Depression affects one in ten of us, and one in five older people. Here’s our top tips for fighting depression…
Depression is more common than most people may realise, with one in ten people having lived with the condition and for older people it is as high as one in five.
It can effect any person, no matter what age, or background; it may also be hereditary and accompany another mental health condition such as bipolar disorder. Depression also varies on a spectrum from mild or moderate, to severe and clinical.
Depression can feel as though you are in a deep dark pit, sinking into oblivion with no hope to be seen. It’s very hard to help a person who is depressed to see any light at the end of the tunnel. It can stop you from enjoying anything in life, or feeling any emotion other than nothingness or numbness. Although everyone feels differently when depressed. Some people are unable to sleep for example, while others may want to sleep all of the time.
Our top tips for fighting depression may help, even just a little. The important thing to remember is to take things at your own pace and if you’re supporting a loved one with depression then try to be gently encouraging rather than critical. Always see your GP if you feel you may have any symptoms of depression.
Get through time with small goals
Taking things day by day is something you hear often, especially when grieving. It’s a very good piece of advice. With depression, it can feel difficult just making it from minute to minute. All of life is temporary, and everything is in cycles. Know that this feeling will not last forever and each minute that passes, you are closer to feeling better.
Setting small goals can help you to get through each day. Like making a cuppa every two hours, or making sure that you go for a short walk each day, or spend five minutes doing some breathing exercises, or listening to music. At first, choose goals you feel are easily achievable, working your way up.
Mindfulness is a form of mediation that brings you back to the present moment. Often when we are depressed or anxious we are elsewhere; in the future, or in the past in our heads. We can become disconnected from our bodies.
Mindfulness means that you bring yourself back into this moment by becoming aware of your surroundings and your body, using your senses like smelling and hearing, breathing deeply, then focussing on each part of your body, from your toes to your head, acknowledging each part of you as you go.
The technique, called Mindfulness Meditation Body Scan, is deeply relaxing and connects mind with body again.
Exercise your way to happiness
Exercise helps your brain’s ability to create serotonin, that’s the chemical that keeps you happy. Physically active people recover from mild depression more quickly, and physical activity is strongly correlated with good mental health as people age.
When you are feeling in the depths of depression, you may feel that exercise is the last thing you want to do as depression can take away all motivation. Starting with a gentle walk can help, or some gentle yoga. Joining a yoga class or a walking group may also help, daunting as it may seem to socialise.
Socialising and talking with people
As mentioned, socialising may feel incredibly daunting, especially if your depression accompanies anxiety. However, the more we exclude ourselves and withdraw socially, the worse our depression can become.
Again, the key is to start really small. Maybe going for a cup of coffee in public with a friend or family member can help to keep a feeling of connection to the outside world.
Talk about how you feel to people who are close with you if you can. They may not understand but they will listen and it can help you to process some of how you feel.
Join specialist support groups
There is a lot of support these days and the internet has become a life saver for many people who find it difficult to meet new people, or get out into the community.
There are campaigns to help end the stigma of mental health, society is evolving and talking to those who understand can really help you. Feeling that you are not alone can sometimes help you towards your first steps of recovery.
Eating a balanced, healthy diet
Our diets are strongly linked to how we feel, what we consume can change the chemical balances in our bodies such as hormones, and affect our energy levels.
Some people turn to junk food and sugars when depressed and gain weight which can add to feelings of helplessness. It’s really important to keep a healthy diet, and this can be difficult if you use food for comfort. Try to limit sugary and high energy foods, replacing them for longer lasting energy such as nuts, fruit and oats.
Other people may go the opposite way and not want to eat at all. This can be just as dangerous for your health. Eating small amounts and often can help. Try some nuts, bananas and seedy bread for toast.
For both ends of the spectrum, it may help to involve a friend or family member who can help you with food as it can be difficult to manage yourself when you are depressed.
Vitamin D and Vitamin B complex can help with depression, try taking a daily supplement.
It’s always really important to stay hydrated, however with depression, it’s even more vital. Our brains need to function properly to keep us alive let alone happy. Water is linked fundamentally to our need for survival and a lack of water is a threat to your survival, so dehydration can cause your body to become anxious. So be sure to drink plenty of fluids.
Organisations that may be able to help you are:
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