The last couple of days I have been depressed. I’ve found it hard to concentrate on work or muster much of any desire to do anything.

I’ve felt anxious. My heart seemed like it was trying to break itself out of my chest. My breathing was short and tight.

I’ve felt a lack of presentness. No matter how much I tried to focus on what was around me, I constantly fell back into the same thought loops. I could not pay attention in conversations, particularly those in a different language (a big problem abroad!)

I’ve felt hopeless. Like my current life path was a failure, like my relationship was a failure, and like I was a failure. I’ve felt like I had to escape everything and start over.

I’ve felt like I was in hell. Trapped.

And as I write this, I am not completely out of it.

But fortunately (sort of) this is not my first rodeo. I’ve been depressed before… and god knows I’ll be depressed again.

I am not ashamed of it.

(and if you are struggling with it, you shouldn’t be either)

But it is also something I will not allow myself to succumb to.

(Disclaimer: I do not consider myself an expert in dealing with depression. This is personal, not medical advice.)

That being said, here are some of things about it I’ve learned and found helpful in handling it.

Cloud Of Depression Insight #1: Depression may or may not happen for a reason. What is crucial is you do not make a big deal out of it.

Let’s not beat around the bush: depression sucks. But getting depressed over your depression is among the worst things you can do to get out of it.

The reality is that life happens. Some incidents may take us by surprise and upend our lives. But more broadly whether or not “anything” happened, some of us are more disposed psychologically to depression. That doesn’t mean you make yourself into a victim and excuse it, but it does mean that you accept your depression is happening. And that it’s ok.

This step is important, because many people when they experience the cloud of depression fall into the trap of thinking their mental state is reality. They lose perspective that they are always in control of their destiny and emotions. They forget that just because they feel like crap now it doesn’t mean their feelings are the “truth.”

Instead, they double down on the fact that their life sucks and make things worse. They become more depressed. And if they do this long enough, they start to make their fears a reality, sending them into a vicious cycle.

Do not do this.

If depression is just a thing that happens, you know not to take it seriously nor to indulge it. You let it be. This downplaying sets the stage for the other steps to work more effectively, and for you to get back to normal.

Cloud Of Depression Insight #2: Depression can shed light on deeper truths about yourself and your life. Be grateful for this gift.

Depression may feel bad, but it’s not useless. Depression sheds light on aspects of your life and yourself that you’ve been ignoring. It can be very illuminating of new areas for growth and weak spots. In a depressed state, problems that have been put aside come to life.

Though you should avoid tunnel-vision on these issues – which is a trap that will keep you under a cloud of depression – these are great opportunities to take a step back and ask yourself “why.”

The issues you are focusing on may or may not be the real issues (usually, they are symptoms), but engaging in this socratic method on yourself will help you to get to the heart of your fears. Following your emotional responses in a depressed state can get you closer to truth (and be more receptive to it) than you normally would be.

(Note: This DOESN’T mean that your thoughts (let alone your “solutions” and fantasies) you have while depressed are reasonable – remember depression is not a rational state – but it does mean you these emotions to guide your introspection.)

Don’t make any rash decisions on whatever you find out, but keep that information in the back of your mind and prepare yourself to act on it.

Cloud Of Depression Insight #3: Depression seemingly strikes randomly, but often grows on fields freshly sown with immature actions.

My depression tends to come in waves. Bad times follow good times and vice-versa.

Yet there is a reason for these trends beyond coincidence. Almost invariably when I fall under a cloud of depression it has to do with me somehow breaking a promise to myself that I held core to my identity.

As I try to become a better man, I hold myself to higher standards of behavior. When I break those standards, I suffer emotionally and – depending on other factors – this can send me into a depressed state.

For the record: I am not suggesting this is entirely a good way of thinking. I am probably too hard on myself at times. My point is simply to illustrate that actions against our soul and values always affect our self-respect, which creates a cascade of psychological repercussions.

(An aside: Holding yourself to standards and subjecting yourself to *moderate,* temporary shame for breaking them is appropriate and a key path towards reaching your true potential. What is not appropriate is chronic self-reproachment and following other people’s standards for approval. But we will not go into that now.)

Emotional pain and depression is a reminder from your core that you are going in the wrong direction. It is your instincts talking to you.

Developing better habits goes a long way to preserving your finite willpower and moving towards a more mature, evolved state of living – one that better serves your goals. But truly, good habits tend to develop themselves naturally when you are perfectly aligned with what you want.

Be aware of the impulsive actions in your life and avoid them. It will help you in the future to avoid depression.

Cloud Of Depression Insight #4: Depression and anxiety are ultimately the result of your mind being trapped in a loop. Get out of it.

The mind-body connection is real. The more you strengthen you body, the more you strengthen your mind.

Depression is largely the result of poor focus and energy, which is caused by a weak and lazy mind. Therefore, to avoid and mitigate depression, strengthening your body is key.

Most of this summer I’ve been feeling great mentally. And in large part I credit that to a strong workout program, which had me lifting consistently throughout the week.

On this trip, however, I’ve had to forego that workout program… and even though I’ve done a few smaller exercises to try and mitigate the drop-off, I’m feeling the lack of deadlifts both physically and psychologically.

This is, incidentally, why many big runners run so much. They suffer from depression and the running is their “drug” to get high.

However, although exercise does release endorphins, this is not the only benefit of exercise. Exercise also gets you out of your head.

This is why things like social media and clickbait are so bad for you psychologically, and why meditation and meeting and communicating with people – even if you won’t want to – is so beneficial. While the former actions keep your mind spinning and damage your focus, the latter take your mind out of its loop and put it into the real world.

Sure, it’ll suck – but you’ll feel better after.

Cloud Of Depression Insight #5: If you are depressed, act and move. Depression belies a broader lack of energy and momentum.

At it’s crux, depression isn’t just an emotional state. It’s an energy state. People under a cloud of depression have both low energy and bad focus, which they struggle to correct.

We talked about things like exercise and meditation to help on this front, but ultimately such actions are only supplementary. If you want lasting change, you must take broader action towards your big goals – to the things you inspire you and are most afraid of.

Depressed men are in a state of fear and hopelessness. They feel like losers and think negative thoughts.

Change this focus and channel your energy towards things that challenge you and raise you up, and this will change.

This isn’t easy at first. Every bone in your body will be telling you to double down on feelings of inadequacy and to curl yourself up in a ball (both figuratively and perhaps literally).

But if you go out there and push through anyway, things will start to change.

Nothing exacerbates a cloud of depression like inaction. And nothing mutes it like dogged determination.

Cloud Of Depression Bonus Insight: Avoid mind-numbing substances and activities that affect your dopamine levels. These only perpetuate depression long-term.

As I am not a medical expert, I am not going to comment on depression medication, nor am I going to comment on psychedelic drugs (I have never tried them).

But numbing, emotional-state altering drugs like alcohol and marijuana are things you should use in moderation and avoid leaning on when you’re depressed.

The reality is these drugs give you an artificial “high.” But these highs don’t come for free: they are always followed by a low.

That dull and/or euphoric feeling you get from drinking is not solving your emotional anxiety, it is prolonging it and deepening it.

Years ago I noticed an interesting cycle. Every week I would go through a high and low. Sundays through tuesdays I would be “low,” thursdays through saturdays, “high.” 

You might think this was just because of the work-week cycle, but in truth that had very little to do with it. The reality was I drank throughout the long weekend, experienced euphoria, and then crashed afterwords when I realized I had no excuse to drink more.

Sounds like low-level alcoholism, right? It was, except I wasn’t conscious of it (and most drinkers aren’t either). The power of the drug is stronger than most of us realize. When I backed off that cycle my moods were far less erratic.

I will write about alcohol in a separate post, but for now just keep in mind that feeling of numbness you are seeking is not solving your depression, it is avoiding it. And it is stopping you from addressing the deeper reasons why it is occurring in the first place.


Depression is a very personal matter. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to handling it, and the reality is it might take years of depression for you to finally start to understand on a visceral level these truths (a point essential for change to occur).

If your depression is so serious that you experience suicidal thoughts, close this article and go see a doctor.

But if you are just looking to get through a trough, try this stuff out. And let me know how it goes.

– Pat

PS A lot of working through depression depends on working through damaging beliefs. As an NLP certified trainer, I go through that when working with my coaching clients. See if it’s right for you here: www.patstedman.com/coaching