Depression is, at its simplest, a signal that your needs are not being met. It is exhausting, lowers our immune system – and for many of us, anti-depressant medication is not always the panacea we wish it to be. Depression puts your life on hold and can create real problems in your life. It is extremely common and characterised by many symptoms. Every person will have their own combination of mental and physical symptoms:
- down, upset or tearful
- restless, agitated or irritable
- feeling guilty or worthless – no self-confidence or self-esteem
- empty and numb
- isolated and unable to relate to other people – avoiding social events and activities you usually enjoy
- finding no pleasure in life or things you usually enjoy
- a sense of unreality
- hopeless and despairing
- self-harming or suicidal behaviour
- finding it difficult to speak or think clearly
- losing interest in sex
- difficulty in remembering or concentrating on things
- using more tobacco, alcohol or other drugs than usual
- difficulty sleeping, or sleeping too much
- feeling tired all the time
- no appetite and losing weight, or eating too much and gaining weight
- physical aches and pains with no obvious physical cause
- moving very slowly, or being restless and agitated
In the past decade, depression rates have escalated, and 1 in 4 Brits suffer from depression.
While there is no quick fix or one-size-fits-all for overcoming depression, the following tips – which I find help many of my clients – can offer a small but helpful start to help you manage your depression so it does not manage you:
- Use the 4-7 breathing technique
Breathing using the 4-7 method quickly counteracts anxiety which often exists alongside depression by stimulating our body’s natural relaxation response. Place your hand on your stomach below your navel and breathe in deeply for the count of 4 (do it through either your nose or your mouth, whichever you prefer), then breathe out for a count of 7 until you feel your stomach (below your navel) inflate out like a balloon. Repeat this 10 times – or longer if needed. And practice it every day to keep anxiety at bay. For a fuller explanation of how such breathing can lower emotional arousal and a more in-depth explanation of how to do it effectively, see my website.
- Create a ‘safe and special place’.
Recall a moment in your life where you experienced sweetness and didn’t feel dragged down by your thoughts or feelings, even if just for a short time. It doesn’t have to be a big or monumental thing that happened (though it’s OK if it is). Just choose a moment where you felt really awake, connected, engaged and alive. Take a minute to notice all the details present in that experience using the senses in your mind’s eye. What did you see? Was anyone with you? What kinds of sounds, sights, smells or tastes were there? How were you feeling? When you start becoming overwhelmed with feelings of depression, cal on this place in your mind to help you ground and calm yourself.
- Listen to what your depression is telling you.
At it’s most basic level, depression is a signal that your needs are not being met. Nobody asks or wants to be depressed, but if we listen to our depression it can help us understand our deepest needs – which is the first step in finding ways to meet those needs. Can you identify events / places / people in your life that may have made you feel angry, upset or hurt and have contributed to your depression? These feelings can help you clarify what you care about most, what you want to stand for and what kind of life you want to have.
- Visualise success, break it down into tiny steps and move your feet in that direction.
When you visualise a future event for yourself, you are harnessing the power of expectation. The power of the imagination should not be underestimated – this is why medical placebos work. By creating a positive expectation for yourself, you are strengthening the likelihood of a positive outcome. Then break your vision of success down into small, achievable goals – and take the first step to achieving that first small goal. When we are depressed, often it is the doing that is more important than the outcome. To borrow a quote from Martin Luther: “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”
- Determine whether your depression may be caused by unresolved grief.
It is not just death that triggers grief, but the loss of anything important to us – a job, a home, a pet, our health – basically, anything that changes the present and future we thought we would have. Grief is a normal and healthy response to loss, characterised by a storm of changeable emotions from shock, anger through to resistance and denial. However, if you are still experiencing intense emotion and feeling unable to cope with life three to six months later (depending on the scale of the loss and your individual vulnerability) then you may need some extra professional support to help you journey through your grief in order to resolve it to enable you to face life again.
Sometimes our depression simply feels too overwhelming and draining to manage it on our own- and many of us may not have an adequate support network to help us through periods of prolonged depression. This is where the support of a professional may be helpful. If you would like a free 30 minute telephone consultation to explore your current situation and see how I may be able to help, then I would welcome your call or e-mail on 07957 234 950 / firstname.lastname@example.org