One way to sabotage yourself is to take a single event and treat it as an ongoing source of negativity. “People who are unemployed do this a lot,” says Rego. “They’ve lost their job because of the economy and they personalize it.”
It’s also unhealthy to catastrophize—focus on the worst imagined outcome, even if it’s irrational. For example, don’t let concerns about money escalate into the conviction you’ll soon be homeless.
Instead of thinking, “I’ll never get another job,” try to say to yourself: “I will get another job. It just may take some time.”
Ever clash with a colleague or fight with a friend and then keep obsessively thinking about it, amplifying the anger, stress, and anxiety associated with the memory? Known as rumination, this type of thinking is linked to a greater risk of becoming or staying depressed.
While reflection is a good thing, and may help you solve problems, rumination does the opposite.
If you catch yourself ruminating, studies suggest it may help if you try to distract yourself, meditate, or redirect your thoughts. Cognitive behavioral therapy often targets rumination because it can be so damaging to mental health.
Retire your crystal ball
Very few (if any) of us are blessed with the ability to predict the future. But depressed people will often convince themselves they know what will happen a day, a month, or a year down the line. And it’s usually bad, if not downright catastrophic.
Fortunately, our dire predictions rarely come true.
Try to stay in the present. It’s much more manageable and you’re less likely to blow things out of proportion.
Don’t dwell on the past
It’s pretty pointless to tell yourself you should have done this or shouldn’t have done that. You can’t change the past, but you can live in the present.
Just accept that you made the best decisions you could have made with the information or resources you had at the time. Hindsight is always 20/20, so best to try to just let it go and don’t beat yourself up for perceived missteps.
And do a rumination check; ruminating about the past can generate anxiety, just as worry about the future.
Reach out to others
A hallmark of depression is isolation. It can happen easily if you’re not working, or you’re avoiding people because you’re depressed. But reinvigorating or expanding a social network provides an opportunity to get support, perhaps even from people in the same or a similar situation, says Rego.
“Once you start reconnecting with people, you get a sense they understand,” he says. “You get positive advice and encouragement and it’s often done in activities that end up being fun.”
Staying home alone will perpetuate the depression. Getting out with other people—even a little bit—will lift your spirits.