Depression is not sadness, how to cope with depression
Often the problem is that people confuse sadness and depression. They see you are sad because things are going badly in your life and (in the vernacular) you are depressed. The corollary of this might be that if you say you are feeling depressed you simply need to cheer up a bit to get over your sadness. This can lead to one of the single most unhelpful statements, “snap out of it”. Perhaps one thing that can mark out depression is that you can feel terrible, down, drained of hope and energy even when things are going well.
Depression can feel like being at the bottom of a very deep, dark hole, and like this somewhat perilous situation, it takes action to get out of. While you can be offered help, ultimately only you can get yourself out. Here we hit one of the terrible things about depression - it drains us of our hope and our drive. We might believe we cannot do it, or that we are not worth it. Everything becomes so much harder. You can beat it – it takes time and will-power but it can be done.
There are some very practical things you can do to increase your chances:
Examine your self-talk
The way we talk to ourselves can be very critical. I must get over to see mum tonight, I should volunteer for the PTA and so forth. You need to offer yourself more compassion. Thus it is important that I see mum tonight, but I am ill and I will see how I feel later. Perhaps another night would be better when I am less stressed. Let someone else take their turn with the PTA so that you can get yourself well. Be very wary of musts and shoulds they are usually there to torture you and leach away your self-compassion.
Look after yourself
It is important that you find some space for yourself so that you can rediscover the person you want to be. Perhaps that is about doing things for you like walks, or spa days or massage. Perhaps it is looking through photographs or connecting with memories. You can also pay attention again to your own space, make it welcoming and comfortable. Most important of all take time for you, it helps to remember that sometimes to help others you must help yourself first. Think of an aeroplane, when the oxygen masks fall, you should put your own on first before trying to help others.
Look after your health
Gentle exercise has been shown to help with depression so get moving. If you have health conditions you may want to check with your doctor first, but most of us can benefit from more movement in our lives. Before you dismiss the idea because you don’t see yourself in lycra pumping iron, exercise can mean a walk around the local park, just getting that heart pumping.
At the same time it makes sense to look at the fuel that you are putting in, there is growing evidence to show that food may be a factor in our mood so why not try to eat a little healthier too.
Know yourself better
Keeping a diary or reflecting on your mood can uncover triggers for your depression. Some find that it is a particular time of year or that it is associated with stress or events in the family. Knowing more about what happens puts you in the driving seat. If you know that an attack is likely you can get more support at that time and reduce your commitments.
Talk to someone
Talking seems such a simple thing, yet of all the steps here it is probably the most powerful. If you have a good friend or family member, lean on them for support when you need too. Yet don’t be afraid or worried to go to your GP or a counsellor. They are there to help and won’t judge, and that can make all the difference.
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About Graeme Orr
Graeme is a counsellor and author, living and working on the south side of Glasgow. In his practice, he sees a number of clients with emotional, anxiety and self-esteem that have relevance to us all. His articles are based on that experience and are offered as an opportunity to identify with, or to challenge you to make changes in your life.