While sadness is a normal human emotion that comes and goes and is usually caused by certain events, depression is a constant feeling of sadness and hopelessness.
And while the mental illness, which can last for weeks, months or even years, can’t be overcome through willpower alone, there are ways to beat it.
Even if your depression is severe and persistent, small steps like avoiding isolation, exercising and learning relaxation techniques can help ease the symptoms.
Here, life coach and clinical hypnotherapist Sloan Sheridan-Williams reveals her top tips for dealing with depression:
The best way to overcome feeling overwhelmed is to break down the activity in small, easier-to-achieve chunks.
This can either be in the form of writing a step-by-step list of everything that needs to be done or mentally visualising all the actions that would take place to complete a task and then doing those actions in sequence, slowly but surely.
2. AVOID ISOLATION BY CONNECTING WITH PEOPLE
Depression evokes behaviours in people which tend to cut them off from the outside world. As a result they can become more withdrawn and less talkative or sociable.
This develops into a vicious cycle where the less time the depressed person spends with others, the less time they want to spend with others.
Connection is one of the six basic emotional needs and when depression takes hold it is often the need that gets most neglected in favour of satisfying the need for comfort through isolation.
When the first signs of depression appear it is important to spend more time cultivating relationships with family, loved ones and friends, for these are the very people who will be there for the individual as their support network.
Being able to talk about your problems makes dealing with them easier and therefore it is very helpful to identify the people you can trust and rely on.
It can be difficult to stay motivated when depressed so vigorous exercise such as running or going to the gym can be tough to keep up.
However even moderate exercise like a brisk walk has been shown to improve mood.
I suggest to my clients a brisk walk for 30 minutes a day, five times a week as it has shown to have a significant positive influence on the symptoms of mild to moderate depression.
Even better is walking with someone you care about, as this will increase the level of love hormone oxytocin in the brain.
4. ACCEPT PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY
The power of the mind is an amazing thing, and although pharmaceutical intervention is certainly beneficial in cases of severe depression, individuals can work towards overcoming mild or moderate depression faster if they start to take personal responsibility for their actions and behaviours.
This advice is not about “pulling yourself together” but more about what decisions need to be made by the individual to make them feel more powerful and happy.
We have all the answers we need inside of us and the challenge is to find ways to access those answers to help improve our quality of life.
It is good to establish the fact that you are the one who can make things happen rather than have things happen to you.
5. LEARN SOME RELAXTION TECHNIQUES
Deep breathing and relaxing the muscles are the basis of all relaxation techniques and these two physiological actions work very effectively to help the psychological aspects of depression.
Breathing should be slow and rhythmic, inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth.
Deep muscle relaxation is an excellent technique for everyone to master – not just those with depression – as it can be used anywhere to help deeply relax the body.
Each part of the body is tensed for a few seconds and then relaxed moving from the toes to the head systematically.
Yoga and tai chi are also great ways to help relax the body, and can provide the individual with much needed connection if done in a class.
When you take responsibility for your thoughts and turn such focus towards gratitude you will start to feel comforted about the more positive aspects of yourself and your environment.
It is important for the individual to identify any warped thoughts, like negative filtering and over-generalisation that are not representative of reality, by getting perspective.
7. IMPROVE YOUR DIET
Eating four to six small meals throughout the day rather than two to three large ones can help stabilise blood sugar, giving you more energy to deal with the day and avoiding sugar crashes and cravings that will sap what energy you do have.
Reducing the amount of simple carbohydrates like refined sugar and white flour in your diet can also help keep blood sugar levels stable and therefore help improve mood when depressed.
Although we head straight for the biscuit tin when we are feeling blue, eating processed carbohydrate-rich foods like sweets, biscuits, cakes and white bread will leave you feeling sluggish and heavy.
Swap these foods for healthier wholegrain or low GI alternatives which will have less impact on blood sugar and also keep you feeling fuller for longer.
Some of my clients find eating a high protein, low carbohydrate diet can also help. Seeking a nutritionist’s advice can play a huge part in helping you seek the balance you need, both nutritionally and mentally.
Alternatively, they are commonly taken as fish oil, krill oil or linseed oil supplements.
9. LIMIT ALCOHOL AND CAFFEINE
Alcohol and caffeine in the form of coffee are used by many who are depressed to purportedly help them through the day.
This form of self medication may seem like a useful coping strategy to some, however it is far from helpful as both alcohol and caffeine are psychoactive drugs which cross the blood-brain barrier and affect brain function resulting in changes in mood, thinking, behaviour, perception and consciousness.
Alcohol is a commonly abused substance within the general population and in cases of depression sufferers often use alcohol for its depressant effects.
Caffeine is known to be a stimulant used to keep awake and more alert.
Such seeking of comfort or stimuli to just make it through the day shows that a fundamental human emotional need is not being met by other means and so we look for a short-term fix which is not only temporary but hollow.
The short-term effects of these psychoactive drugs may appear beneficial but in the long term brain chemistry is in fact being altered and mood ultimately becomes more unstable which can make the symptoms of depression worse.
10. HAVE A REGULAR SLEEP TIME
Getting a good night’s sleep is important for everyone but especially for those suffering from depression. Conversely too much sleep (over eight hours) can exacerbate depression.
As with most things it is about balance and everything in moderation.
Regular sleeping hours are essential in managing mood and having a regular bedtime and rise time is important too.
The depressed individual should be going to bed and waking up at the same time every day of the week including weekends.
Go back to basics, set alarms, create a routine and introduce calming rituals before bed.
Studies have shown that regular sleep routines have a positive effect on mood and actually reduce depressive symptoms over time.
Darkness and light are also very important in this. Other tricks that work for my clients include avoiding bright lights of TV, computers and overhead lights after 9pm as this allows you to get a better night’s sleep.
From EXPRESS by Laura Mitchell