Depression is the most common mental disorder in the world, affecting people from any age group. It negatively affects the way you feel, think, and subsequently act. However, it is widely misunderstood as just a state of feeling sad, and that to overcome it you just need to laugh and feel happy.
An important thing to understand here is: the opposite of depression is not happiness— but vitality.
The one thing that depression always causes is a loss of energy, and interest, in activities that were previously fulfilling. You may not feel like taking up a hobby, or taking the extra step towards anything. Chores that were once a part of your daily routine now become overbearing and impossible to do.
That is what depression does— it feeds on your vitality. Those with depression describe it as a living in a ‘black hole’ or feeling empty and apathetic. Such feelings of hopelessness and helplessness are attached with depression. But it is important to remember, they are only symptoms of depression, and not the reality of your situation.
Dealing with a problem requires knowledge about it. By understanding the symptoms of depression and what causes it, you can take the first step towards feeling better and learning to rise above it.
8 Common Symptoms of Depression
- Loss of Vitality: The feeling of helplessness or hopelessness take over, giving a bleak outlook on life.
- Loss of interest in activities and hobbies: The person stops participating in activities that they previously enjoyed. This stems from their overall lack of energy.
- Disrupted sleep cycle: The person may start sleeping too much, or too little.
- Anger and irritability: It is much easier to get angry. Any little thing sets the person off, and gets on their nerves.
- Appetite or weight change: The person may noticeably start overeating or eating too little. This results in changes in weight.
- Concentration problems: The person may begin to find it difficult to concentrate on the task at hand.
- Feelings of worthlessness: The person starts to feel that they are worthless, and undeserving of any goodness. It is important to remember this is only the depression, not the reality of the situation.
- Fatigue: The person starts to feel constantly tired, and the smallest of tasks may feel physically and mentally exhausting.
Self-Help Tips to Deal with Depression
Depression is a serious mental illness, and the best way to deal with it is to reach out to a mental health professional, who can offer proper guidance and therapy. However, therapy can be expensive, and there is also a general lack of such professionals, especially in India.
So how can you help yourself? These are some tips which can be efficient in helping you cope with depression.
Note: It is important to understand that depression never fully goes away for many people. However, that does not mean that you should spend your whole life in misery, or that things will not get better. Learning how to cope with depression, and to live with it in a way that it does not interfere with your daily life, should be the goal. It is obvious that the milder your depression, the more likely you are to benefit from these tips. If you have severe depression, which is interfering with your life and crippling you to the point of risky thoughts — then you need to seek psychological help. Therapy is always more effective and efficient at helping you deal with such disorders. But till the time you can afford it, these tips can be a basis for you to start your journey towards a healthier, happier and more vital You.
- Recognise that you have depression, and realise the reality of your situation. Do you have a good life, but are still feeling constantly terrible? Or is your quality of life mediocre, which may be causing your depression? Are the people around you making you miserable? Is your job or current situation causing your depression? The first step is to realise what is happening. Sometimes, if you can figure out the root of your depression, you can remove it from your life and start feeling better. Other times, it is more convoluted and difficult to understand.
- Accept your condition, so as to remove the stigma attached to it. Okay, so you have been feeling low constantly for more than a few weeks. You probably have depression. Accept that. It does not make you weak, nor does it make you any less than everyone else. It is okay to not be feeling okay. It is important to allow yourself to see the situation for what it is.
- Understand that the symptoms are due to the depression, not due to your own self. Depression affects you not just psychologically, but neurologically as well. It is necessary for you to understand that it is not your fault that you are feeling unproductive, de-energised and disinterested. Do not put yourself down, and do not pity yourself since that will only make yourself feel worse.
- Surround yourself with supportive, caring people.
At a time when you aren’t feeling too good about yourself, a good friend or supportive family can be just what you need to rise above your depression. If you have a supportive and understanding family, then seize the opportunity to talk to them. Tell them about your problems, no matter how trivial they might seem. Talk to your friends, talk as much as you want to. I cannot stress this enough—it helps. Even if you are introverted or shy. When you are depressed, you tend to feel ridiculous about it, maybe because you feel you are truly seeing the world for what it is, without the ‘veil of happiness.’ Don’t let that feeling stop you from reaching out to people. Having such a support structure can help you find structure in your personal life.
- Force yourself to do things. The one thing that depression tries to steal is your vitality—the urge to be productive. Going outside, socialising, partaking in activities might be the last thing on earth you would want to do. I have been there too with countless others. But there are a few ways in which you can combat that:
- Count to three
A friend of mine first told me about this method which worked wonders for them. The reason why being depressed makes you unproductive is because you have a thought like, “I need to clean my room,” to which the depression instantly says “No,” or some variation of it. The trick is to not let yourself get the time to make that decision.
So, the instant you get the thought of cleaning your room—don’t think. Just count to three—1, 2, 3—and get up and start cleaning your room. You’ve been holed up in your house for two weeks straight and you know you need to step outside? Don’t deliberate, just count to 3 and get dressed. Don’t allow the depression to interfere.
At first, this may seem hard to do. Counting may not help. But practice, one step at a time. You will get better.
- The 5-minute rule
This is another effective method that many people have used and worked to success, including me. Essentially, what you have to do is, make a list of the things you need to do in a day. It could be only one chore—like doing the laundry, to something more—like cleaning your room and taking a nice, warm bath.
What you need to do is: get up and do it for only five minutes. If you have to clean your room, just set a timer for five minutes and begin. Usually, once you make that initial jump into the task, once you start moving, it becomes easier to continue on for more than five minutes. The hardest thing to do when you’re depressed is to take that first step. This method helps with exactly that.
In the beginning, it may be hard for you to do a lot of things this way. Maybe you won’t finish all the chores you had listed. So what? At least you did something. And that is what matters. You have to continue doing this, until it starts getting easier. One day, you’ll notice that your room is clean, your drawers are organised, and that the kitchen counter looks surprisingly clean.
Also Read: Can mental health illness be cured without medication?
Depression is a mood disorder, which may arise from a number of causes, triggered by events of the past or the future – such as medical condition, use of drugs, family history, genetics and brain structure, early childhood traumas, or any traumatic experiences. Every person develops different combinations of symptoms and may have a different experience of suffering from depression. There are no set rules or check marks that need to be ticked off to classify it as a depressive disorder.
In conclusion, I must clarify that the aforementioned techniques are some personal level strategies that one can employ and incorporate in their daily habits that might help you cope up with your mental state in a better manner. These techniques might or might not work for you. For some people, a combination of several techniques might help. There are certain symptoms that can be managed better by using these coping up strategies, while it might not work at all for some other symptoms.
While making conscious lifestyle changes might help, it would be best to seek professional treatment from a psychologist or counsellor. The professional will be able to decode your issues in a better manner and will be able to suggest a treatment that will work best for you. While it is important to validate your feelings and emotions that you might be suffering, please avoid self-diagnosing and reach out to a professional helper.
- Smith, M, Robinson, L & Segal, J. (2019). Depression Symptoms and Warning Signs. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/depression-symptoms-and-warning-signs.htm
- National Mental Health Survey of India, 2015-16. http://indianmhs.nimhans.ac.in/Docs/Summary.pdf
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