Depression is more than simply feeling unhappy or lost for a few days. Most people naturally go through periods of feeling up and down, but when you're depressed you feel persistently sad for weeks or months, rather than just a few days.
Depression is a common and serious medical condition that can hugely affect your life, fortunately it is treatable and you can get better.
There is still a stigma around depression and those who have never suffered from it can wrongly presume it is possible to simply “pack it in” or “pull yourself together”. It is not that easy and it can take time for people to even realise that they are depressed. It can feel like being homesick, but not knowing where home is. People can look and function normally, but if you could read their mind you'd be in tears. It's okay not to be okay, but we all deserve to get better.
Depression can start after a significant event in your life or it can simply happen without any obvious reasons. Some potential triggers are:
· Stressful events – eg relationship breakdown or redundancy
· Low self-esteem
· Bullying (even years earlier)
· Family history – eg parents or sibling suffering from depression
· Any kind of abuse
· Alcohol or drug use
· Illness – eg cancer or long-term disease
Experiencing depression can be very challenging, but there are steps you can take that might help. Find some suggestions below:
Try talking to someone you trust
You might feel that you don’t even know how to express your feelings with words. That’s okay, it might feel hard to start talking about how your feelings, but many people find that sharing their experience can help them feel better. It may be that just having someone to talk to and show you they care can help in itself.
If feel unable to open up to someone close to you, then perhaps try talking to a counsellor. Counsellors are trained professionals that can provide a space for you to work through your difficulties and talk about your experience in a safe non-judgemental setting that’s focused entirely on you and your journey.
Try support groups
Support groups bring together people who have had similar experiences to support one another. Many people find it helpful to share ideas about how they stay well, connect with others and feel less alone. You could:
· Contact a specialist organisation, you may consider visiting SANE and CALM websites to find details or support groups, forums and helplines.
· You can also become a member of one of the Shift Counselling support groups for Bereavement or Chronic pain.
· You can also see whether your local church or community centre is running any support groups.
Mindfulness is a way of giving your full attention to the present moment. Practicing mindfulness can improve your well-being and help to manage depression.
Shift Counselling runs regular workshops based around mindfulness where I give insight into what mindfulness is, how it works and how it can help you. It’s a lovely positive environment to talk about what could help and exploring some positive coping strategies to try out.
There are also many useful apps, books and resources available online.
Try to look after your physical health
Depression can take a huge toll on your mind and body and it can make it hard to find energy to look after yourself. However, mind and body are closely linked and looking after your physical health can improve your mental health too. There are six main areas to consider:
· Sleep - a lot of people who experience depression can also have issues with sleeping. Getting a good night's sleep can help to improve your mood and increase your energy levels. Try to establish a sleeping schedule and stick to it as much as you can.
· Diet - Eating regularly and healthily can make quite a difference to your mood and energy levels. Sticking to a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and veg is important for our overall well-being, but it also positively influences our mental health.
· Exercise - a lot of people can find exercise challenging, but things like yoga, pilates, swimming or even walking can be a big boost to your mood. If you don’t feel confident going to a gym, you can start by exercising at home. There are great resources online, like youtube videos, fitness apps or even following personal trainers or instagram as they tend to post free workout videos.
· Hygiene - when you’re experiencing depression, it’s easy for hygiene to not feel like a priority. Small things like having a shower every day, not skipping your skin care and getting fully dressed whether or not you’re going out of the house, can make a big difference to how you feel.
· Sugar - try to cut down on your sugar intake. Sugary snacks can improve our mood for a moment, but once it leaves our system you might feel worse than before.
· Avoid drugs and alcohol - while you might want to use recreational drugs or alcohol to cope with difficult feelings, in the long run they can make you feel worse and can prevent you from dealing with underlying issues.
Try to keep active
...even if you might feel unable to. Keeping active can be a big task for someone who doesn’t feel they have the energy for it, but in the long run it has many benefits.
· Try joining a group - the main thing is to find something you enjoy, or perhaps something you’ve always wanted to try, to help you feel motivated. It can be anything from a sports team or a community project to a hobby group.
· Try new things - maybe start a new hobby, learn something new or even try a new food. Trying new things can help boost your mood and break unhelpful patterns of thinking and behaviour.
· Try volunteering - volunteering or even just offering to help someone out can make you feel better about yourself and less alone. Local charities and charity shops are always looking for new volunteers.
· Set realistic goals - if you’re setting yourself a goal, try to make it achievable and starting slow. Maybe start with goals like getting dressed every day or cooking yourself a meal. Achieving these things can help you feel good and boost your self-confidence, and help you to move on to bigger goals.
Keeping a journal can help you keep track of any changes in your mood, and you might find that you have more good days that you think. It can also help you notice if any activities, places or people make you feel better or worse. There are many free resources online, for example Bipolar UK and MoodPanda. But there are also physical ones available from bookshops and even Wilkos usually stocks some affordable alternatives.
Try spending some time outside
Spending time in nature has been found to help with mental health problems like depression. Try to go outside regularly to get fresh air, you can go to a park to feed the ducks, potter around in your garden, go for a walk around your neighbourhood, go to the beach, or visit your local nature reserve. It of course depends on where you live, but going outside is important for our mental and physical health.
Taking time to look after yourself, such as doing something you enjoy, can help you support your recovery and improve your quality of life. Self-care is important and it can be anything; knitting, playing a musical instrument, having a bubble bath or anything that makes you feel good.
Depression can be like having an abusive relationship with yourself. You don't have to suffer alone, take the first step towards a positive change and get in touch to talk about how I could help you.
If you feel you are depressed, talk to your GP or visit Shift Counselling website for more resources. I offer a free 15 minute phone call to talk about how we could work together, so please feel free to give me a call or drop me an email. Nobody has to suffer alone.
www.shiftcounselling.co.uk Tel: 07474 120912 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org