Depression is one of the most common and most treatable mental health conditions. Unfortunately, due to shame, fear, or simply lack of information, many people with depression suffer unnecessarily for months or even years. A combination of self-help and professional strategies can help the most distressing symptoms of depression. This can then form the basis of a preventative self-care plan to guard against re-occurrence.
Depression can be mild, moderate or severe. There are eight main symptoms: feeling sad, anxious or bored; low energy and fatigue; sleep disturbances, e.g. waking frequently or very early; poor concentration; loss of interest in hobbies, family or social life; low self-esteem and feelings of guilt; unexplained aches and pains; and loss of interest in living, with morbid or suicidal thoughts. If five or more of these symptoms last for a period of over two weeks, depression may be diagnosed.
Practical Steps towards Recovery
It’s easy to believe that other people’s lives are perfect, especially when we are feeling down – but “don’t compare your inside to someone else’s outside”. Accepting that there is a problem is the first step to addressing it. Healthy food, natural sleep and regular exercise are the foundation of mental health. Start with small steps, one day at a time. To nourish body and mind, it is important to eat mood-boosting foods such as baked potatoes, whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, oatmeal, whole grain breads, and bananas. Fresh fruit and vegetables supply vitamins and minerals, and oily fish contains Omega 3, all essential for brain functioning. Try to take a 10-minute walk every day, building up the time as the days progress. Three 30-minute sessions of exercise a week has been shown to be as effective as a mild anti-depressant. Good nutrition and regular exercise will also help to normalise sleep patterns.
Tackling Negative Thinking
Our mood affects what we remember, what we focus on and how we make judgements. A bad mood triggers negative memories, increasing feelings of guilt, failure and pessimism. This is how depressed people become locked in a cycle of negativity. It is vital to learn to manage our moods, as a small shift can have powerful knock-on effects. Attending to the positive in our lives, regardless of how artificial it feels at the time, is an effective antidote to low mood. List 5 things that you are grateful for. The next day, list 3 things good that have happened to you. Research has shown that these simple exercises have potent positive effects on mood over time. A daily relaxation practice can also help relieve symptoms of depression, reduce stress, and boost feelings of well-being. Try yoga, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation or meditation.
Talking It Out
Depression can be a signal that there are issues in a person’s life that need to be addressed. These might include poor job satisfaction, marriage or relationship difficulties, health concerns, parenting stresses, financial worries, or anxiety about ageing. Sometimes early life problems may be re-surfacing, such as childhood abuse or neglect, or school bullying. Sharing these issues with a partner, family member or trusted friend can help to alleviate the problem. Support groups can provide invaluable help in understanding and managing depression. AWARE, GROW and Recovery all host groups run by trained and experienced facilitators. Anti-depressant medication can be useful, especially when used in conjunction with an overall self-help program. A short course of medication will give the person enough of a lift to begin to address the causes of their depression, helping prevent relapse. One-to-one counselling provides confidential, professional help to discuss concerns and develop an active recovery plan.
If you or someone you know appears to be depressed, call me on 087-2877837 for a free and confidential chat for more information.