Recently, I’ve been in a slump. I haven’t visited as many business owners as I would like, and the phone just seemed to be so heavy when it came to making initial and follow-up calls. Naturally, this led to a hit on my income, which in turn led to making a few notches in my proverbial belt as I tightened it in order to survive. That’s not a great feeling.
I had to pull myself out of the pit I dug for myself. This required some serious self-examination. I asked myself: Why did I fall into a rut? What negative habits did I develop? How can I pull myself out of the hole? These questions led to even more internal probing, all of which led to me getting back on a more productive path. While I’m not quite where I want to be yet, I decided to share this particular part of my journey in the hopes it will help a few of you.
[NOTE: I’m not offering medical advice. I’m simply relating a situation that happened in my life and my resulting observations/reactions. If depression persists, seek the help of qualified professionals]
Why Did I Fall Into a Rut?
There are many answers to this question. In my case, the culprit was one that attacks tons of people each day. This ruthless predator is so “equal opportunity” in its relentless drive to beat us down that it makes the EEOC and equivalent organizations worldwide seem downright prejudicial in comparison. It’s so persistent in its efforts that it almost fades into the white noise of life. It’s so consistent in its efforts that, if it were a salesperson, you’d give it awards for being your top producer! What am I talking about? The Big “D” – Depression. I got into an epic battle with it, and for a while I lost.
Some of you who know me may think, “Come on, Kerwyn! What do you have to be depressed about?” I’ll let you in on a secret: Tweet: Depression doesn’t care whether or not you have a “good” reason to let him in. He’s going to work his hardest to break down the door. He’s pretty gifted in his ability to find a chink in your armor. How widespread is work-related depression? Notice this report found in the April 22, 2001 issue of Awake! magazine:
“Stress, anxiety and depression on the job affect as many as one in 10 workers worldwide,” reports the Paris daily International Herald Tribune. A study by the UN International Labor Organization found that work-induced stress costs Europe and the United States over $120 billion a year. The rise in job-related depression is said to be due, in part, to the technology revolution, which has put additional stress on workers. The Tribune reported that in the United States, some “200 million working days are lost annually due to work-related mental health problems” and that in Finland over half the work force suffers from stress-related problems. Additionally, some 30 percent of workers in Britain are said to have mental-health problems, and 5 percent suffer from major depression. – “Watching the Word: Rising Depression at Work”
Since there’s a significant chance you’ll be affected by depression, you need to fortify yourself against it. You can start by examining your habits.
What Negative Habits Did I Develop?
Depression exists between your ears. I’m not saying that things don’t happen to you. What I’m saying is what happened to you isn’t as important as how you react to what happened to you. In my case, depression set in because of things I started doing, and things I stopped doing. These became my new, self-destructive habits. Some of them were:
- Not planning my day. It sounds like a simple thing, but when I plan my day before the day begins, I approach life with more clarity. I have an overall grasp of what I’m doing and a way to see if I’m keeping on track.
- Not focusing on my faith. For me, this meant not reading the Bible enough, considering Christian publications, and praying. For others, that translates into not focusing time on the central philosophies and beliefs that define your world. Depression sets in easily if we’re not grounded in our core teachings.
- Not investing in my professional life. I stopped consistently attending conference calls (or at least catching them on replay) that are centrally to becoming better at my craft. When I don’t invest in myself professionally, my performance takes a hit – in this case, a big one.
- Not reading upbuilding things. What I feed my mind is important. It stands to reason if I don’t feed my mind anything, especially something good, then I’m slowly starving myself intellectually. Trust me, your mind will find a way to fill that void with something – and you may not like what it is. In my case, I started…
- Watching too much junk. I’m not bad-mouthing anything on television. However, I’m doing myself a disservice if I’m not accomplishing my goals but spending time lost in the lives of TV personalities.
You’ll notice that all the things listed came down to choices, and I made bad ones. Nothing listed above is earth-shattering by itself. However, the cumulative effort compounded over time ended up derailing me. To fix things, I had to make different choices. In order to do so, I first had to acknowledge the problem. Once I admitted that there was something wrong with me, I could then ask…
How Can I Pull Myself Out of the Hole?
As I mentioned before, depression exists between your ears. The symptoms above (my daily actions) were a clue. They all point to a shift in my thinking. Although the symptoms themselves are physical manifestations of the problem nestled in my brain, by changing those activities, you start to affect the source. That’s good, because the alternative is physically altering your brain, and I’m not a fan of auto-lobotomy. However, by changing the way we act, adjusting the things we watch and read, and by undertaking activities that improve our spirituality, we also change our thought patterns. One article on the subject (“Negative Emotions – Can You Overcome Them?” 1992) states the following:
“Many who work in the field of mental health maintain that our feelings are caused by our thoughts. For example, Dr. Wayne Dyer points out: ‘You cannot have a feeling (emotion) without first having experienced a thought.’ Dr. David D. Burns further states: ‘Every bad feeling you have is the result of your distorted negative thinking.’”[i]
How can we change our thinking? The following article (“Negative Emotions – How Can They Be Overcome?” 1992) offered a four-step process:
- Identify the negative thought. I did that by asking the soul-searching questions outlined above. You can do something similar.
- Work on correcting the negative thoughts. This takes time and effort. When you find yourself thinking negatively, immediately replace the thought with a positive spin on things. For example, when I think “I suck at cold calls,” I remind myself “No one likes cold calls, but we all get better at them the more we do them.” Recognize that this process takes time, so don’t beat yourself up if results aren’t immediate (an important point for all you impatient types out there).
- Work at dismissing the troublesome thought from your mind. Push the negative thought out as vigorously as you would reject the idea of committing a serious crime (for you Sherlock fans, this likely even works for high-functioning sociopaths).
- Get absorbed in something else. Tweet: Negative thoughts have a way of creeping back in unless something else takes their place. As Dr. Maxwell Maltz states as quoted in the article: “When your phonograph is playing music you don’t like, you do not try to force it to do better….You merely change the record being played and the music takes care of itself. Use the same technique on ‘music’ that comes out of your own internal machine.”[ii]
Like any epic battle in history (rap or otherwise), winning means going hard or going home. Depression doesn’t play, and neither can you. The good news is you can win. If you’re willing to admit you have a problem, then face it head on by taking appropriate and decisive action, you’ll knock out the Big “D” and watch it go down like it was sucker-punched. Then keep on doing the things that helped you win the fight.