Depression is a difficult beast. Sometimes it feels like a grey fog is looming over you and, no matter how hard you try, you can’t seem to see through it. Other times, it makes even the simplest tasks feel like you’re trudging through mud.
Living with depression can make you lose interest in the little things that used to bring you joy. But, worst of all, it makes us feel isolated. Like no one else could imagine, or cares, what we’re going through — and that could be further from the truth.
Everyone has spells where they feel a little low. But sadness, like all emotions, is fleeting. It often fades after we’ve had a good cry or a heart-to-heart with a friend.
Depression, on the other hand, doesn’t budge. It’s relentless, it zaps us of all our energy and leaves us feeling persistently low for weeks or months at a time.
With this in mind, it’s important to reach out if you’re struggling. Don’t let yourself spiral into a dark place. Talk to your GP, go to therapy and let your friends and family know what you’re going through.
Depression is often accompanied by feelings of guilt and shame. You may beat yourself up because ‘you’ve got no reason to be sad’. But that’s the tricky thing about depression. There’s no rhyme or reason to it, so don’t be so hard on yourself.
Despite what the annoying little voice in your head says, you’re not being a burden. You might think that ‘other people have it worse’ but that doesn’t take away from the fact that what you’re going through is really difficult.
Depression is the most common mental health problem worldwide, according to the Mental Health Foundation. That means that so many people, just like you, are dealing with (and have even overcome) it. Take solace in knowing you’re not alone in this. And if you need a helping hand, we’ll be here to help you through the dark times, every step of the way.
Am I depressed?
Depression isn’t the same for everyone. It varies from person to person, and the symptoms can range from the mild to the severe. Here are a just a few symptoms you may experience:
- Continuous low mood or an overwhelming feeling of sadness
- Feeling anxious or worried
- Feeling hopeless and helpless
- Low self-esteem
- Suicidal ideation
- Loss of sex drive
- Difficulty concentrating
- Disturbed sleep and sleep disorders
- Changes in appetite and weight
- Feeling lethargic
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Uninterested in your usual hobbies and passions
Small ways you can deal with depression
If you think you may be struggling with depression, it’s really important that you seek help — whether that’s speaking to your GP, a therapist or a loved one.
Because depression can affect how you think, feel and behave — and it isn’t something you’re expected to “get over” by yourself. If anything, the faster you get help, the better your chances of making a speedy recovery.
We know just how hard the bad days can be, though. So, if you need a little extra help, here are a few tips to help you cope right now.
Some people may find these ideas useful, others may not — and that’s okay. Only try what you feel comfortable with and don’t put too much pressure on yourself.
Remember that you have more power over your emotions than you may think. And, sometimes, even the smallest changes could have a big impact on your mood.
Clean your living space
If you suffer from depression, you’ll know all-too-well how it can zap you of all your energy. You feel lethargic, foggy-minded and the last thing you want to do is tidy up. Because what’s even the point? So the plates stack up, the rubbish accumulates and you have to wrangle for space in your own bed because it’s covered with stuff. In the beginning, it might just be the odd mug or plate you forget to put away, but, eventually it piles up and it can be overwhelming to look at.
Then the cycle of guilt and shame kicks in.
You look around at the mess and feel like a failure, like you deserve to live in a messy room. That’s why cleaning your living space can be therapeutic. In many ways, it’s a form of self-care.
But when getting out of bed every day is a battle, how can you maintain a clean living space? If it all feels a little intimidating, start small. The whole kitchen doesn’t have to be spick and span. So why not just clean last night’s dishes?
By breaking it down into smaller, more manageable chunks, it’ll feel a whole lot less nerve-wracking. You could even enlist a friend or family member to give you a hand or, if finances allow, hire someone else to do it.
Keep an eye on your energy levels throughout the process though. You don’t want to turn the house upside down to organise it, only to run out of steam halfway through.
Most importantly though, be sure to cut yourself some slack. You’re dealing with some pretty difficult emotions right now so you don’t have to be on top of everything. If you want to reframe your approach to cleaning, the ‘Mindful Chores’ episode of Self-care might also offer a fresh perspective too.
When you suffer from depression, it can be tempting to close the curtains, get back into bed and shut yourself off from the world. You might try to convince yourself that it’s helping. But, in reality, it’s probably making you feel worse.
What if, instead, you took a walk in the woods or your local park? Spending time in nature is one of life’s simple pleasures, but it can also do wonders for our mental health. It grounds us when we need a break from the hustle and bustle of modern life.
In fact, Harvard Heath Publishing found that calming nature sounds, and even peaceful silence, can help lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, which calms the body’s fight-or-flight response. With this in mind, spending time in the great outdoors could do you a lot of good.
One of the most insidious aspects of depression is the way it seeps into every nook and cranny of your life, affecting even the most mundane tasks like showering and brushing your teeth. Because of this, so many people with depression struggle to keep on top of their personal hygiene.
If this sounds familiar, there’s no need to be embarrassed about it. So many other people are in the same boat as you. You probably have the best intentions in the world. You say “you’ll do it tomorrow” but, inevitably, tomorrow never comes.
Depending on your energy levels, there are a few small steps you can take to look after your personal hygiene. If you want to truly relax, treat yourself to an Epsom salt bath to relieve any aches or pain. Or you might prefer to sit down in the shower and let the water gently run over you. If you can’t muster the energy right now that’s okay too. Dry shampoo and baby wipes are your best friend.
Brushing your teeth is a seemingly simple task but when you’re depressed it can feel equivalent to climbing Mount Everest. Try to do it at least once a day, but if that gets too much, mouthwash and chewable toothbrushes are a good way to maintain your oral hygiene. And, if it all gets on top of you, ask a loved one to help encourage you. You’re not alone in this journey.
Add structure to your life
Routines. They can seem boring, right? But the reality is, creating structure in your life can be a game changer if you suffer from depression.
When you feel down, the days can quickly blur together. You might convince yourself that you’re a ‘night owl’ and that’s why you’re wide awake at night. Or perhaps you endlessly scroll through social media, only to look at the clock and realise that the day has flown by. Unsurprisingly, this can take a big toll on our mental wellbeing. But there’s simple ways you can shake things up and add some structure to your life.
First things first, work on your sleep hygiene. Turn off devices an hour before bed, go to sleep at the same time every night and try some deep breathing exercises to help unwind your mind. We can all be irritable and cranky at the best of times when we don’t get enough sleep. So it’s really important that you get enough shut eye if you’re feeling low.
Routine is just as important during the day too. So schedule time for the work and admin, but also carve out time for your hobbies and passions. Because when we feel like we’ve achieved something – no matter how small – we’re going to generally feel much happier in ourselves.
Our eating habits often suffer when we have depression. You might be too lethargic to whip up a nutritious meal, use comfort eating as a coping mechanism, or simply lose your appetite.
If this is the case, take time to tune into your hunger. If you have a tendency to binge or comfort eat, ask yourself if you’re really feeling hungry or whether something else might be going on. Maybe you just need a chat with a friend? And if you’re struggling to eat, remind yourself that your body needs sustenance and fuel.
Nutritional deficiencies can also wreak havoc on our mental wellbeing, so try to eat a variety of foods. Again, if your energy levels are low, this could be something as simple as a quick veggie stir fry.
We often show our love to others through food. So extend this love to yourself and practice mindful eating. And, if you need help grounding yourself, try listening to the ‘Mindful Eating’ episode of Self-care.
Connect with loved ones
Withdrawing from friends and family is a sure-fire sign that you’re not in a good headspace. So, if you want to shake off these feelings, don’t shrink into yourself.
Socialising can help lift your mood, so keep in touch with friends and family, whether that’s in-person or via phone call. It might be tough, but let them know how you’re feeling. Even if you don’t want to get into the nitty gritty of it, saying something as simple as “I’m not feeling great at the moment” might offer some relief.
If you have a tendency to ruminate over negative thoughts, your loved ones might be able to provide you with a fresh perspective. Plus, they might be able to offer practical support to help you cope.
It’s no secret: our minds and bodies are closely connected. So, if you’re struggling with depression, looking after your physical health might help to lift your mood.
Many mental health experts shout about the merits of exercise, and it makes sense. After all, exercise releases happy hormones such as, endorphins and serotonin, which give you a positive feeling and a natural energy boost. That’s what runners mean when they talk about a ‘runner’s high’.
If you can manage it, try to squeeze in some light exercise. Even just going for walk or some yoga could help clear your head.
Ditch the toxic behaviour
Alcohol, binge eating, drugs… When we’re feeling low, it can be tempting to fill the void with vices that bring us momentary relief. But in the long-term, they can do more harm than good.
You might drink or comfort eating as a way to cope with your emotions. But this sort of behaviour won’t solve your problems. In fact, it could make things a whole lot worse. That’s why it’s vital that you scrap these unhelpful coping mechanisms and find new ones to cope.
If you feel like it’s becoming a serious problem, remember there are plenty of charities you can trust, including We Are With You, Alcoholics Anonymous and FRANK.
Above all else though, show yourself some compassion. Dealing with depression and still managing to go about your day-to-day life is no small feat. If anything, it’s really impressive.
Your journey to recovery might not be linear and that’s okay too. The dishes may pile up, your productivity may take a dip and you may reach rock-button. But just because you have a particularly bad day doesn’t mean you’re back at square one. Remember you won’t feel this way forever.
Tomorrow, or the next day, might be easier. So reach out to friends, family or a mental health professional and put these tips into practice. Because a step forward, however small, is still progress.