Thursday, October 21, 2010

Depression and Taking Control of Your Life

Taking control of your life can prevent you from running your ship aground.  But even if you fail to avoid the reef, at least you took action - which ends up being better for your mental health.

As I have harped upon consistently in this blog, your mental health and financial health are closely related.  Most Americans seem to suffer from some form of depression - from mild to wild - and as a result take no action in their lives to improve their lot.

As as we noted before, learned helplessness is a condition that results when people believe that their actions make no difference in their lives.  Rather than take action in their lives, they lay down and whimper, doing nothing.

So the depressed office worker comes home from the job he is "trapped" in, and see no utility in trying to improve his life, flops down on the couch for a night of "reality TV" and delivery pizza.  He gains another pound in weight, and his credit card balance goes up another $20.  "Oh well," he says, "What can you do?  I am just so beat from my job!"

And this may describe you at some time in your life - perhaps now.  I know that I went through this phase as well.  We all feel "beaten down" from time to time.

But the answer is not to give up and indulge yourself, but rather to take action and take control of your life - even if you fail at it.  And that is the problem right there - people shy away from being assertive or aggressive in their own lives, for fear that they may fail.  So they settle for a guaranteed slow failure due to inaction.

Taking control in your life can make you feel better and help you control your finances.  The secret is to start out small and work your way up.  Taking on grandiose overwrought projects that are certain to fail, and then failing at them, only adds to your depression.

Making very simple changes in your life can improve your attitude - anything from changing your haircut to cleaning out a room.  Once you accomplish one thing, it reinforces the behavior that you can control your life and take charge - which leads to other accomplishments.

And yet, many people do not take advantage of what little control they have over their own lives.  They give up too easily, saying "Why bother?  Whatever I do doesn't make a difference anyway!"

And that is what causes depression - the inability to associate your actions with altering your environment.  When a person feels helpless and out of control of their life, they not only feel worthless, but feel that life is just a series of events thrown at them, with little rhyme or reason.

And yes, life is that way, to some extent.  But you have take advantage of what little options you have.

It is like a friend of mine who was in a car crash.  Convinced she was going to go into a ditch, she let go of the steering wheel and "braced for impact".  She rolled and totaled the car, but was not hurt.  But it was all avoidable, of course.  If she had only kept her hands on the wheel, she could have avoided the ditch.  But she gave up without trying, and that is a shame.

Do something to take control of your life.  Whatever it is, and it can be something very small.  But once you realize that you can pull the levers and make things happen, better things will happen to you.

Just a thought....