“…..in depression we can neither give nor receive comfort, for we are alone in a prison, and that prison is filled with fear, anger, guilt and despair…..” (Dorothy Rowe 1983)
Depression can be the greatest isolation that we can experience, and it can be very difficult to take the steps we need to take to feel better when feelings of hopelessness and lack of energy overwhelm us. However, although overcoming depression is not easy, it is possible and it is important to recognise that you can have some level of control over your thoughts and your feelings. The following self-help tips can help, either alongside any professional help you may be receiving or on their own.
- One day at a time
Small goals and small steps are the way forward. Write down a list of 6 things that you can manage to do that can help you move to a different emotional space. e.g. taking a bath, making yourself a cup of tea, walking outside and looking at the sky, taking a short walk down the road, phoning a friend. Pick one of these things each day and reward yourself each time you accomplish one.
2. Reach Out
The heavy fog of depression can be very difficult to lift on your own, and being isolated can make it worse. Reaching out to others for support is a strength, and this is the time to do it. Often, it may feel more comfortable to retreat into yourself, but being around other people can help lift your depression and improve your support network.
3. Challenge your negative thoughts
It can feel a difficult task to “think positive” when you are depressed, but there are things you can do to challenge the negative thoughts you may be having, simply by offering yourself more balanced and realistic thoughts. E.g. Ask yourself, are you being harsh on yourself with what you are thinking? Would you say what you are thinking about to someone else in the same position? Is there a less harsh thought that you can offer yourself?
4. Make a Self-Care Kit
A self-care Kit can support you in different ways when you feel depressed. Collect together one item for each of the 5 senses that can help bring good feelings to the surface for you. E.g. smell (coffee, incense, perfume); taste (chocolate, sweets); touch (crystal, stone, jewellery, teddy); sight (photo, poem); sound (CD, Ipod). Place these items in a box, and dig into it to help you move to a different emotional space. By choosing 2 or 3 items from the box, you can make it more portable and carry them around with you.
5. Exercise and Diet
Although this is the last thing you may feel like doing, exercise can be a powerful tool to helping depression. A 10 minute burst of exercise each day can be a good start e.g. walking up the stairs, walking down the road, and you can then progress to longer periods of exercise, e.g. swimming, yoga.
Aim for mood boosting foods including low-fat protein, complex carbohydrates and fresh fruit and vegetables. Reduce your intake of foods that can adversely affect your mood, such as caffeine, alcohol, saturated fats, and foods with high levels of chemical preservatives.
- Three things
Each evening, look back over your day and choose 3 things that have happened that may have made you smile or may have just helped you feel a little better, and write them down, however small. This may seem like a struggle, but it is possible to start tuning in to notice these things, e.g. something nice or amusing somebody said or did, hearing a nice song on the radio; something nice that just caught your eye.
Whilst these tips can all be part of your treatment plan for recovery from depression, there may be other issues such as anxiety, trauma, loss, and anger underneath it all. If you are finding that you are continuing to struggle, professional counselling can help by working with you to deal with the issues underlying the thoughts and feelings associated with your depression so that you can find a way out of the ‘prison’.
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