Feeling depressed, helpless, lost or extremely sad is something everyone experiences.
However, when a depressed mood or unbearable sadness is present for a long time – a couple of weeks or months – then it might meet the criteria for depression.
Depression affects over 264 million people worldwide. Between 76% and 85% of those experiencing depression do not seek or receive treatment for their disorder (World Health Organization, 2020a).
This article provides a starting point to understand depressive symptoms and also offers helping professionals resources to assist their patients with recovery.
Please note that the resources provided in this article are not a substitute for treatment from a medical professional. If you are suffering from depression or know someone who is, we recommend you seek help. Guidance is provided at the end of this article.
Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Stress & Burnout Prevention Exercises (PDF) for free. These science-based exercises will equip you and those you work with, with tools to manage stress better and find a healthier balance in your life.
This Article Contains:
2 Worksheets to Help Combat Depression
Individuals who experience depression often deal with difficult emotions and engage in unhelpful thought patterns that worsen their depression. One of those responses that is widely recognized is excessive guilt.
Excessive guilt is one of the distinctive symptoms of depression, as it is often exaggerated and experienced out of context (Pulcu, Zahn, & Elliott, 2013).
Typically, individuals with major depressive disorder feel guilty for their emotions and are often upset at themselves for being affected by depression, as they feel they are worthless for being in a depressive state.
One of the most common types of guilt experienced by individuals who have depression is called omnipotent responsibility guilt, which is defined as “taking responsibility for events which may be out of one’s control and feeling guilty about their consequences” (Pulcu et al., 2013, p. 312).
Often, individuals with depression take responsibility for situations they have little or no control over, causing them to feel a sense of overwhelming guilt, even when they had nothing to do with the outcome.
Understanding what parts of a situation you can control or influence is an essential part of seeking treatment for depression. The Control–Influence–Accept Model (Thompson & Thompson, 2008) originated as a means to help people be more productive at work.
However, the basic principles of the model aim to identify pieces of a situation that you can control or influence, as well as aspects of a situation you may have to adapt to or accept.
If these sound like issues you are struggling with, feel free to consult the following worksheets:
1. Control–Influence–Accept Model
This is a good activity for individuals with depression to help break down situations. The model allows better visualization of different aspects of a situation and what specifically can be controlled, instead of worrying about all the possible outcomes.
2. Guilt and Shame: Emotions That Drive Depression
Guilt and shame are two emotions that drive your emotions when depression manifests. This exercise will help you identify guilt and shame that drives your depression and provides suggestions for channeling those emotions to facilitate more positive thinking patterns.
Handouts for CBT Sessions
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one of the most widely recognized therapeutic approaches to treating a variety of mental health conditions, specifically depression and anxiety.
CBT operates on the principle that emotional reactions and behaviors are influenced by cognitions (Westbrook, Kennerley, & Kirk, 2011).
Our behavior is governed by these cognitions, meaning that someone with anxiety might display more anxious behavior or engage in negative thinking patterns.
When an individual is affected by depression, they can experience cognitive distortions that are negatively biased errors in thinking. When individuals experience automatic thoughts, they are typically consistent with their core beliefs about aspects of themselves, others, and the world (Rnic, Dozois, & Martin, 2016).
Therefore, individuals who are experiencing depressive thoughts or symptomatology tend to have negatively charged core beliefs, which activate negative automatic thoughts. The cycle of negative thinking causes the symptoms of depression to continue and consolidate negative thoughts as part of an individual’s emotional response.
Our worksheet on Unhelpful Thinking Patterns categorizes the unhelpful thinking patterns that are present when someone is experiencing depression. It also provides strategies for individuals to reconstruct their thinking and identify the negative thinking patterns they might engage in.
Because of negative thinking patterns or cognitions, individuals often develop negative beliefs about everyday situations. This may cause them to change their behavior.
This worksheet on Behavioral Experiments to Test Beliefs encourages you to challenge your negative thoughts or beliefs. You are assisted to develop a hypothesis from your beliefs and test whether your negative core beliefs actually come true.
It is a useful worksheet if you are trying to confront negative beliefs about a specific situation, such as going out in social situations, or struggling to leave home. Having a concrete situation will allow you to better challenge the negative thinking patterns you might experience.
2 Group Therapy Worksheets
Delivering CBT in a group therapy format is sometimes recommended for those who may benefit from a group to relate to when dealing with symptoms and situations specific to depression.
Individuals may also benefit from group cohesion and can potentially use the group as an arena for challenging their negative thoughts and behavior (Thimm & Antonsen, 2014).
1. Awareness of the mind
One of the most important goals in group therapy is for participants to get comfortable telling their story and learning about themselves. I Am is an introductory activity for people doing group therapy. Filling out the prompts helps them define themselves, specifically their boundaries and strengths.
The ultimate goal of the ‘I Am’ exercise is for the individual to gain an awareness of their own mind. They can then share this activity with other participants so they can all get to know each other better, form a trusting bond, and promote a safe space to discuss their depression.
2. Contributing events
Often, people with depression can identify a series of events that may have contributed to the development or worsening of their condition.
My Depression Story is designed for individuals taking part in group therapy. It encourages participants to make a timeline of their lives, highlighting key moments that have shaped their individual perceptions. It then asks them to do the same thing with their depression so they can better understand what the contributing factors may have been.
By sharing these events with the group, they can determine how depression has affected their perceptions and figure out a healthier way to map out their goals from now on.
Depression Worksheets for Teens and Youth
When dealing with depression in teenagers and youth, it can be more difficult to provide them with resources that break down what they are experiencing and usable strategies to help them deal with their sadness.
According to the World Health Organization (2020b), one in six youths between the ages of 10 and 19 are affected by a mental illness. Moreover, depression is one of the leading causes of illness and disability among adolescents.
Therefore, it is essential to have resources and information for teens and their parents so they can identify the symptoms of depression. If you suspect your teen is experiencing depressive symptoms or you simply want to learn more, read on for resources you could use.
Recognizing the warning signs of depression is one of the most important preventative measures a parent or guardian can take to ensure that their teenager gets the help they need.
Our Depression Fact Sheet for Teenagers is designed to break down the symptoms and behaviors that characterize depression specific to teenagers. It also provides resources for teenagers to consult if they have a friend who is experiencing these symptoms and don’t know what to do.
Teenagers in particular may struggle to put their emotions into words, specifically when they are experiencing depression. This Letter to a Loved One About My Depression activity provides ideas for teenagers to help express their feelings. It even has a template that they can fill in and print if they are having trouble finding the right way to tell a parent or another loved one about their depression.
As discussed in the previous section, confronting negative thoughts is a central part of dealing with depression. The Depressive Thoughts for Teens worksheet acts as a companion to the Unhelpful Thinking Styles worksheet.
It has specific activities for teenagers to break down their responses to various situations and an example to follow when confronting their negative thoughts. We encourage parents to complete this alongside their teenager to help them identify trigger situations and provide more productive problem-solving solutions.
4 Worksheets on Coping Skills
An important part of facilitating long-term recovery from depression is to encourage coping skills that individuals can implement in their everyday lives when they feel overwhelmed or upset.
Coping strategies “consist of behaviors, primarily management and problem-solving techniques that are implemented to manage stressful situations” (Bautista & Erwin, 2013, p. 687).
Coping skills can either focus on targeting the problem (problem-based) or seek to make yourself feel better when the circumstances are out of your control (emotion-based).
The point of introducing these coping skills is not only to give individuals strategies to fight off depression, but also to discourage the use of unhealthy coping strategies (e.g., drugs, alcohol, avoidance, overeating, or overspending). These are strategies that provide instant gratification but could have negative consequences if the unhealthy patterns continue.
1. Deep breathing
If you are looking for a technique that is easy to do and free of charge, consider exploring deep breathing. Three Steps to Deep Breathing gives you a quick overview of how to use deep breathing when you are feeling stressed, upset, or overwhelmed.
Our Power of Deep Breathing article also provides more details about how deep breathing can help you overcome stress and anxiety, and introduces practices where deep breathing is commonly used (e.g., yoga, meditation).
2. Coping style
Part of knowing how to implement coping skills into your daily routine is to understand what your coping style is and what strategies might work best for you. This Coping Styles Formulation activity helps individuals work with their therapist to identify the problem that is causing them distress.
By delving deeper into the events and actions that caused the problem, they may be able to better understand what coping style or skills they need to implement, especially if this is a recurring issue that causes distress.
Another important part of coping is to implement self-care. Self-care is any activity that involves taking care of our mental, emotional, or physical health. Self-care not only leads to improved mood and reduced anxiety, but can also improve your self-esteem (Michael, 2016).
This Self-Care Checkup gives ideas for self-care and allows you to rate how often you engage in each activity. This worksheet also divides self-care into emotional, physical, social, professional, and spiritual self-care. It will reveal which area of your life needs the most attention and help you implement the strategies as needed.
Additionally, this Self-Love Journal is helpful for daily self-care, as it gives you an opportunity to think about the moments and aspects of yourself that are positive, rather than focusing on more difficult things that are happening.
PositivePsychology.com’s Toolkit Resources
We have an excellent selection of resources that can assist those battling depression. For therapists, the following masterclasses and worksheets will equip you to be better able to support your clients.
The Science of Self-Acceptance Masterclass© is an excellent tool for practitioners and individuals who are struggling with accepting themselves. Often, a strong driver of depression is an individual’s difficulty with loving and accepting themselves for who they are.
This course focuses on building a healthy relationship with yourself first by using science-based activities to help build your self-esteem. This is also an excellent resource for practitioners who have a client who is struggling with depression and low self-esteem.
Meaning & Valued Living Masterclass
This masterclass on Meaning and Valued Living aims to help individuals find meaning in everyday life. People with depression often struggle to find meaning or value in themselves or their everyday actions, as they are caught in a cycle of negative thought patterns and experiences.
This course aims to help them regain a sense of purpose and find value in the contributions they are making, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem.
17 Resilience & Coping Exercises
If you’re looking for more science-based ways to help others overcome adversity, this collection contains 17 validated resilience tools for practitioners. Use them to help others recover from personal challenges and turn setbacks into opportunities for growth.
A Take-Home Message
Depression can be a difficult condition to overcome, especially when you feel lonely or isolated. Changing your thinking and behavior can be a daunting task, as it is often less intimidating to stick with something you are familiar with, even if it has a negative impact on your daily living.
Reading this article is a great first step to understand depression and struggles with negative thoughts. Be kind to yourself, and remember that every small step you take along your self-improvement journey is an important one and should be celebrated.
Reach out to a professional, close friend, or family member to help you with the next steps. Getting out of the hole is a challenging journey, so asking for help and someone to be on your side is the best decision you can take. You don’t have to do this alone.
If you are struggling with severe symptoms of depression or suicidal thoughts, please call the following number in your respective country:
- USA: National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 988
- UK: Samaritans hotline at 116 123
- The Netherlands: Netherlands Suicide Hotline at 0900 0767
- France: Suicide écoute at 01 45 39 40 00
- Australia: Lifeline at 13 11 14
- Germany: Telefonseelsorge at 0800 111 0 111 for Protestants, 0800 111 0 222 for Catholics, and 0800 111 0 333 for children and youth
For a list of other suicide prevention websites, phone numbers, and resources, see this website or consult Open Counseling’s list of International Suicide and Emergency Hotlines. Resources are listed by country, and you can click on the ‘more hotlines’ and ‘in-person counseling’ tabs to get further help.
Please know that there are people who care and treatments that can help.
We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Stress & Burnout Prevention Exercises (PDF) for free.
- Bautista, R. E., & Erwin, P. A. (2013). Analyzing depression coping strategies of patients with epilepsy: A preliminary study. Seizure, 22, 686–691.
- Michael, R. (2016, August 10). What self-care is and what it isn’t. Psych Central. Retrieved April 23, 2021, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/what-self-care-is-and-what-it-isnt-2#1
- Pulcu, E., Zahn, R., & Elliott, R. (2013). The role of self-blaming moral emotions in major depression and their impact on social decision making. Frontiers in Psychology, 4, 310–319.
- Rnic, K., Dozois, D. J. A., & Martin, R. A. (2016). Cognitive distortions, humor styles and depression. Europe’s Journal of Psychology, 12(3), 348–362.
- Thimm, J. C., & Antonsen, L. (2014). Effectiveness of cognitive behavior group therapy for depression in routine practice. BMC Psychiatry, 14(292), 1–9.
- Thompson, N., & Thompson, S. (2008). The critically reflective practitioner. MacMillian International Higher Education.
- Westbrook, D., Kennerley, H., & Kirk, J. (2011). An introduction to cognitive behavior therapy: Skills and applications (2nd ed.). SAGE.
- World Health Organization. (2020a). Depression. Retrieved April 21, 2021, from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/depression
- World Health Organization. (2020b). Adolescent mental health. Retrieved April 22, 2021, from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/adolescent-mental-health
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