Depression, CBT & Ten steps to recovery

If you’re currently battling depression, then it very likely feels like there’s no way out. Suggestions from well-meaning friends and family about how to ‘snap out of it’ or comments about you needing to ‘realise just how lucky you are’ are not only way off the mark, but will often push you deeper into feelings of isolation and being misunderstood.

And let’s not forget that it’s scary to think about making changes or getting your hopes up that certain things will help; because what if they don’t work then you have yet another thing to add to the reasons you’re a failure. (Which, by the way, you aren’t!)

I wish there was an easy answer but the truth of the matter is that you have to be a little bit brave, and you have to work at beating the black dog. BUT you absolutely don’t have to do it on your own.


What exactly is depression?

Unfortunately, in today’s society, the word ‘depression’ is bandied about willy-nilly; thus blurring the lines between feeling a bit down-in-dumps and actually struggling with a condition that impacts on every aspect of your wellbeing and life.

The reality of depression is that getting through a day feels like walking through treacle. Depression slows you in your tracks, causes a bombardment of negative thoughts and envelops you in a feeling of hopelessness. It causes irritability, low energy levels and lack of motivation. And it becomes a vicious circle; the slowing down, low energy and lack of motivation consequently give you more time to dwell on the negative thinking patterns that have been distorted by the low mood.

In my clinical practice, people also describe feeling a little detached and a sense that everyone else is getting on with things and they are different in some way. Clients also frequently talk about the guilt they feel in relation to their depression; about the fact they ‘have nothing to be depressed about’, about the impact it is having on those around them, about their inability to get things done due to lethargy and apathy.

If you have experienced a few of these symptoms for longer than a month then my recommendation is that, in the first instance, you seek advice for you GP. Depression IS very treatable and the sooner you get help quicker you will be working towards feeling yourself again.

Psychological symptoms of depression include:

• Continuous low mood or sadness
• Feeling hopeless and helpless
• Having low self-esteem
• Being tearful and generally more emotional
• Feeling guilt-ridden
• Irritability and being intolerant of others
• Having no motivation or interest in things
• Finding it difficult to make decisions
• Not getting any enjoyment out of life
• Feeling anxious or worried
• Having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming yourself

Physical symptoms of depression include:

• Lethargy and a general feeling of ‘slowing down’
• Change in appetite or weight
• Constipation
• Unexplained aches and pains
• Loss of libido
• Disturbed sleep (for example, finding it hard to fall asleep at night or waking up very early in the morning)

Social symptoms of depression include:

• Not doing well at work
• Taking part in fewer social activities and avoiding contact with friends
• Neglecting your hobbies and interests
• Having difficulties in your home and family life
• Wanting to isolate yourself

How can CBT help with depression?

CBT is the leading psychological treatment for depression – and it works! Research has consistently proven the positive effects. CBT will help you to understand your unique experience of depression and therefore provide you with your unique individual treatment and recovery plan.

With the help of an accredited CBT therapist, you will begin to see the vicious cycle of depression and learn to work towards recovery in easy steps.

One of the key reasons that people delay coming to sessions is because they are stuck in the mindset that nothing can help and so there is no point trying. Yet feeling like this – stuck and unable to see the way forward – is the key time to seek help.

‘A Guide to starting CBT Therapy’. will help you understand how CBT can help you, follow the link for the free download

The longer the depression lasts the more of a long-term impact it can have on your life, so early intervention is vital.

Ten things to do today to begin your journey of recovery

1. Have a good look at your day-to-day routine. Does it include anything that lifts your mood? We need to have a good range of ‘anti-depressant’ activities in each day to help elevate our mood as much as possible. This is even more important when we are feeling low.

2. Research has shown us that increasing activity is an important part of the treatment of depression; specifically, activities which increase our sense of achievement, motivation, and mastery. Make sure you consider these factors when deciding on the anti-depressant activities you are going to integrate into your daily life.

3. Don’t try to think your way out of depression. Your thinking is distorted when your mood is low you will be experiencing a negative bias. This is another reason for increasing activities and having less thinking time.

4. When you are depressed, your energy and motivation will be at an all-time low; it can literally feel like you are carrying huge weights on your shoulders. However, what research has proven is that if you can summon up at least a little bit of energy and become a bit busier, then, in time, the good feelings will begin to flow.

5. Practice mindfulness! There is significant evidence to show that practising mindfulness reduces relapse rates in depression. It helps you to observe your thoughts – but not get caught up with them. This distance from negative thinking is very important.

6. Stop telling yourself that taking the time to do things that will make you feel better equates to selfishness and self-indulgence. It doesn’t! If you had flu, you would slow down and nourish your body to aid recovering. Often with mental health, we see it as a weakness and criticise ourselves. Depression is a serious illness and you need to care for yourself properly in order to recover.

7. Practice self-compassion. Ask yourself how you would talk to a friend in this situation. What advise would they need? Every day, ask yourself what is best your wellbeing.

8. Don’t ignore the basics. Eat well, get enough sleep, keep a good routine, get outside, look after your self-care, and keep hydrated.

9. Stay connected to other people. Isolation is a key factor in depression because we want to isolate ourselves and really don’t feel up to the company of other people. However, we are designed to be social beings so if we are disconnected from other people then we suffer. Even if it’s just baby steps, start to get out and be around other people more.

10. Exercise as much as possible. It releases endorphins and serotonin, which are natural anti-depressants, and it is also known to improve sleep and anxiety.

It’s important to remember that there is no one quick fix for depression. You need to take a holistic approach to getting better, and to remember that is one thing doesn’t work then it just means you need to try something else.

Naturally, as a cognitive behavioural therapist, with 20 years experience in mental health, I absolutely recommend cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – based entirely on the consistently amazing improvements I witness in clients. Like all therapies, CBT obviously isn’t for everyone though. So, to find out if it could be right for you, a good starting point is my free download: ‘A Guide to starting CBT Therapy’ follow the link below


Where to get help with depression?
Your GP can provide an assessment and give you an overview of treatment options for depression.

For private CBT you can find fully accredited therapists in your area on

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Sarah Rees

Sarah is a fully accredited Cognitive Behavioural Therapist and mental health writer delivering Modern Mental Health for you and with you in Mind. Sarah is the author of ‘The CBT Journal’ which helps you write for your wellbeing incorporating CBT techniques. For more information and to keep in touch have a look at