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Handling Depression

Chapter 3: Handling Depression

Tools for Anger Work-Out

By: James J. Messina, Ph.D.


How does my depression manifest itself?

When depressed, I experience:

  • a loss of enthusiasm for life.
  • a lack of energy for self-growth.
  • confusion as to what is the meaning of life for me.
  • a blue funk.
  • a lack of excitement or appreciation for my accomplishments in life.
  • lethargy, tiredness, and exhaustion.
  • an inordinate desire to sleep.
  • a flat emotional affect.
  • boredom with my life, job, family, friends.
  • the absence of spontaneity or joie de vivre.
  • a lack of desire to keep on keeping on.
  • the feeling that the world would be better off if I no longer existed.
  • the desire to run away or end it all.
  • the feeling that I am only an observer of life and not involved in it.
  • a sense of living in slow motion.
  • a feeling of energy and drive in the midst of a crises, deadline, or tragedy.
  • tearfulness and weeping for no apparent reason.
  • loneliness, isolation, a lack of being connected to the others in my life.
  • apathy, discontent, and a hollow feeling regarding my day to day existence.

What are some causes of my depression?

I feel depressed when I:

  • experience a failure or loss in life.
  • hold in my anger.
  • review my past life and fail to see a meaning or reason for it.
  • have a conflict, disagreement, or fight with those I either live or work with.
  • feel guilty over something I have done or said.
  • have been criticized or found to be lacking.
  • doubt my ability to be successful.
  • let myself down by not being as perfect or as accomplished as I would like to be.
  • face the futility of the human condition.
  • don't feel approved by someone whose approval I am seeking.
  • experience a major change in my life.
  • have accomplished something that has taken much energy and effort, i.e., the birth of child, a marriage, a divorce, landing a new job, graduating from school.
  • have to deal with death.
  • experience rejection in a relationship.
  • sense that I have no control over the negative experiences in my life.
  • realize that others question my competence, judgment, knowledge, ability, or worth.
  • doubt my decisions, actions, or accomplishments.
  • recognize that I am powerless in the face of addictive or compulsive behavioral problems.
  • am on vacation or have a day off.
  • experience the holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year's, Valentine's Day, etc.)
  • continue to respond with the behavioral role pattern I learned in my dysfunctional family.
  • am ill or disabled.
  • hear news that has affected others adversely.
  • realize that my dreams for the future are unrealistic; fantasies with no possibility of ever being accomplished.
  • am confused over my direction, goals, or priorities in life.
  • learn something new about life, something which if I had known earlier would have made my life more pleasant or successful.
  • continue to not know what normal is, have no idea of normal behavior, or healthy behavior.
  • am unable to connect with people in healthy relationships.
  • can't identify the reason for my unhappy, sad, or worried feelings.
  • ignore my need to express anger in a healthy, productive manner.
  • feel inadequate.
  • continue to rely on crises, deadlines, or tragedies to overcome my lethargy and lack of energy.
  • am jealous of those I perceive to have achieved the ideal life.
  • have a chemical imbalance, physical or biological, needing medical attention.

What irrational beliefs lead me into depression?

  • I should not make mistakes.
  • People should automatically recognize my worth and value.
  • It is wrong for me to show my anger.
  • It is a sin to be angry at my parents' behavior toward me.
  • I should not disagree with others.
  • People should accept me the way I am.
  • My loved ones should not leave me, should not die.
  • I should not get sick or disabled.
  • What I do should be done perfectly.
  • I should be rewarded in life for my hard work and sacrifices.
  • Things should not change.
  • I should be happy when I am successful.
  • The holiday season should be the happiest time of my year.
  • I should be in control over all aspects of my life.
  • I work best under pressure.
  • If you want a thing done, give it to a busy person.
  • I am unable to avoid the crises in my life.
  • I should be able to solve problems that come my way.
  • I am only worthwhile if I accomplish something visibly productive on a daily basis.
  • I should not consider my current problems or behavior as a reflection of the way I was reared.
  • My goals in life should be clear.
  • I should not be suffering today because of the way I was reared.
  • Relationships should be established and maintained with ease.
  • Others should know what I need from them without my having to ask; it's perfectly clear.
  • I should have been more successful, but others held me back.

What are the negative effects of depression

When I feel depressed I:

  • find others unwilling to get involved with me, actually avoiding me.
  • have self-destructive or suicidal thoughts.
  • escape into unhealthy behavior patterns.
  • withdraw from life and face my problems passively.
  • escape into watching TV, reading, daydreaming or other obsessive but passive behavior.
  • ignore my creativity, imagination, and ingenuity in facing my problems.
  • procrastinate, feeling overwhelmed by my responsibilities, duties, and tasks.
  • turn off my positive emotional response to life.
  • ignore my personal health with poor personal hygiene, no weight control, and lack of proper exercise.
  • get hooked on the need for the adrenalin rush that comes with a crisis, a deadline, or other pressures, even tragedies to get me through life.
  • am anxious, nervous, tense, and uptight for no apparent reason.
  • feel like a loser.


How can I overcome my depression?

In order to overcome depression I need to:

  • recognize that I am depressed.
  • have a complete physical exam to rule out a physiological cause for my depression.
  • determine whether the depression is situation specific (related to a current situation in my life) or chronic (a part of my behavior for a long period of time).
  • identify the causes of my depression.
  • change my irrational thinking and develop a more realistic perspective.
  • accept that anger is the basis for my depression, and make a concerted effort to do anger work-out sessions daily to lessen its impact.
  • realize that depression is a fact of life, that it accompanies loss, grief, and even success.
  • find a place in my life for relaxation efforts such as self-hypnosis, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation.
  • use visual imagery to see my life without depression and put my energy into the pursuit of a positive goal.
  • develop a crisis prevention, time management, and catastrophic intervention plan of action.
  • develop a balanced lifestyle with good nutrition, a balanced diet, aerobic exercise, adequate sleep and stress reduction.
  • work at self-esteem enhancement, self-affirmation, self-reinforcement.
  • commit myself to a specific plan of action to overcome my depression.

What steps can I take to handle depression?


Step 1: I will review this chapter, then answer the following questions in my journal:

  • How effectively do I cope with life?
  • How can I recognize depression in my life?
  • What symptoms of depression do I currently experience?
  • What current life situations contribute to my depression?
  • What explanations clarify my chronic state of depression?
  • How does my current situational depression exacerbate my chronic depression?
  • How do I feel about admitting that I am depressed?
  • What hinders my efforts to overcome my depression?
  • What feedback do I get from others that alerts me that depression is a problem for me?
  • How is my depression related to my low self-esteem?


Step 2: Once I have explored the symptoms of depression and admitted that I am depressed, I will attempt to identify the causes. I will answer the following questions in my journal:

  • How did life in my family of origin result in my current depression?
  • What losses have I experienced in the last five years to explain my current depression?
  • What successes or achievements in the past five years have I experienced that might explain this current depression?
  • What does my family doctor or psychiatrist say about the physical, biological or chemical contribution to my depression?
  • How do I feel about the need for medication to keep me in chemical balance?
  • What is my family history of depression?
  • Which relatives had depression or had breakdowns?
  • What is my family history of suicide?
  • How do I feel about the concept of having a genetic predisposition to depression?
  • What are the causes for both chronic and situational depression in my life? (Put these in your journal in separate lists.)
  • How does my need for excitement in crises, deadlines, pressures, and tragedy relate to my depression?


Step 3: Once I have identified the causes of my chronic and/or situational depression, I need to identify my irrational beliefs that contribute to my depression. I can work to refocus my thinking. To do this I will answer the following questions in my journal:

  • How rational or realistic is my current thinking?
  • What beliefs contribute to my current depression?
  • What is the source of these beliefs?
  • What is the worst thing that could happen if I no longer hold on to these beliefs?
  • What rational beliefs could I substitute to overcome my depression?


Step 4: Once I have begun to rethink and rewrite my irrational beliefs, I need to address the negative effects of depression in my life by answering the following questions in my journal:

  • What effect does my depression have on my relationships? In my marriage? My family? My friends? My co-workers?
  • In what self-destructive behavior do I currently engage?
  • How withdrawn or passive have I become? How can I become more assertive?
  • How does escapism defer my personal growth and happiness?
  • What keeps me from taking control of my time, eliminating procrastination, and facing my depression?
  • What positive aspects of my life do I seem to ignore?
  • How does the condition of my body reflect the state of my depression? What positive steps would improve my physical response to depression?
  • How is my anxiety and tension manifested? How can I reduce its impact on me?
  • How often do I feel like a loser? At what am I a winner? How much do I work at being a winner? How deeply can I commit to the following belief: To be a winner in life I only need to be a winner at what I do best and admit that I am a winner.
  • How committed am I to overcoming my depression?


Step 5: Now that I have reviewed the negative impact of depression in my life, I will record my plan of action to overcome my depression.

Action Plan for Overcoming Depression

I am depressed.I have the following forms of depression:

  • Chronic depression:
  • Situational depression:
The causes of my depression are:
  • Chronic:
  • Situational:
The irrational beliefs that contribute to my depression include:The new beliefs I need to help lessen my depression include:I will work on the following anger to uproot my depression:
  • Chronic:
  • Situational:
I will perform the following anger work-out activities to reduce my depression:I will use visual imagery daily in the following ways:My plan for a balanced life includes:
  • nutrition and diet
  • exercise, aerobic and other
  • adequate hours of sleep
  • relaxation activities
My plan for building self-esteem includes:
  • self-affirmation
  • self-hypnosis
  • visual imagery
I will take the following steps to determine if there is a physical, biological, or chemical basis for my depression:
  • appointments with family doctor for complete physical exam
  • lab work as needed
  • prescriptions as needed
  • therapy as needed
I commit to this plan and will review it on a monthly basis.


Step 6: I will lessen my depression using the tools I have been given. I will assess the status of my depression. If it has not improved, I will go back to Step 1 and begin the steps again.