Depression is now recognised as the most common mental health issue experienced by people.
Currently it is estimated that 8-12% of people will experience depression at some point during their life. Those that have experienced depression will know how it can drastically influence your ability to function. Depression drains your energy leaving you feeling isolated and alone, effecting your relationships and ability to make decisions.
Here are 5 tips I have used when supporting my clients to help cope with their depression.
1. Get to know your feelings.
Many people are unable to identify their emotions or put into words what they are feeling. Research supports the activity of journaling as an inexpensive and effective form of self help. By writing down your thoughts and feelings may help you put them into perspective or reveal to you patterns in your thinking. In particular paying attention to the feelings and thoughts that are positive. Our brains are programmed to pay attention to negative over the positive. This negative bias ensured our survival, back in hunter gather time. “Watch out for that the lion!“, “Don’t eat the poisonous berries!” etc. But it’s not great for motivating us to get out of bed when feeling depressed. By focusing on and paying attention to those good feelings and positive thoughts it is possible to re-train your brain.
2. Eat well, avoid alcohol.
When we are feeling down it is tempting to reach for the comfort foods like chocolate, ice-cream or chips. A healthy and balanced diet will not only supply your body of vital nutrients, it will help to stabilise your blood sugar levels which affects your mood. Consider introducing into your diet probiotic rich foods such as; live cultured yogurt, cultured vegetables for example; sauerkraut and kimchi, kombucha, tempeh, miso and kefir. Recent studies are starting to identify the link between your digestive health and mental health. Having found that probiotics may relieve symptoms of depression. Probiotics are anti-inflammatory microbes that are beneficial to your gut by decreasing the stress signals in your body.
Finally stay away from alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant that affects the nervous system, essentially affecting your mood and sleep.
3. Get moving.
Although you may not feel like it or even getting out of bed is challenging. Start to move your body, any activity that energises you will help boost your mood. Research has shows the benefits of exercise leads to improvements in mood and assists in overcoming depression. Start small, a gentle 10 -15 minute stroll outside in nature can increase serotonin and endorphins.
4. Stay connected.
Resist retreating or isolating yourself, this will make the depression worse. Even though it can be difficult, reaching out to a trusted friend or relative to share what you are going through- a problem shared can be a problem halved. Reaching out is not a sign of weakness, help lines such as Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636 or Lifeline on 13 11 14 are available 24/7.
5. Get a check up with your GP.
Undiagnosed medical conditions can trigger depressive episodes. Depression is extremely complex, it can occur for a variety of reasons and no one exactly knows what causes it. Getting a check up with your GP ensures that you are covering all your bases.
Finally being depressed is not your fault, there is no moral failing or lack of willpower. Depression is the inability to do the everyday things that other people can do. Depression influences how you feel about yourself and makes life more difficult to manage from day to day. Like anything that is beyond your control to change, seek professional help – it can make all the difference.