Major depression causes an overwhelming sadness, and it can change how you feel about yourself, often leading to low self-esteem and a negative self-image. During depression, you may look in the mirror and have a hard time finding anything to feel positive about.
“How a person views themselves can tip from a ‘glass half-full’ to a ‘glass half-empty’ perspective or worse,” says Ian A. Cook, MD, associate professor in residence in the department of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA in Los Angeles, and research scientist at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute. Along withdepression symptoms that affect concentration, memory, organization, and decision-making, you may lose sight of your self-worth.
“There can be a disconnection between one’s present experience in the midst of depression and one’s entire lifetime of positive things, to the point that a person may nearly have forgotten past workplace successes, important contributions to the community, or vital role in a family,” says Dr. Cook. Your accomplishments may feel meaningless, regardless of how impressive they are.
How to Boost Your Self-Image
Low self-esteem may make the challenges you’re facing seem overwhelming. Counter the negative voice in your head with these strategies:
- Set attainable goals. Stay involved and productive at work or school and at home. Make your responsibilities achievable by breaking down tasks into smaller, more manageable segments; as you are able to tackle them one at a time, you will be able to rebuild your self-confidence one step at a time as well. Eventually, you’ll be ready to tackle more and bigger challenges.Accomplishing even a small task may help remind you that you are still capable of doing good things, says Cook.
- Elevate your mood with exercise. Think back to how good you felt after a challenging workout or a physical activity you really enjoyed, and you’ll know how important exercise is for boosting both your mood and your self-image.”Vigorous physical exercise is helpful in many ways,” says Cook. Many recreational activities include helpful social contact — even seeing people at the gym or on the running path — and they also provide short-term biological effects, such as “runner’s high.” Over the long term, exercise may also promote the brain’s neuroplasticity, its ability to change as it learns new things.
- Build a support system. When you’re battling depression, you might start to isolate yourself, but you have to fight against that urge. One of the best ways to cope with depression symptoms and improve low self-esteem is to turn to your family and friends for support and encouragement.”Studies have shown that having a safety net of friends can help buffer challenging times,” says Cook. “Sometimes an evening out with friends can offer a brief respite from total immersion in sadness.”
Make plans to spend some time with those closest to you, people who love you for who you are, and try to see some of the good that they see in you.
- Practice self-care. Cook also recommends putting renewed effort into your physical appearance. It’s not about vanity — it’s about caring for yourself again. When you let your appearance go, you send a message to the rest of the world that you don’t care about yourself, and you invite others not to care either, says Cook.Consider setting aside an hour to get a fresh haircut or a pampering treatment. Spruce up your wardrobe by buying a new outfit or suit. If you’re a woman, make the effort to put on your favorite makeup, especially if you’ve stopped wearing any. Putting some thought into how you look will help you feel more positive when you look into the mirror again. Remind yourself that you’re worth the effort.
Taking these small steps to boost your self-esteem can help you cope with your depression symptoms. By setting goals, calling on friends, and staying involved in activities you enjoy, you can regain your confidence and start to feel better about yourself.
Article by Diana Rodriguez
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