Situational Depression – What is it and how can I help it?

What is Situational Depression?

Situational depression is a depression brought on from life events, seasons and other outside factors that send you spiraling out of control.  Situational depression is a very real depressive disorder that is brought about by life circumstances.  It can be triggered by the death of a loved one, loss of a job, dissatisfaction with goals, break-up of a relationship or simply life’s stressors piling up.

What Makes Us Unique?

Humans have the unique ability in the animal world to reason and think logically.  No other species known to science other than cetaceans(dolphins) or primates function as logically as humans do.   There is little way for us to know this, but some believe dogs, cats and pigs can do this as well.  So why is thinking logically such an issue?

This ability to think logically has its advantages and disadvantages.  Our ability to reason is the beginning of our greatest depressions and greatest joys.  We see the big picture unlike most species in the world.  It’s the big picture that allows us to think ahead in life and make false estimations on where we will be and how we can get there.  This is where we truly shine and dull as humans.

We work towards goals, due to this abstract thinking concept of estimations of the future.  Primates and cetaceans don’t see the big picture as we do, and most likely don't plan too far in the future to achieve goals outside of the short-term.  No dolphin is wondering what it will do when it's too old to hunt, or can't eat because their offspring are hanging out with the wrong crowd of dolphins.

The Big Picture

It is the big picture that provides the greatest level of sorrow in a human's mind.  Situational depression wouldn’t exist for us unless we could see the big picture.  Animals can get situational depression as well, but for different reasons.   Animal cannot help their situation that perpetuates their depression in most cases,  humans can!  Whether it be a damaging relationship, draining job, or your personal appearance that is getting you down… you can change the situation. We also have the ability to change our perspective more so than any other animal in the kingdom.

Butterflies Clogging Your Radiator?

While living in Argentina years ago, I heard of a man who was driving his car through the Pampas (grasslands) in the south of the country.  The spring flowers were in full bloom for early summer and the birds and butterflies flew effortlessly through the sky.  It was a lovely day until the man’s car overheated and broke down.  As the man sat surprised at the steam rising from his hood, he couldn’t understand what had caused him to break down on the side of the road.  The weather was perfect and he had just had the car serviced the week earlier.  The man begrudgingly left the car and opened the steaming hood.  As he lifted the hood, thousands of butterflies flew from the engine compartment.  He soon realized what had caused the car to overheat and subsequently break down.  Plastered to the radiator of the car were thousands of dead butterflies. So many that the radiator could no longer get sufficient airflow and cool the engine.

Aggregation of Stressors

We are much like this car and the butterflies can be little stressors and minor problems.  Small things add up to a big problem over time.  The more you pile on your proverbial radiator, the harder it is to cool down... and before long you blow your steam.  It’s the little things in life that mount up, causing our situational depression.

This was the case for me many times in life, and I suspect it is for you as well.  Depression can be precipitated by many factors.  Factors for my declining mental health were more than one single event.  It’s was a slow process of stressors that grew into a cycle of thinking and behavior.  I call this the vicious cycle.  A vicious cycle can be anything from thinking patterns, to a bad relationship or employment issues.  A vicious cycle feeds itself making you feel more and more depressed and stressed leading to complete breakdown and catastrophic failure. All it takes is one thing... and POW!!!

Helping Situational Depression

Many times it's not the situation itself, but everything leading up to the breakdown that creates the breakdown.  Other times it's not.  Obviously a death of a loved one requires grieving and warrants some level of depressive thinking.   As long as that event doesn't breakdown all the other aspects of your life.  Allowing ourselves to dwell and fixate on the negatives that have happened is what perpetuates the vicious cycle and ultimately depression.

In order to help with this, we need to scrape our "radiators" of the butterflies that clog it.  We need to understand that life throws us curve balls and obstacles.  We need to decompress our thoughts, and take time to be mindful of who we are and what really matters.  We can see the big picture in life.  We can see the forest through the trees.  Take time to ground yourself, scrape the stressors off, and believe that the big picture is more important that the here and now.

What is the big picture you ask?

Be happy, love yourself and others and everything else in life will fall into place.  When we begin to be unhappy, hate ourselves and others, we are truly alone in this world and unable and unwilling to self-regulate our mindfulness.  Being mindful is the big picture.  The unique ability of our existence to either think positively or negatively about every circumstance is our true calling in the world.  Choose to think positively about EVERY situation and watch the situational depression be scraped off your mind like butterflies off a radiator.

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