We all get the blues sometimes. But depression takes that one step further, and sufferers are consistently in a low mood for a long time (months, maybe even years).
Depression is a mental illness that currently affects 5% of adults worldwide. And the pandemic has done little to help this statistic.
But even though times seem bleak, there are small things we can do in our everyday life to help us overcome depression and live a more fulfilled life.
When we think of depression, we think of being constantly sad or down. In reality, depression types have many different looks, causes, and symptoms. There are also types of depression that occur under certain circumstances.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that occurs during a particular season. Usually, this would happen during winter, although there are known cases of SAD that are linked to the summer months as well.
Dysthymia is a form of mild depression that occurs over a long period of at least two years.
While all types of depression can have devastating symptoms, they are not all the same. We have compiled a list below of psychological, physical, and social symptoms of depression to be aware of.
Psychological Depression Symptoms
low mood or sadness
finding it difficult to make decisions
not getting any enjoyment out of life
feeling anxious or worried
feeling hopeless and helpless
having low self-esteem
feeling irritable and intolerant of others
having no motivation or interest in things
having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming yourself
Physical Depression Symptoms
moving or speaking more slowly than usual
changes in appetite or weight - normally it would be decreased appetite, but in some cases can be an increase on normal appetite.
unexplained aches and pains
lack of energy
low sex drive / loss of libido
changes to your menstrual cycle
disturbed sleep – finding it difficult to get to sleep, waking up throughout the night, or waking very early
Social Depression Symptoms
Avoiding seeing friends or any social interactions
Avoiding partaking in normal amount of sport, exercise, hobbies, or interests
Having difficulties at home, work, or family life
What can you do to overcome your depression?
Depression can occur from a mixture of biological and psychological causes, making every case unique to the individual suffering.
Therefore, before you begin reading these suggestions, it is essential to remember that there is no substitute for professional help.
Always consult your doctor if you feel your depression is causing you problems, as you may need therapy and/or medication to help you heal from your illness.
Nevertheless, these suggestions make a great companion to medicine and therapy interventions and give you some excellent coping strategies to adopt and help kick depression in the butt!
1. Learn to be present
Mindfulness has become a buzzword in modern self-improvement groups. And for good reason.
Mindfulness is the act of being present. Depression happens when you are mentally living in the past. That is, dwelling on all the negative thoughts, feelings, and events that have previously happened to you.
To get out of your head and stop the negativity, it’s important to stay in the moment. After all, you can’t change the past, and no amount of torturing yourself over it will change anything.
Instead, it’s essential to forgive yourself, learn the lessons, and move forward with your life. Because no one is perfect, and making mistakes is all a part of this wild journey we call life.
As with most things, this is much easier said than done. So, how can you commit to staying more present?
Meditation is a popular way to keep yourself grounded and in the moment. It involves sitting still and allowing thoughts to pass through your brain without paying attention to it. The act is simple, but it can take some practice to get comfortable with it.
Guided meditation apps like headspace and calm are an excellent place for a novice meditator to begin. But don’t worry; if meditation isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other ways to practice mindfulness.
Try getting out into nature and paying attention to your surroundings. The things you see, the smells, the sounds. If you are listening to music, really pay attention to the lyrics and take them in.
Similarly, listening to an audiobook or podcast can help keep your thoughts in the present.
2. Set small goals
A common symptom of depression is a feeling of hopelessness. That there is nothing good in your life and nothing to look forward to. That is why it is crucial to create small goals to start finding your enjoyment in life again.
And when I say small goals, I mean SMALL goals. Because one of the fastest ways to sabotage your recovery is to try and move too fast and break your confidence.
Depression is already hard enough without putting unneeded pressure on yourself to accomplish big goals. For this step, you need to get vulnerable and honest with yourself. What do you want out of life? What makes you happy?
It doesn’t have to be anything profound; it just has to be true to you.
For example, some people find that their depression is linked to low job satisfaction, money problems, loneliness or low self-esteem.
These are big problems that don’t always have a quick and easy fix. But it doesn’t mean they are unfixable. It’s not realistic to just give up your job, win the lottery, have people around you all the time and suddenly fall in love with yourself.
But it is realistic to take small steps towards putting yourself in a better space to take advantage of future opportunities. (Well, not the lottery, that’s a game of unreliable luck, I wouldn’t factor it into my plans if I were you.)
Once you are specific about your goals, you can start breaking them down into actionable blocks. And when I say break down, I mean break down to the smallest possible element.
Let’s say your depression has you struggling to get out of bed in the morning. Your first goal would be to simply get out of bed. No more. Just get out of bed.
Once you’re able to do this successfully, maybe you set yourself a goal of getting out of bed and making your bed. Then once this is a habit, perhaps you set yourself a goal to get dressed.
The point of this exercise is to meet yourself where you are and go from there. Don’t judge yourself against anyone else’s progress. Just focus on making tiny steps forward every day.
Because at the end of the day, progress doesn’t come from grand gestures; it comes from small daily actions.
3. Avoid social media
Sure, social media can be an excellent way to stay connected with the world, especially during times of isolation.But when you are in a depressive state, you may find these apps doing you more harm than good.
You probably find yourself comparing your life to the curated image of those you follow, blaming yourself for not being “as good as them”. You compare your bad days to another person’s best and feel inadequate in the process.
Stop. That’s not fair on yourself. The only person you need to worry about is you. Not only this but bad news and internet “trolls” can make social media apps a hostile place to hang out, especially when you aren’t in a good headspace.
So, if you’re a habitual timeline scroller, it’s time to ditch the habit and swap it for something else that gives you joy. Try deleting your social media apps from your phone, so you won’t be tempted to open them and scroll.
You’ll find that after a few weeks without social media, some of the clouds weighing on you will start to move away.
Every self-help guide you’ve ever read probably tells you to exercise to improve your mental health. And that’s because it is one of the best antidotes to depression, anxiety, low self-esteem etc.
The benefits of exercise are never-ending. Exercise makes you less stressed; it increases your “happy hormones” (hello, Mr Endorphin!) and improves your overall wellbeing.
The problem is, many people think that for exercise to be effective, you have to exert yourself to the point of exhaustion. This is absolutely not the case, though. Sure, some experts recommend 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day, and that’s a great long-term goal to have.
But if you’re in the midst of a depressive episode where you barely have the will to go to the toilet, 30 minutes is not a realistic target for you.
Luckily, any type of movement for however long you can manage is enough to help you improve your depression symptoms. A five-minute walk, a two-minute stretch – do what you can, and you will start to see the benefits.
Yoga is also a great exercise that helps marry mindfulness and exercise to help overcome your depression.
5. Journaling and gratitude
Journaling is a great way to get your thoughts physically out of your head and see what is really bothering you.
The great thing about a journal is that it’s private and tailored to you, so you can feel free to be as open and vulnerable as you want. As you learn to write about your genuine thoughts and feelings, you’ll discover patterns and triggers in your life that may be unhelpful for your mental health.
This gives you a solid starting point to make goals that help you resolve those issues and improve your mental wellbeing. Journaling also gives you the perfect canvas to start practising gratitude.
Gratitude is being thankful for the small positive things in your life that you have. When you are depressed, everything feels dark, and it is easy to forget that there are things to be thankful for.
So whether it’s a warm blanket to cuddle, a friend offering a shoulder to cry on, or watching your favourite film on Netflix, there is something every day to be thankful for.
And reminding yourself of this puts you in the mindset of abundance that will help the darkness make way for the rays of sun trying to get in through the cracks of your windows.
6. Celebrate your victories
Depression would have us believing nothing ever goes right, and everything we do is worthless. In short, depression is not our friend. But there is a way to show your depression who is boss.
Every single time you do something successfully, celebrate it! Did you get out of bed today? Did you make yourself a nice meal to eat? Did you talk to a friend? Did you find a penny in the crack of your sofa?
There are thousands of small things you can celebrate every single day, so take advantage and celebrate every single one.
Much like journaling your gratitude, this practice will allow you to see the blessings in your life and shift your focus to all the positive things you have going on.
Not to mention it will give you a much-needed self-esteem boost.
7. Accept that recovery is not linear
Wouldn’t it be great to wake up one day and have your depression disappear forever? But, unfortunately, that’s not how recovery works.
Depression, as with most mental illnesses, takes time and patience to recover from. And your progress will not be an upward trajectory. If you imagine a squiggly line going up, down, left, and right haphazardly, that’s pretty much what recovery looks like.
Some days you will only be able to lie in bed and watch tv, and some days you’ll feel able to run a marathon. It’s the way it goes, so don’t judge yourself - just take it a day at a time.
It is important you accept the fact that not every day will be a good one during recovery so that the bad days are easier to bear and you don’t spiral. A bad day or even week is par for the course.
If not, you may find you blaming yourself for those bad days, which is terrible for your self-esteem and will only set you off course. Bad days are not your fault. There is a falsehood that you must be happy every day, but this isn’t realistic.
So, take every day as it comes, and don’t beat yourself up if you’re having a bad day, instead take it as a sign to take things slow on that day and be kind to yourself.
In addition to interventions recommended by your doctor, you can make positive changes in your life and outlook to help overcome your depression.
It doesn’t take a lot to make a significant change in your life; it just takes having the courage to take that one, first smallest of steps forward.
Because, while the road to recovery may be long, with many speedbumps along the way, implementing small, daily habits, such as those listed in this article, will see you well on your way to better mental health.
Stay safe and keep looking after your wellbeing because you are worth it!