Written by: Toni Foot
I feel depressed – what should I do?
Whether you are a high-flying career person or a stay-at-home parent chances are you will have experienced the natural ups and downs of life. Everyone feels a bit low once in a while but sometimes it can start to become overwhelming and you may need a bit of a helping hand from those around you.
Talk to people
If you have family and friends who you can talk to, that’s the best place to start as they know you and will probably be able to offer some emotional or practical support to help you through a tough patch. Perhaps making some changes in your life will help you to cope with difficult circumstances better. For instance, if you are feeling low because of stress at work, try talking to your manager or HR department to see if there is anything they can do to make your job more manageable for you. If you are struggling to fit everything into a day then maybe a friend or relative could help out for a while to get you back on track. Stress-busting can work wonders when you are feeling down too so try dealing with the little things that can be dealt with quickly (like the stack of paperwork sitting in the corner making you feel guilty every time you procrastinate past it) so that you have mental space to deal with the issues that won’t go away so easily.
Make time for yourself
Sometimes the feeling of depression passes by quite quickly and even the smallest things you do can make it feel better. Try treating yourself to a new outfit or a pampering at a spa. If money is a little tight then try just arranging for a day to yourself in which to rest and relax, have a bath or read a book (a particularly effective option for the working parents who find themselves without a minute to themselves from one week to the next).
If your feelings don’t change, or you can’t talk to friends and family then contact your GP. GPs have access to counseling services and they may be able to signpost helpful groups for specific issues. In more severe cases of depression they may also suggest prescription drugs to help you get back on track.
The question most people who are feeling depressed ask themselves is: ‘Am I being silly or do I really need help?’ The best way to answer that is to consider the impact your feelings are having on your life. Psychological disorders (such as depression or anxiety) are considered in need of treatment when they begin affecting your everyday life. For example, if you can’t complete your job or daily tasks at home effectively because of feeling low, you should seek treatment. You might find that tiredness or slowed thinking cause you problems too.
What treatments are available?
Research has shown that individuals make the best progress towards recovery when both psychological therapies (such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, or CBT) and physiological therapies (such as antidepressants) are used together. Don’t worry though; being given antidepressants or CBT doesn’t mean that you are insane, nor does it mean you will never get better. Just take some time to heal then set yourself small, manageable targets to help you on your road to recovery.
When you are feeling depressed everything looks worse. You may feel like the world is against you, or that you are failing at everything you try to do. It is important to remember that these feelings may not be a true reflection of the situation but rather the magnified emotions caused by depression. When suffering from depression an individual’s mind and body function differently. The levels of serotonin (the neurotransmitter that affects your mood and your sleep patterns, among other things) drop leaving you feeling low and often suffering from interrupted sleep. This is why antidepressants can be helpful initially; they boost your serotonin levels and give you the opportunity to start making a difference to your situation. This is where CBT (counseling) comes in as your therapist will help you to see your problems and their solutions differently, challenging unfounded negative perceptions and giving you a range of coping strategies to help you deal with particularly stressful situations or when you are feeling very low.
Whether you find help from your friends and family, counseling, support groups or your GP there is always light at the end of the tunnel. You are not alone and there are people out there willing to help you – you just have to ask.