Coping with Depression: Light at the End of the Tunnel
Do you feel drained, unmotivated and hopeless? Do you have difficulty sleeping or feel tearful much of the time? Have you lost interest in things you used to enjoy? Do you find yourself worrying more often, perhaps feeling achy or heavy in your body? Have you noticed a decline in your appetite and sexual drive? People with depression can experience symptoms just like these and many more.
Depression is more than simply feeling unhappy or fed up. While many of us may complain of ‘depression’ when things don’t go our way, it may just be a brief and transitory period of feeling blue. Clinical depression, however, is a genuine health condition with psychological and physical symptoms that can persist for weeks, months or even years.
Take it Seriously
Depression is very common and can be triggered by life events or family history. Sometimes, you may not even know what the trigger is.
Regardless of the cause, the first step in treating depression is to take it seriously. It is important not to dismiss it as trivial or a ‘weakness’. If you suspect you might have depression, visit your GP to get a diagnosis. Your GP may suggest short-term medication and/or counselling therapy. The good news is that with the right support and treatment, you can recover from depression.
Recognise that Depression Makes Everything Negative
Depression can be like wearing dark-tinted glasses. Everything starts to look and feel negative. It changes the way you see yourself and others. Your experiences and expectations start to become tainted and it can be extremely difficult to see things in their true perspective.
You may find yourself:
- focusing on the one thing that went wrong while ignoring all the things that went right
- insisting that positive events somehow don’t ‘count’
- overgeneralising or exaggerating the negative e.g. ‘I can’t do anything right’
- making assumptions about what others (negatively) think of you e.g. ‘Nobody loves me’
- labelling yourself e.g. ‘I’m a failure’
You can try to combat this by surrounding yourself with positive people. Write down negative thoughts and go through what you’ve written on days when you’re feeling brighter. Think about how accurate those negative thoughts are and, if there is someone you can trust, consider sharing some of those thoughts with them to gain another perspective.
Start with Small Steps
It is likely that your depression is not something that has suddenly come upon you, but has gradually built up over time through certain events in your life. In the same way, recovery will take time and the key is to start with small things and build from there.
Make small, active goals for yourself. These could be things like: go for a short walk every morning, meet up with a friend once a week, pick up the phone and call someone. When you feel so drained of energy, some of these goals may sound exhausting but remember that although these actions are difficult they are not impossible. Take it one step at a time and don’t put unrealistic expectations on yourself. Aim for small, manageable actions that will require some effort but are within your current abilities.
Keeping active will help break you out of a rut. If you push yourself you may be surprised at how much better and confident you feel with the achievement. Remember, depression is beaten one small step at a time.
Take Care of Your Body
It’s not just your emotional wellbeing that matters. Depression often brings physical symptoms, reminding you that your body needs care too. Look after your body with these small steps:
- Create a regular sleeping routine - with depression, you may have difficulty sleeping but don’t let this deter you from planning time to settle down into bed. Try reading, listening to music, taking a hot bath or any other relaxing activities before bedtime.
- Minimise stress - look out for people and activities that increase your stress e.g. un-supportive friends, overworking etc.
- Get a daily dose of sunlight - take a short walk, sit in the park or garden, get on the bus and visit a friend.
- Eat healthily - if your appetite has dwindled, try eating small meals and snacks on a regular basis.
- Exercise regularly - you can fit in exercise in small ways e.g. walk while you’re on the phone, take the stairs instead of the lift, offer to take a friend’s dog for a walk. Small regular activity is helpful in lightening your mood.
Cultivate Supportive Relationships
It’s a struggle to rely on your own dwindling energy when you are feeling depressed. Although it may feel overwhelming, embarrassing or even exhausting to reach out for help, depression is even harder to deal with if you are isolated and alone. The people who cared about you before your depression will still care about you and will want to help.
Consider the following ideas:
- Join a support group
- Take up a class or join a club
- Go for a walk
- Have coffee with a friend
- Talk to someone you trust about your feelings
- Ask for help with something practical
- Play with a pet
- Invite someone round to watch a movie
- E-mail a friend
- Become a volunteer
- Speak to a counsellor for skilled support and new perspective
Whatever activities you consider, remember that depression can be successfully treated. It all starts with one small step and builds from there. Depression thrives in isolation, so don’t delay in seeking support.
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