On Trying Too Hard With Depression


There’s such a thing as trying too hard.

Anyone who has ever suffered through a case of insomnia knows this well. The harder you try to sleep, the less rest you get. Sleep only comes if you can relax and let go.

It’s true for many other things, too.

Like garage-door controls.

The other day, I was trying to get into my neighbor’s house to walk his dog and pressed the code into the box outside the garage more than 20 times, but the garage wouldn’t lift.

“You’re pressing the buttons too hard,” my daughter told me.

She did the sequence one time, pressing the buttons effortlessly, and up the garage went.

And it definitely applies to managing your thoughts.

The Harder You Try, the More Negative Things Can Get

A study published in August 2007 in The Journal of Neuroscience showed that there was a breakdown in normal patterns of emotional processing that prevented depressed and anxious people from suppressing negative emotions. In fact, the more they tried, the more they activated the fear center of their brain — the amygdala — which fed them more negative messages.

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Therese Borchard
I am a writer and chaplain trying to live a simple life in Annapolis, Maryland.

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4 Responses
  1. Jim

    Hi Therese,

    I really enjoyed this article, as I do with all of your other writings.

    I know that I try over and over (with no improvement), to lift myself out of major depression. I am glad I am not alone in my frustration to get better. Though I am still trying to understand why I can not get things done. Starting something, stopping, adding to piles, and piles building. I spend more time going to the library, checking out books that I never finish. Like living the life of Bill Murray in Groundhog Day!

    Thank you again!

  2. Very interesting article – thanks for sharing. What I especially liked was where you mentioned that different things work best for different people because it really got me thinking about some of my own, perhaps negative experiences with others. What really got to me was when some of my friends would end up taking out their frustrations on me whenever I’d try something but it didn’t work – “so and so tried this, and they were fine, you need to try harder” or stuff like that. In my mind, I would always think “but I’m not so and so!” so I’m glad you raised that point, it really is nice to be able to relate.

    Of course, I’m sure that my friends meant well and worried about me but it is a very important point to raise nonetheless.

  3. John G Diehl

    Dear Therese,
    It seems your message is to keep trying, but our efforts need to be directed in different ways and degrees at different times, depending on our condition at the time. Not to try harder (only the ignorant advise that), but to try different. If we keep trying the same thing over and over, expecting a different result, that’s the definition of . . . well, you/we know. My pitfall is to do this when my inner resources are at their lowest and I’m desperate. So I, like you, resort to the familiar, rather than the innovative, new, different, less demanding path back to clarity and calm. Does this suggest that the time to devise a plan to rise from our valleys of despair is when we’re at our best?
    John D.