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Depression and self help - how to look after yourself

While it’s normal for everyone to get upset or ‘down’ from time-to-time, when these feelings are frequent, intense or affecting your ability to function, it may be a sign that you’re struggling with depression, a mental health illness.

Depression is a serious mental health condition which causes extreme sadness and can have a negative effect on your motivation, behaviour, health and quality of life. It is an illness and not a sign of weakness - depression can affect anybody and people can experience it at any point in their lives.

There are a number of ways you can look after yourself if you think you have depression, although it’s important to seek professional help as well, to prevent your condition from becoming worse.

What are the signs and symptoms of depression?

There are a range of psychological, physical and social symptoms of depression to look out for. The most common include:

Psychological symptoms of depression:

  • Intense sadness - your moods may be so low that you can’t function or take care of yourself
  • Feeling guilty
  • Feeling worthless, hopeless and unable to see a way out of your depression
  • Feeling anxious
  • Crying more than usual and for no apparent reason
  • Becoming angry for minor reasons and taking it out on people who are closest to you
  • Being unable to concentrate or make decisions
  • Reduced emotional reactions (also known as ‘flat affect’)
  • Not looking after your physical appearance or hygiene
  • Taking drugs or drinking excessive amounts of alcohol to try and cope with your depression
  • Feeling suicidal

Physical symptoms of depression:

  • Changes in appetite - eating more or less than usual, which can cause you to put on weight or lose weight
  • Not getting enough sleep because you can’t ‘switch off’ from your negative emotions, or sleeping more than usual and feeling as though you can’t get out of bed
  • Low energy and feeling tired all the time
  • Unexplained aches, pains and digestive problems
  • Sexual problems, including erectile difficulties and a lack of interest in sex

Social symptoms of depression:

  • Not wanting to meet with family and friends, meaning you may become isolated
  • Not wanting to take part in hobbies or activities that you used to enjoy
  • Poor performance at work or school
  • Relationship breakdowns
  • Unable to complete normal, everyday tasks

Self-help tips for dealing with depression

Be proactive

  • Admit you have a problem - this can be a difficult step, but by accepting that you are struggling with depression, you can take steps towards getting help and feeling better
  • Set realistic goals - try to set yourself daily goals, like getting dressed and leaving the house every day. If you set goals and then achieve them, this can make you feel good about yourself and can lead to you achieving even bigger goals in the future
  • Set yourself a daily schedule - this will help you get some structure into your life. For example, try to cook at certain times of the day, and have time set aside to read a book or do something relaxing

Look after yourself physically to feel better mentally

  • Try and exercise every day - exercise boosts the ‘happy chemicals’ in the brain and improves mood. Even walking for a few minutes each day can help
  • Try to get enough sleep - depression can make it difficult to achieve a good night’s sleep, but there are some steps you can take to help. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, avoid napping if you can, and remove distractions and electronics such as the TV and your mobile phone from your bedroom
  • Make sure you eat healthily and try not to overeat - foods that are rich in folic acid (such as avocado and spinach) and omega-3 acids (such as salmon and tuna) can help to ease the symptoms of depression
  • Look after your appearance and hygiene - these things might not seem important for people who have depression. However, small things like having a shower, getting dressed, and combing your hair can make a big difference to how you feel
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs - you may want to take these substances to try and make yourself feel better in the short-term, but in the long-term, they can make you feel a lot worse

Connect with other people

  • Speak to a family member or a friend about how you are feeling - it is often the case that a problem shared is a problem halved. If you don’t want to talk face-to-face, try sending a text or email to get things off your chest
  • Get yourself ‘out there’ - try joining some form of group or club, based on something you enjoy or something you’ve always wanted to try. For example, join a book club, a sports team or try volunteering. This will help you to get out of the house, meet new people and increase your motivation and confidence. It can also help to break negative thought patterns

Practise self-care

  • Try and be positive - write down three positive things about your life every night before going to sleep and reflect on these when you wake up in the morning
  • Discover what makes you feel happy - these might be places, people, activities or pets. Then try to include as many of these things as possible within your daily life. You could even write these things down and refer to your list whenever you’re feeling low, as a reminder of the positive things in your life
  • Treat yourself every day - take time out to do positive things you enjoy, such as having a bath, reading a magazine or listening to your favourite music
  • Don’t beat yourself up - if you don’t manage to do the things you planned to, don’t be too hard on yourself, or tell yourself you’re a failure. It’s so important to be kind to yourself

Even though these tips can help to make you feel better, people often need professional treatment and therapy to fully overcome their depression. Seeking help can be daunting, but it’s the most important step you can take to reduce your symptoms, and return to the healthy and happy life you deserve.

Get in Touch Today

For details of how Priory can provide you with assistance regarding mental health and wellbeing, please call 0800 840 3219 or click here to submit an enquiry form. For professionals looking to make a referral, please click here

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