Depression can affect us in many different ways. We may struggle to wake up in the morning and face the day, feel physically exhausted with unexplained aches and pains or be taken over at times by feelings of sadness and hopelessness. Life can become increasingly difficult as we try to fulfil the demands placed on us by our work and our families even while we are feeling overwhelmed and in despair. Sometimes we may try to bury our feelings by eating and sleeping more than usual. We may even try to dull the painful emotions by using drugs or alcohol.
Depression is a common condition that will affect one in six of us at some point during our lives. Despite this many of us may feel ashamed and embarrassed about what we are going through. We often withdraw into ourselves and become isolated from friends and family. It can be so hard to explain to other people how we are feeling. While we have all experiences of low mood, depression is different from the normal highs and lows of everyday life. When we are depressed we feel as if our spark and our enthusiasm for life has gone. Even ordinary tasks such as cleaning the house, attending a meeting in work or going out with friends can seem to take an enormous amount of effort.
While depression can leave us feeling as if we have no control, it is important to remember there are some simple steps we can take to help us cope with our feelings and move towards recovery.
This is often the first, hardest and most important step. Once we acknowledge that there is a problem we need to determine that we are going to take steps to care for ourselves. Most often this will involve talking about how we are feeling and looking for advice on a suitable treatment plan. Our local GP is a good source of information and advice as are voluntary agencies such as Aware. There are many different approaches to treating depression including medication, counselling, support groups and lifestyle changes. If we examine the supports available we can decide what path we feel is right for us. Whether we decide on a single support or a combination of many, the important thing is to make a plan and stick with it for an extended period. Once we have a plan in place it can act as a guide and a support even when we are going through our most difficult times.
2. Physical Well-being
When we are feeling low we often neglect our physical needs – over or under eating, sleeping too much or too little, drinking too much alcohol, not exercising. It is important to bear in mind the link between mind and body. It is a good idea to take care of the basics such as ensuring we give ourselves the right amount of nutritious food, regular gentle exercise such as walking and good quality relaxation and rest. Simple changes to our routine can have positive effects on our mood. Looking at ourselves as worthy of this care and attention can help reconnect with our sense of self-love and self-esteem.
3. Identifying Stress
It can be helpful to take a moment to consider our lifestyle. What is our everyday experience like? Are we under a lot of pressure? Do we take enough time for relaxation or fun? Do we have the opportunity to talk about our more difficult feelings or experiences? Depression is often linked to long periods of stress and anxiety. Asking ourselves questions about how we are living can help us become more aware of issues which may be causing us problems and which we may benefit from addressing.
We are often our own harshest critics but remember that putting ourselves under pressure to recover quickly may have the opposite effect. Depression is often a reaction to cumulative experiences we have had over the course of our lives. It is therefore reasonable to expect that it can take a while to come to terms with and heal painful thoughts and feelings. Ironically, it is often only when we give ourselves permission to feel our sadness and pain and the time we need to heal that we can actually begin to recover.
5. Realistic and Consistent
It is important to bear in mind that changes are only effective if they are maintained over time. It is better to make small simple adjustments in the right direction than dramatic changes we are unlikely to be able to sustain. When making plans think in realistic terms. The goal should be to implement self-care and not to punish ourselves.
I believe self-care is so important, particularly when we are going through challenging times. Remember, there is hope for those of us who struggle with low mood. Many people experience depression and the majority will go on to make a full recovery.
Make a change today.
Have a great week, Jane.
Newbridge, Co. Kildare
Portlaoise, Co. Laois