As we head for colder shorter days, some of us will find our mood shifts. Seasonal changes can affect all of us, but if you find a low mood is impacting on other areas of life like sleep, motivation and appetite you might be struggling with depression. Depression can keep us stuck in cycles of thoughts, feelings and behavior. Getting from your family doctor is a good first step. They may well suggest medication and talking therapy. There are also lots of things you can do to help yourself. Here are some practical suggestions to help you, if you’re struggling with depression.
Either meaningful now, or things that used to be meaningful. Look at your daily routine and consider whether the activities you are doing are important to you. If not, try to add in some activities that you believe are important, that matter or that have made you feel good in the past.
This is really key. The biggest trap I have seen people fall into when they’re depressed is waiting until you feel better to do something proactive. Its a bit of a slippery slope because depression usually makes people feel like isolating themselves and doing less. Depression thrives on inaction. Sometimes the ‘doing’ needs to come before feeling better. So don’t wait. Do something now!
Do something every day that makes you feel like you accomplished something. This could be small like making the bed, making a hot drink or walking the dog. Or bigger like managing a day at school or work or completing a home project.
Depression can make you want to stay away from friends and family. Isolation is really common, but is likely to make depression worse. So phone or text a friend, make a coffee date, invite someone over. If you can’t identify someone to contact, then go for a walk and make the effort to say hello to people you see on the way. Connect.
It can help to get out of your own head. Helping others can make you feel good. So bake for someone. Make something to give away. Call someone to see how they’re doing. Feed the birds.
Depression affects the way we feel about ourselves, and often people with depression often will have a very low self-esteem. Sometimes its helpful to remember that low self-esteem is part of depression. Its not truth. So choose not to listen to that negative inner voice and instead do something to look after yourself. This might be a face mask or a massage. It could be treating yourself to your favourite snack. It might be letting yourself have an hour away from chores to watch something on TV. Some of these behaviors can be unhelpful if they are all you are doing, so think variety, and what looks like self-care for you.
The outdoors and being in nature can lift the soul. Being active and outdoors also helps with sleep. Be out as much as possible.
If you need to get some feelings out and express yourself try drawing or painting. Write some poetry or keep a journal. Be careful with overthinking though. Keep it contained to a certain time each day so that it doesn’t lead to feelings getting overwhelming. Mindfulness can also be helpful for difficult thoughts.
Don’t stop ‘doing’ because things aren’t changing. Your mood won’t change immediately. Managing and recovering from depression takes time, and baby steps. It takes determination to plug away at the behaviours, strategies and habits that help. Keep going. And if you struggle to do the things that help, start again tomorrow. Every day is a new day.
Be reflective. On the good days write down what activities helped and what you were doing when you felt better. When the bad days are over look back and think about what led to your mood being lower or what made you feel worse. Keep a record. Then when you feel low do the things that have helped before even if it doesn’t feel like its working.
A lot of these strategies are based on a therapy called behavioral activation. This is an evidence-based talking therapy for depression. Some people find this really helpful. For others, CBT is effective. And some people find a combination of talking therapy, medication and other lifestyle changes works. This is what we can offer at Imagine Therapy. If you find that you’re struggling to beat depression on your own, formal therapy may be needed. Please get in touch – we would love to help.