WHAT IS DEPRESSION?
While everyone feels sad sometimes, a low mood that won’t go away may signal a more serious condition known as depression. Often depression comes after some kind of loss: the breakup of a relationship or loss of a job, for instance. If you have a family history of depression, that may increase your risk for becoming depressed. Sometimes depression is caused by drug or alcohol use, a medication, or another medical illness. You should always see your physician to rule out an underlying cause. Whatever the cause, if you’ve had at least five of these symptoms almost every day for two week or longer, it’s likely that you are suffering from depression:
- you feel down or sad most of the time
- you lose interest in your usual activities
- you have difficulty sleeping, or you sleep too much
- you lose your appetite, or you lose weight when not dieting
- you have less energy or feel tired much of the time
- you do things more slowly, or move about restlessly
- you have difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- you feel worthless or guilty
- or you have thoughts of death or suicide
Because depression drains your energy and hope, it’s often a real challenge to work on improving your mood. But you can feel better!
HOW CAN I FEEL BETTER?
- To break out of a depression, you need to start to think and act the way you did when you felt happier. Your mood will eventually catch up to your thoughts and actions.
- Keep a log of your mood, noting the ups and downs over the course of the day and the week. Keep track of what you are doing when your mood is better (e.g., talking to a friend, listening to music), and do these activities more often.
- Keep a log of your thoughts–what you tell yourself when you’re feeling down. Learn to “talk back” to your negative thoughts. For example, let’s say you had the thought, “I’m worthless.” Ask yourself, “What proof do I have that this is true? What evidence do I have that it’s not true? What would I say to a friend who had these thoughts?” Write down your answers. Learn to catch the negative thoughts early and challenge them before they drag you down.
- Having lots of time on your hands is unsettling when you’re depressed. Make a schedule for your free time, including routine activities like eating and housekeeping. Consider every activity you complete an accomplishment
- Although you might feel tempted to use alcohol or drugs to feel better, they will only add to the problem. Try some of the other suggestions here instead.
- Physical activity is very important. If you want to feel better, exercise!
- Make sure to get adequate nutrition, even if you’ve lost your appetite.
- Give yourself credit for small victories: taking some of the steps mentioned here, feeling a little better, asking for help. Recovery is a gradual process.
- There are a number of antidepressant medications which can be helpful; ask your physician about these
Burns, D. (1980). Feeling good. New York: Signet.
The above suggestions are not a substitute for professional guidance, and no liability can be assumed for this advice. Seek professional assistance if your difficulties persist.