured or ill. In mental health, you have to take daily action to be healthy.

Overcoming depression involves finding a distraction that you can channel your energy to; because when you are feeling down, the worst thing you can do is to isolate yourself. You cannot overcome depression through isolation, because that itself intensifies depression. The following are 10 steps on how to overcome depression

  1. Know your triggers

Triggers are emotional reactions to a disturbing event. It initiates a negative emotional response which can be detrimental. In your journey towards how to overcome depression, identifying your triggers is pertinent. Triggers differ from person to person, and they can be external or internal triggers which include:

i. Grief and loss

ii. Lack of sleep or too much sleep

iii. Money problems

iv. Substance use

v. Loss of appetite

  1. Get enough sleep

Try as much as possible to experience a real sense of freedom, and reduce stress by having adequate sleep. Insomnia increases the risk of developing depression; therefore, how to overcome depression involves addressing sleeping problems, as it appears to be an effective way to prevent depression, as well as treat depression and prevent relapse.

  1. Psychotherapy

Another step on how to overcome depression is through dialogue. Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy can be used to help people overcome depression. Some of the psychotherapies are:

i. Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT)

CBT can help an individual with depression change negative thinking. It can help you interpret your environment and interactions in a positive, realistic way. It may also help you recognise things that may be contributing to the depression and help you change behaviours that may be making the depression worse.

iii. Interpersonal therapy (IPT)

IPT is designed to help an individual understand and work through troubled relationships that may cause depression or make it worse. When a behaviour is causing problems, and you start thinking about how to overcome depression, IPT may help you change the behaviour. In IPT, you explore major issues that may add to your depression, such as grief, or times of upheaval or transition.

iii. Problem-solving therapy (PST)

PST can improve an individual’s ability to cope with stressful life experiences. It is an effective treatment option towards how to overcome depression, particularly for older adults. Using a step-by-step process, you identify problems and come up with realistic solutions. It is a short-term therapy and may be conducted in an individual or group format.

  1. Behavioural activation (BA)

Behavioural activation (BA) is a structured, brief psychotherapeutic approach that aims to increase engagement in adaptive activities (which often are those associated with the experience of pleasure or mastery), decrease engagement in activities that maintain depression or increase the risk for depression, and solve problems that limit access to reward or that maintain or increase aversive control (Dimidjian et al., 2011).

How to overcome depression using behavioural activation techniques include:

i. Self-monitoring of activities and mood.

ii. Activity scheduling.

iii. Activity structuring.

iv. Social skill training.

v. Hierarchy (ranking how certain activities are to accomplish).

vi. Reward.

vii. Persuasion.

viii. Behaviour contract (signing a contract with friends and family, so that they will only reinforce healthy behaviours).

ix. Life area assessment (determining in which area of life one desires success).

x. Problem-solving.

  1. Eat healthy diet

Top-notch nutrition is part of a person’s healthy lifestyle. And this can always help in overcoming depression. Individuals should not be too busy for good nutrition. Lack of good nutrition ends up affecting your lifestyle. Anyone in this kind of situation definitely needs help.
Good nutrition includes the six sections of the food pyramid, which are: grains, vegetables, fruits, milk, oils, meat and beans
The body gets everything it needs to nurture itself when you eat the recommended daily allowance of each category. Good nutrition gives the body energy, fat, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. All these are important for a healthy lifestyle.

  1. Exercise

Proper exercise is another step towards achieving how to overcome depression. It is a part of a person’s holistic wellness. Proper exercise can always result in the decrease or total elimination of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and obesity.
Individuals should not be too busy for proper exercise because it always involves the movement of the body. When the body does not move, it will stop functioning. Not exercising and gaining unhealthy weight can lead to illness and then, death.

Proper exercise keeps the body conditioned to work. It simply gives the energy, stamina, flexibility and healthy weight to perform everyday activities, as well as help out in the prevention of diseases.

  1. Relaxation techniques

Some relaxation techniques can be used, to overcome depression. Some of them are:

i. Imagery

This is a relaxation technique that uses the power of your imagination to reduce anxiety, induce feelings of peace and calm, and bring on a general sense of well-being.

ii. Deep breathing relaxation

This is simply the action of breathing deeply, as the speed of normal, quiet breathing is deliberately reduced. The purpose of deep breathing is to relax the body and calm the mind.

Deep breathing is also known as belly breathing, diaphragmatic breathing, and abdominal breathing. It is an important step towards how to overcome depression because it helps in easing stress, and it is an easy way to relax and let your worries go. It can be done pretty much anywhere, and it only takes a few minutes.

It can also lower your blood pressure and relax tense muscles. Deep breathing relaxation skills can help you reduce mental (self-doubts and worry), and physical anxiety (nausea and shaking).

  1. Motivation

Motivation is the drive that makes you continue or persistently do your activities. It energises, ignites, and drives you towards your goals. Without motivation, an individual will not put in the necessary work to become better. Therefore, to overcome depression, you must identify what motivates you. It might be extrinsic (external motivation), or intrinsic (internal motivation).

  1. Goal-setting

This is the process of identifying something that you want to accomplish and establishing how you want to achieve it. Goal-setting helps you to understand where you are currently, and where you would like to be in the nearest future. Goal-setting is an important step in the journey towards how to overcome depression because it can help individuals with setbacks, or disappointments from depression, to get back on track.
The following principles must guide your goal-setting as your goals must:

i. Be specific

ii. Be measurable

iii. Be achievable

iv. Be realistic

v. Be timebound

vi. Have feedback

For your goals to be effective, they must include:

i. Direction: Knowing exactly what you want to achieve.

ii. Motivation: Desire and determination to achieve your goals.

iii. Self-efficacy: Believing in your ability to achieve your goals, even when there are obstacles.

iv. Commitment: Staying true to practising and working hard towards achieving your goals.

v. Focus: Fully concentrated on achieving your goals.

  1. Medication

Across the world, and in Nigeria, antidepressants are medicines that treat depression. They may help improve the way your brain uses certain chemicals that control mood or stress. There are several types of antidepressants:

i. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI).

ii. Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI).

iii. Tricyclic antidepressants (TCA).

iv. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI).

Key Facts of Depression According to the World Health Organisation

  1. Depression is a common mental disorder.
  2. Depression is a leading cause of disability worldwide, and a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease.
  3. More women are affected by depression than men.
  4. Depression can lead to suicide.
  5. There is an effective treatment for mild, moderate, and severe depression.


Depression as a common psychological health condition is often times neglected by sufferers and society at large. As a condition that can eventually lead to death, it is important to quickly identify the early signs and commence the necessary treatment immediately. Remember, you deserve a depression-free life.

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About Author

Avatar of Moses Olurotimi Olawoye
Moses Olurotimi Olawoye
Sport connoisseur, with bias towards Athletics and Football | Mental and Physical Health enthusiast, with bias towards Sport Psychology and Exercise Physiology | Safety connoisseur, with bias towards Occupational Safety | Sport shutterbug, with bias towards Kinetics | Seasoned Writer, with bias towards Content writing, Technical writing and Ghost writing.

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