Working through depression
Often, episodes of depression have been triggered by an event that has had significance for your emotional stability. From the outside, or even yourself, some of these triggers don’t seem to be that important. This can be why some well-meaning people offer such advice as ‘pull yourself together’ or ‘get a grip’, ‘you've got nothing to be down about’ ‘there’s plenty of people worse off than you’. Yet, being on the end of these comments is a different matter. Working through depression is hard work.
At certain points in our life, it is very natural and normal to feel sad and/or unhappy. If you feel stuck or overwhelmed by these feelings, then it is really helpful to build in a routine that helps you to move through depression.
Some of the symptoms that you may be experiencing are similar to those of depression.
Signs of depression include:
- Pervasive low mood.
- Loss of interest and enjoyment.
- Reduced energy, reduced activity.
- Poor concentration and attention.
- Poor self-esteem and confidence.
- Feeling guilty or unworthy.
- Bleak, pessimistic views of the future.
- Reduced appetite.
- Disturbed sleep.
- Ideas or acts of self harm or suicide.
- Diminished libido or sex drive.
Below are five activities that have been developed and adapted from 'Out of the Blue' (O'Hanlon, 2014) to help support you move out of depression. Following these steps will help develop meaningful behaviours that will improve your mental health and wellbeing. If you monitor the activities over a week, it may help you to review any patterns or gain insights. You may find that you are able to identify the day of the week when you achieve all these easily, or an activity that you never miss, or the activity that makes the biggest difference. You can use these in different ways.
- As reminder at the start of the day.
- A checklist of what you’ve achieved at the end of the day.
- A reward chart to give yourself a treat.
Stop blaming and criticising yourself
Imagine a friend of yours is depressed and you’re with them offering kindness and compassion (maybe do this in front of a mirror).
Find and hang on to non-depressed experience and identity
Remember that you are so much more than the depression you’re experiencing at this moment. Identify habits that you do when you’re beyond depression. Hang on to as many memories and activities that you can. Commit to at least one a day.
Push against isolation to connect
A characteristic of depression is to withdraw from or push away others. Isolation discourages recovery from depression. In any way that you can, allow and, or encourage connection. This could be with animals or humans.
Physical activity helps produce new brain cells and synaptic connections. Even though it may seem really tough, like wading through treacle, do as much physical activity as you can. The more out of breath you can get, the better.
Acknowledge how you feel in this moment
Without blame, criticism, or judgement acknowledge all your feelings, we rarely feel just one feeling. Then accept that this is how you’re feeling right now. Feelings never last, so we can appreciate those feelings are temporary. And we can allow other feelings, thoughts, memories, dreams and hopes to pepper our time.
You and your mental health and wellbeing are important. If you are suffering from depression, or suicidal thoughts please seek help and be kind. Search for a professional counsellor here.