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posted: 1/31/2013 11:13 AM

Take action to get out of the doldrums

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I'm going to let you in on a professional secret: There is an effective, efficient and inexpensive treatment for mild depression or anxiety.

Feeling down in the dumps now and then, or feeling a bit uptight, is fairly normal. There are just bound to be times when we start to feel helpless and hopeless in the face of what life throws our way. And there are going to be other times when we get so overwhelmed by all the demands we face that our minds and emotions feel like they are going to spin out of control.

Short-term, low-level depression or anxiety, then, is simply part of life.

Now, if these feelings persist for long, or if they become severe, we need to consult a mental health professional as soon as possible. More often, though, we will wind up coping with such feelings on our own.

Certainly we can wait for our depression or anxiety to subside of their own accord. They usually do. It is possible, however, to feel less depressed or less anxious almost immediately if we are willing to use either of two simple remedies.

These miracle "cures?"

First, as I mentioned earlier, there are certainly very concrete reasons to get a bit down or uptight. So it is important that we take the time to ask ourselves what the cause of such feelings is and what we can do about it. Then we need to ask ourselves: "What's one thing I can do to make things better, even if it's only a little better?"

In most situations there is at least one thing we can come up with. It may not solve the problem, but often just taking some sort of positive action is all we need to do to feel better.

When our feelings are not tied to a particular cause but more to "the human condition," we can sometimes wind up wallowing in our depression or endlessly spinning in our anxiety.

And since there are a lot of depressing or anxiety producing things over which we have little if any control, we need another strategy to deal with them.

The second part of our cure, then, involves focusing less on ourselves and more on the people around us. It is a fact that as soon as we start thinking about others, we will think less about ourselves. When we spend some time helping others, we will have less time to feel depressed or anxious.

The good feelings we get when we help somebody else leave less space for the down-in-the-dumps or uptight feelings we might otherwise have. You can call it altruism, you can call it pragmatic other-centeredness, you can even call it love, but such a remedy can even make "the human condition" look a little better.

That's the secret: if there's something we can do, do it. If we can't do anything for ourselves, do something for somebody else. It's that simple.

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