November 11, 2015

Dealing Effectively with Depression

depression helpby Maeve Halpin, Registered Counselling Psychologist

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. Counselling helps develop understanding and self-compassion, as well as strategies to alleviate the symptoms of depression. This can form the basis of a preventative self-care plan to guard against re-occurrence.

Recognising Depression

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 is 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 good mental health. Start with small steps, one day at a time. To nourish body and mind, it is important to eat mood-boosting wholefoods such as baked potatoes, whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, oatmeal, whole grain breads, and bananas. Fresh fruit and vegetables supply nourishing vitamins and minerals. Oily fish contains Omega 3, essential for brain functioning. Three 30-minute sessions of exercise a week has been shown to be as effective as a mild anti-depressant. Try to take a 10-minute walk every day, building up the time as the days progress.  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 can trigger negative memories. This increases feelings of guilt, failure and pessimism. Depressed people then become locked in a seemingly never-ending 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, help sleep 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. One-to-one counselling provides confidential, professional help to discuss concerns and develop an active recovery plan. A short course of anti-depressant medication can be useful, especially when used in conjunction with an overall self-help program.

To find our more about how counselling can help with depression, call me at 087-2877837 or email