Mary is a mother of two. She has a great husband, two kids, and a part-time job that keeps life interesting. She’s grateful for her life, but at some point, she just starts getting tired. Something changes. She’s had sad spells before, but this is something different. None of her favorite activities and hobbies can rouse her interest. She has trouble sleeping, and she’s gained weight. And while most of the time she can convince herself to muscle through the day, some days it’s more than she can do just to get out of bed.
If this story sounds familiar to you, you probably know a thing or two about depression. Depression is the most common mental health problem in the United States, affecting about 17% of adults at some point in their lifetime. However, clinical depression often goes unreported, as most of us reach out to unhealthy coping techniques to deal with the dip in our mood and outlook.
First of All… a Definition
What is depression? What’s the difference between depression and just feeling sad or bluesy for a little while? Here’s the rule: if the feelings of listlessness, hopelessness, and pessimism are persisting for more than two weeks, and it’s affecting your ability to live your normal life, it’s depression, and it’s more than waking up on the wrong side of the bed.
Variations on Depression
Depression is an anxiety disorder, and it can come in many forms. It may be seasonal affective disorder, which persists during the winter months when the sun is low and sets too soon. Many new mothers suffer from postpartum depression. Depression might manifest itself differently in different people. For example, many men are misdiagnosed when they experience depression because it shows itself as anger more than anything.
You Don’t Have to Feel Like This
One of the biggest problems with depression is that since it’s characterized by hopelessness, few people seek out help. It’s hard to talk about something that you can’t quite put your finger on. Additionally, many of us downplay the severity of our condition. We tell ourselves that we’ll snap out of it soon, or we assume that it’s normal to feel that way, so we bear it. But if it’s disrupting your life and your ability to function, a change needs to happen! So what’s your plan of action?
Steer Clear of Unhealthy Coping Techniques
First step is NOT to look to unhealthy coping techniques. There’s a reason that alcoholism and depression so often go hand in hand. Many people self-medicate using mind-altering substances. However, this can make the problem worse, as your life gets suffocated under problems caused by substance abuse, and the substance in question gradually changes your brain chemistry until you become more and more dependent on it.
Drinking isn’t the only danger. Beware of anything that you’re continuously using to get through the day.
Make Some Healthy Lifestyle Changes
Instead, set some new habits that will support mental and physical health, including daily exercise, effective nutrition, and a solid 8 hours of sleep every night. These may seem so simple that they’re not worth doing, but they have the power to fortify you against depression. You may not see results right away, but persist for a couple of weeks at least. In the end, it’s about prioritizing self-care; something most of us forget to do on a regular basis!
Additionally, it’s often helpful to take a look at your life and the stressors that bring you down. Sometimes, you need to make a hard call and make a change in your job, your relationship, or your living situation in order to start feeling healthier again.
Be Ready To Talk
When we’re depressed, it’s hard to be motivated to change. It’s hard to trust our own judgment and feelings, so the most helpful thing is to reach out for help. A change in lifestyle and routine will often be enough to alter the course of depression, but for many of us, a helping hand is necessary.
Reach out to a professional trained to understand your situation and condition. Document the changes you’ve seen in your life, and be ready to talk about it. Don’t discount your feelings!