We use the word “depression” to explain a lot these days, but what does it really mean? Well; while it’s completely normal for humans to feel low in mood or lack motivation, pleasure or achievement occasionally at different points in life, depression is an illness where one or more of these things is true for more than two weeks.
Sometimes we feel depressed because of a situation: a reaction to grief, loss, stress, change of circumstances, radical or not. This can lead to varying periods of depression, but can generally be explained and can improve with time, once the situation changes. However, some depression can’t be explained - it appears to come out of nowhere, for no reason.
Your experience of depression is unique to you, but tell tale symptoms might be:
•sleeping too much/too little,
•lacking in appetite/eating too much,
•repeated thoughts of being a failure or letting people down
•and/or noticing you’ve started moving much more slowly or become fidgety andunsettled.
Self harm, self neglect and/or suicidal thoughts, plans or attempts are also key symptoms in depression. Not everyone who is depressed will feel like this. But if you do, even briefly, it’s important to find a way to tell someone you trust or reach out to an organisation like MAC Counselling or if you are in Crisis you could try Breathing Space (dial 0800 838587) or the Samaritans (dial 116 123). You are not alone in this & help is available.
Depression symptoms may be mild, moderate or severe. Again, everyone is different.However, some people find that if depression is left untreated, it can becomeworse & symptoms become more impactful on their day to day life.
If you feel that you’ve been struggling with any of this for a prolonged period of time, it might be worth doing some further reading about depression, speaking to your GP and/or a counselling service like MAC Counselling.
Speaking about your struggle can help. Some people will have friends or family who can listen & empathise. But others may feel they don’t want to burden their close contacts with it, or don’t have a person with which they can share forwhatever reason - this is where booking in for sessions with a counsellor can help. These are impartial professionals who will take what you have to say seriously and keep your story confidential (except when you are at risk of self harm or suicide, when they will bring in a third party to keep you safe).
Things you can do yourself that might help:
- Writing a journal of your experience, paying particular attention to any triggers that cause worsening in symptoms, or anything that relieves symptoms. You may start to see patterns that help you decide how to handle future situations.
- Use established resources. There are some really helpful self-help guides and tools to be found through your local NHS authority and through websites like https://www.mind.org.uk/, http://www.samh.org.uk or https://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/. A simple google search might be the place to start. If you aren’t comfortable with computers, you’ll usually find hard copy self-help guides at your doctor’s surgery, or in your local library or community centre.
- Find like-minded people, or others that have/are experiencing similar symptoms. This might be informal or reaching out to a local group online or in person. Chat to your doctor or Well-being nurse at your practice for a list of group activities in your area.
- Exercise boosts your happy hormones. Even if you don’t feel up to going to the gym or taking a class, a short walk can both distract & elevate your mood. If you are struggling to leave the house, putting on your favourite music & moving your body can break the cycle - draw your curtains and nobody will see!
- Keeping an activity and mood diary. This can help you identify times of the day where things are easier/more difficult & what activities give you a small sense of pleasure and/or achievement. Once you start seeing patterns in your behaviour, you can try small changes to your routine that may help you feel better.
- Being kind to yourself. We’re often very critical & harsh to ourselves when we’re feeling low or de-motivated. Notice the negative thoughts or critical voice in your head - would you speak to a friend like that? Imagine what you would say to that friend if they were experiencing the same thing. Can you use this softer compassionate language on yourself?
- Sometimes even the basics like washing or eating will feel too much. If you can’t have a shower today, maybe you can use a wet flannel or simply brush your teeth. If making a meal is too much, perhaps you can order a takeaway, eat a ready meal or snack or even drink some water or tea. Anything you can do for yourself on a bad day is enough.
- Have an accountability buddy - someone who gets what’s hard for you & can encourage you to set and stick to small goals. This can be particularly beneficial if you are both committed to doing a task as you’re helping each other out.
- Make a cheat sheet- write a list of nice things you can do to distract yourself from negative thoughts or emotions. Remind yourself of your connections by listing who you could talk to if it gets really bad. Keep the cheat sheet handy for days when your mind feels too full to remember what you could do to make it better.
- Ask for help. Depression is becoming much better known & less of a stigma but it’s sometimes still hard to admit when we’re struggling. However, it’s more likely you’ll recover quicker if you acknowledge it’s difficult just now & get support you feel comfortable with. You might be pleasantly surprised by the reaction you receive!
As always, we welcome your feedback - let us know if there is something you find helpful that isn’t mentioned here. And if you are struggling with low mood or lack of motivation, feel free to contact us about how counselling could help.
Disclaimer: MAC counselling staff are not trained medical professionals. Before you act onany of the advice offered here, you may wish to contact your doctor in the first instance.