Okay, so depression is a huge topic to cover and there are layers to the word that are often complex and unique to every individual person. Depression is something that we hear about frequently in 2018 and many people experience the symptoms with different intensities. There are all sorts of theories as to why, but no one really knows the answers just yet. That doesn’t mean that each individual can’t begin to explore their truth and why they, as a unique person, might be feeling depressed. By that, we could be talking about the following symptoms:
- Avoiding activities that you really enjoyed,
- Procrastinating or putting off tasks,
- Declining to hang out with friends or family,
- Relying on drugs or alcohol to escape,
- Finding it hard to concentrate,
- Feeling overwhelmed, grumpy, snappy, unhappy, insecure, miserable and/or sad,
- Having thoughts like “I’m not good enough, ” “I’m a failure,” “Everyone would be better off without me.”
- Feeling tired all the time,
- Feeling sick, including headaches, muscle pains, or tummy pains,
- Noticing you are putting on or losing weight,
- Can’t get into a good sleeping routine.
As you can see, these symptoms effect us emotionally, physically, spiritually and in the way that we think. Now as I mentioned previously, we don’t really know what causes this. Some professionals believe it is more of a genetic and brain based disease that needs to be corrected with medication. Other professionals believe that it’s a severe reaction to difficulties that arise in life. This reaction then prevents people moving through the necessary stages of recovery, keeping people stuck in patterns of coping and behaviour that don’t serve them any longer. And of course, there are professionals who believe that it is a combination of both genetics or brain functioning and environment or life stress.
What’s important to remember is that depression doesn’t cause depression. Depression is a label or category to describe a set of symptoms. This is critical, otherwise we get stuck in loops like: “I’m depressed because of depression and depression makes be depressed.” As you can see, this makes it extremely hard to find a way through or come up with solutions that might shift you out of a very uncomfortable feeling or experience. What is more helpful is to start thinking about your story and experiences. Why do you think that you are depressed? Is it something that runs through your family? Do you think its because you have survived a whole range of difficulties in your life and you are burnt out and tired from having to cope and be strong all the time? Do you think it’s because you cope by relying on perfectionism and therefore tend to notice all your failings and mistakes in an attempt to get things “right”? If you have been suffering from depression for a while now, these questions can be really hard to answer. This is why you might want to seek professional support to assist you in exploring the origins of your suffering.
Once you have a bit of an idea as to what might be going on for YOU, then you can start to put a plan in place to shift out of the experience. This of course is going to look different for each person depending on what they believe the underlying problem to be. What we do know is that when we are depressed, our bodies and minds can shut down a bit. This means that we often need to get moving or force our bodies to be more active. This is almost the opposite of anxiety, which is when our minds and bodies are too active and need to be calmed down and bought back down to baseline.
Here are somethings that you can try or that people find helpful. Just remember that depression can be a very severe and intense experience, so seeking help and talking to a professional might be a necessary part of recovery.
- Acknowledge that you are feeling depressed.
- Consider creating a well being plan that includes all the activities you used to enjoy.
- Start to think about the barriers that would prevent you from re-engaging in previously enjoyed activities. Is it low confidence? Is it anxiety? Is it low motivation? Is it because you are pushing your self too much and setting unrealistic goals?
- Start small… it’s better to make very gradual steps in your desired direction and feel good about yourself than to be too ambitious and feel like you have failed. That will only feed your depression.
- Make a plan to move your body. This might include walking around the house or park, getting out in nature, or joining a yoga class.
- Be conscious of your eating habits. Again, making small and manageable changes to your diet may really improve your mood, energy levels and attention span.
- Reach out and talk to trusted friends, family members or professionals. Getting re-connected again will likely be an important part of recovery or healing. Remember, start small so you don’t become overwhelmed with too much social interaction.
- Work on your breathing. This can improve your mood, attention and concentration. There are loads of Apps and videos on the internet to guide you through this. Just remember, you are re-training your body and mind so practise, practise, practise.
- Reflect on your values. What is important to you and are there any changes you need to make to the way that you are living? Sometimes, depression can be a sign that life changes need to occur (i.e. your job, relationship, friendship circles). This can be really confronting and scary, as change is difficult for humans. Again, remember there are counsellors and professionals out there to help you through.
- BE KIND TO YOURSELF. Shifting out of depression requires self-compassion. Now this can be extremely hard for us, but it’s really important to work on it. You could start a gratitude diary or put reminders on your phone to stay positive and think kind thoughts.
If this post has increased your feelings of distress or triggered you to seek help, remember you can call (Australia): Lifeline 13 11 14; Kids Helpline 1800 551 800; Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467; Mensline Australia 1300 78 99 78. You can also make an appointment with your GP and request a Mental Health Care Plan.