Depression is an illness, which is still very misunderstood. A lot of people don’t really understand what depression is. In spite of all the information out there, we often define it as “feeling a bit low”, “feeling down in the dumps”, “feeling sad” or even “fed up”.

Actually, it’s none of these things, depression is a physical illness which can be caused by environmental factors, a reaction to traumatic life events, physical illness/pain and/or ongoing stress and anxiety. It can also be a genetic condition, inherited from our parents. It can be an extremely debilitating illness, which often seems to take control of your mind and body.

Symptoms of Depression

  • Exhaustion
  • Irritability
  • Withdrawal from social contact
  • Sleep deprivation or sleeping too much
  • Difficulty in concentrating and making decisions
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Lack of motivation/lethargy
  • Feeling flat/numb

We all have different levels of coping defences and sometimes our bodies simply get to a point where they cannot tolerate any more stress or anxiety. You could say it is the body’s way of telling us that it needs time out and that something probably needs to change, in order for us to be able to function normally again. The good news is that it is possible to treat depression and to help reduce the possibility of it occurring again in the future. A combination of talking therapies, changes in lifestyle/diet and sometimes anti-depressants can help to lift your mood over time.

Depression – What to Do

Talking Therapies

Depression can make you feel very isolated and alone, because it’s often difficult to express how you feel to family and friends. They will be worried about you, but probably don’t know how to respond or help. Talking to a therapist is different, because they are quite separate from anyone you know and will accept you unconditionally without bringing their own feelings into the conversation, or offering their point of view. Therapy offers you a safe space where you can offload negative feelings without feeling guilty about burdening someone else. NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence) recommend Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for depression. However, other talking therapies such as Person Centred Therapy, will support you in helping you to explore the possible causes, to understand why you feel the way you do, as well as finding different strategies to manage your symptoms. Recognising the triggers is essential in helping to prevent future episodes.

Lifestyle

This is a crucially important factor in reducing depression. Looking at your diet and daily routine can go a long way to reducing symptoms. Three good meals a day which include plenty of fresh fruit and veg. as well as protein and carbohydrate in that order are essential. Of course, when you’re feeling exhausted and low, it’s an effort to have to think about meals etc. So, keep it simple.  Click on this link for more information about diet.

Exercise in the fresh air helps to release endorphines (feel good hormones) and no matter how tired you are, this will give you energy. Be careful what type of exercise you take. I would not recommend going to the gym or other strenuous forms of exercise such as spinning, as they may tire you out,  but will not necessarily relax your mind and body. Other forms of exercise such as yoga or pilates are more suitable, will make a difference and help you to relax. Relaxation is essential in reducing anxiety and stress.

Work Related Stress

This is a widespread issue in many companies and organisations.  Work colleagues may not be your first port of call, when you’re feeling distressed, but keeping the lines of communication open with them and line managers can be another source of vital support. They can always provide a listening ear when your therapist or GP isn’t available. You might be surprised how many colleagues have experienced similar feelings when you find the courage to speak up about it.  Many employers are now registered with Employee Assistance Providers, through their health insurance policies, one benefit being short -term counselling for employees. Ask your HR manager if you’re not sure if your employer is provides this service.

Mindfulness and Meditation

If you’ve never tried these forms of relaxation, you might be quite wary of using them. I would always recommend that you read up about them first and then find a course which will teach you how to practise and offer ongoing support if needed. These are techniques which take time to perfect so don’t expect miracles straight away. There will be courses available near you. To give you a taster, here are some links which you might find helpful. It’s all about finding what works for you.

http://www.freemindfulness.org

http://uk.tm.org/

Anti-depressants

You should always discuss this with your GP. Your GP may recommend medication, but it is still your decision whether or not you want to take it. If you are experiencing suicidal feelings or thoughts, you should always talk to your GP. They can put support in place if necessary, so that you know you have someone to contact, especially out of hours.

Building up a good support network

Although you may not always want to talk to family or friends, it is important to keep in contact and to let them know how you’re feeling. Sometimes we find a listening ear in the most unlikely of places. Men in particular often find it difficult to open up to others about their feelings. New projects such as Men in Sheds have been set up in recent years as a way of bringing men together who don’t have a regular social network.  The Shed looks to foster the health and wellbeing of men. Established as a charity, the Shed provides facilities, enabling men to meet, pursue hobbies, practical interests, share skills, learn new ones, help in community-based projects and develop new ideas. The above link is for the Cheshire Project. It’s worth checking if there is one in your area, if you’re interested.

There are also several charities with help lines which have been set up specifically to help with depression and suicidal feelings. Please click on the links below to access their websites.

CALM

SANE

MIND

SAMARITANS

The main thing to remember, is that you don’t need to go through depression on your own. There is help out there, if you’re willing to ask for it.

If you want to find a Counsellor, the following websites list fully qualified therapists.

www.bacp.co.uk

www.counsellingdirectory.co.uk