Depression can take a serious toll on your life. It can leave you drained of your energy as well as leave you feeling empty and fatigued. This can make it difficult to muster the strength or desire to seek treatment. However, fighting depression is important. Some people think that depression does not have a cure or cannot be fought but the truth is, there are small steps you can take to help you feel more in control and improve your overall sense of well-being while kicking depression out of your life; like I did for myself.
Understanding that depression can be fought and overcome helped me win against it.
Now if you ask me, fighting depression wasn’t easy. At first, I didn’t even know why I was depressed or what I needed to get out of it.
I knew that everyone goes through periods of deep sadness and grief. These feelings usually fade away within a few days or weeks, depending on the circumstances. But profound sadness, which I was experiencing, lasted more than two weeks and affected my ability to function. It was then that I decided to recognize my sadness as depression, find the causes and fight it.
Before I begin sharing what helped me, here’s what you need to know: depression is as bad as a physical ailment and no matter how much society denies it, depression needs proper treatment.
To understand depression though, you need to know what depression actually looks like. Some of the common symptoms of depression are:
- Deep feelings of sadness
- Dark moods
- Feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness
- Appetite changes
- Sleep changes
- Lack of energy
- Inability to concentrate
- Difficulty getting through your normal activities
- Lack of interest in things you used to enjoy
- Withdrawing from friends
- Preoccupation with death or thoughts of self-harm
Depression affects everyone differently, and you might only have some of these symptoms. You may also have other symptoms that aren’t listed here. For example, in my case, I loathed myself. I began self-harming even before I could reach out to anyone. It was a way to punish myself for not being the daughter my parents deserved to have and not being the friend my friends deserved. I was ashamed of myself and of my body, primarily because I thought I did not comply with societal standards of beauty. I made multiple plans to kill myself as I would lay in bed, unable to get myself up and ready for class. I was able to make it to some of my classes, but not nearly as often as I needed to be. I would be berated by my professors about my tardiness and absences, leading to more self-harm.
I felt like opening up to someone so I began seeing a social worker in the area I lived, as a form of therapy, as well as seeing a counselor at school. Neither helped much and none of the antidepressants I knew of seemed enough for me to overcome it. When my family found out, they talked about taking me to the hospital. I didn’t originally like the idea, but I knew I needed help. Sooner than I realized, I was taken to a facility which helped individuals with mental illnesses, and I was admitted.
Initially, I decided to give it a try because I wanted to be “diagnosed,” (although, I knew I had it). But more than anything, I wanted an instant cure, something to alleviate the pain or rid me entirely of depression, an illness I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. Cutting it short, at the mental health facility, I was able to understand and recognize my depression while also understanding what will take it away. Here are the few things that helped me win. I am hoping that they help you too.
1. Talk out your feelings with someone you trust!
It might feel hard to start talking about how you are feeling, but many people find that just sharing their experiences can help them feel better. It may be that just having someone listen to you and show they care can help in itself.
If you aren’t able to open up to someone close to you, there are 24-hour helplines that you can call to talk to someone confidentially.
2. Give peer support a shot!
Peer support brings together people who’ve had similar experiences to support each other. Many people find that it helps them to share ideas about how to stay well, connect with others and feel less alone. You could
Contact a specialist organization. For example, you can find details of support groups, forums, and helplines on the websites of support groups like “SANE” and “CALM”.
Ask for support groups near your residence and visit them.
3. Try mindfulness for changed behavior
Mindfulness is a way of giving your full attention to the present moment. Some studies show that practicing mindfulness can help manage depression. Some structured mindfulness-based therapies have also been developed to treat such problems formally. For example, the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for the management of depression.
Mindfulness greatly helped me with my depression. It’s not the cure and it won’t work every single time, but it has helped me to alleviate anxiety and depression by centering my thoughts.
4. Keep your physical health in check
Experiencing depression can make it hard to find the energy to look after yourself. But taking steps to look after your physical health can make a huge difference in how you feel:
Try to get good sleep
For lots of people who experience depression, sleeping too little or too much can be a daily problem. Getting good sleep can help improve your mood and increase your energy levels.
Think about your diet
Eating regularly and keeping your blood sugar stable can make a difference in your mood and energy levels.
Try to do some physical activity.
Many people find exercise a challenge but activities like yoga, swimming or walking can be a big boost to your mood. If you don’t feel confident doing exercise, you could start off with smaller activities such as gentle chair-based exercises in your own home and build from there.
Try to look after your hygiene.
When you’re experiencing depression, it’s easy for hygiene to not feel like a priority. But small things, like taking a shower and getting fully dressed whether or not you’re going out of the house, can make a big difference to how you feel.
Try to avoid recreational drugs and alcohol.
While you might want to use recreational drugs or alcohol to cope with difficult feelings about yourself, in the long run, they can make you feel worse and can prevent you from dealing with underlying problems.
Track your mood
Keeping a mood diary can help you keep track of any changes in your mood, and you might find that you have more good days than you think. It can also help you notice if any activities, places or people make you feel better or worse.
Let nature heal you
Spending time in nature has been found to help with mental health problems like depression. For example, research into ecotherapy, a type of formal treatment which involves doing activities outside in nature, has shown it can help with mild to moderate depression. This might be due to combining regular physical activity and social contact with being outside in nature.
Make yourself your priority
Taking time to look after yourself, such as doing something you enjoy, can help to support your recovery and improve your quality of life. I’ve made a list of things I usually enjoy, like knitting or playing the guitar, and I try to do little bits of these activities when I’m feeling low.
To be honest, I encourage you all to be free and do the things you want to do, not the things you think you should do. Life can be even more beautiful than you can ever imagine, and you owe it to yourself to experience that. Some people find the ideas I mentioned above useful, but remember that different things work for different people at different times. Only try what you feel comfortable with, and try not to put too much pressure on yourself. If something isn’t working for you, you can try something else, or come back to it another time.
But remember, you can fight depression and you can win!
So give it a try and come out as a victor!
All the luck.