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When we talk about depression, it’s important to remember that depression isn’t the same as feeling a little down
. You can’t just snap out of it and go back to normal. Then, within the umbrella of depression, there are also differences. Some people suffer from seasonal affective disorder
and become depressed over the winter time. Others face depression as a response to something that has happened in their lives, and for some people, depression is a long-term mental health problem, that can improve and fade, but be something they always carry with them to some degree.
Depression is a serious condition which can ruin lives. So, it’s important to recognise the signs and get help as soon as you can. If you’re experiencing mood swings, finding you don’t want to get out of bed in the morning, or that you’ve lost any sense of enjoyment and passion for things you used to love, you could be suffering from something more than a low mood. Other symptoms to be aware of include changes in eating and sleeping patterns, thoughts of self-harm, loss of interest in your hobbies and constant low mood with no apparent cause.
While it’s important to know the difference between a sad mood and depression, and equally important to see your GP if you are worried, there are some things that you can try either way. Things that can improve your mood, help you feel more normal and make your days more manageable by helping you to fight off depression and depressive thoughts.
Take Time Off
Due to the massive taboo which surrounds depression and mental health, many of us are guilty of just trying to carry on. If you broke your leg or had the flu, you’d phone in sick and take some time out to recover. Yet, for a lot of people, the idea of telling their employer that they’ve got depression and they need some time off work to get better seems silly.
It’s not. You are unwell.
A Statutory sick pay guide
can explain your rights to pay while you are off work, so you don’t need to worry about money and your employer will just want you to get better so that you can get back to your best. If you do have any issues at work, speak to your HR department or get in touch with your union or an independent advisor for help. If this makes you feel anxious, ask a colleague or friend to sit in or seek out an advocacy service to help.
Exercise can help keep you both physically and mentally fit and healthy. It gets you out of the house, gives you a chance to meet new people, boosts your confidence, helps you to sleep and can even change the chemical levels in your brain.
Even a little cardio exercise
such as a fast walk or a swim releases endorphins, serotonin and adrenaline. All of which makes you feel better about yourself and improve your mood.
Try to do a few stretches when you get out of bed in the morning to start your day right. This will boost your circulation, mood and confidence as soon as you get out of bed. Then, try to get outdoors for a gentle walk or jog.
Use the time to focus on your body and allow your mind to clear. See it as a little time off from your thoughts. The fresh air will also do you a world of good and help you to feel more alert and happy.
If you are new to exercise or haven’t done it for a while, it’s important to start slowly, so ask your GP to help you put together a fitness plan and remember to listen to your body.
Your diet can also have a significant effect on your mental health. Getting fatty and unhealthy foods, as we often do when we’re unhappy, can leave you feeling bloated, sluggish, tired and guilty. Instead, spend some time making yourself healthy meals packed with fruits and vegetables. You’ll get a sense of pride from knowing you’ve created something that’s good for you, your body will feel better, and your mind will be more alert.
While you are making changes to your diet, cut alcohol and limit your caffeine intake. Both of which can affect your mood
. Instead, drink lots of water throughout the day to help you to feel
Get a Pet
Studies show that spending time with a pet can help people with anxiety, depression and other mental health issues. They are especially good for people that live alone and don’t have much contact with others. Having a pet to look after gives you something worthwhile to do and spending time cuddling and stroking them is exceptionally soothing.
Like exercise, meditation is a chance to clear your mind and to allow it some time off from any worries and concerns. Even just 5 minutes of quiet meditation
in the morning can help you to feel more relaxed and able to face the day.
Sometimes trying to avoid your problems or running away from your bad mood can cause depression. So, spend some time productively wallowing in them. Allow yourself the time to feel sad and to dwell on what’s wrong. But, make sure it’s controlled wallowing. Set yourself a specific time frame. Tell yourself at the end of this time you need to stop.
Many of us find it hard to put our thoughts and feelings into words, even in our own minds. When we’re worried about something, it can be especially hard to find a voice for our feelings. But, bottling it up can cause further distress. So, instead try writing things down. You could keep a journal
or just spend some time free writing when you are feeling particularly stressed or anxious.
Remember there isn’t a fast fix when it comes to depression. So, try some things out to find what works for you. But, don’t convince yourself that nothing will. Take a chance and try.