I’ll admit it, like almost everyone, I have bouts of depression. A few years ago, in my hometown of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, I started seeing a depression therapist.
The initial conversation went something like this (I’ll label myself as “depressed person” and the Calgary Depression Counselling was from a certified therapist:
Psychologist: Hello, I understand that you’re going through a difficult time. I’m here to help. Can you share with me your feelings?
Depressed Person: I feel like I’m stuck in a darkness I can’t escape. I’m always tired, and nothing brings me joy anymore. I feel hopeless.
Psychologist: I’m sorry that you’re feeling this way, but please know that you’re not alone. Many people have experienced similar feelings and have found ways to feel better. Depression is a real illness and it’s not a sign of weakness or a character flaw. Can you tell me more about when these feelings started?
Depressed Person: I’ve felt this way for several months now. It started gradually and it’s been getting worse. I often feel worthless and guilty for no reason.
Psychologist: That sounds really tough. It’s important to remember that these feelings are symptoms of your depression and not reflections of your true self. Depression can often distort our self-perception. Have you thought about seeking treatment?
Depressed Person: I haven’t. I guess I thought it would just go away on its own, or maybe I didn’t deserve to feel better.
Psychologist: It’s a common misconception that depression will just “go away” on its own. And feelings of unworthiness are also part of the illness. You are deserving of help and feeling better. There are multiple ways we can approach this, including medication, psychotherapy, or even lifestyle changes. Would you be open to exploring these options?
Depressed Person: I guess I could try. I’m scared, though. What if nothing works?
Psychologist: It’s perfectly normal to feel scared. But remember, it may take time to find the right treatment or combination of treatments that works for you. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, and it’s okay to try different things until we find what works best for you. It’s a journey we’ll take together.
Depressed Person: Thank you, it does feel good to get this off my chest. I’m willing to try. I don’t want to feel this way anymore.
Psychologist: That’s a really brave decision. Remember, seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. We’ll take this one step at a time, and I’ll be here to support you throughout this journey.
And then we got down to work! Here’s a summary of my six months of therapy…
Depression is a pervasive and debilitating condition that can cast long shadows over our lives, affecting our mental well-being and physical health. But, with the right tools, understanding, and support, it is possible to break out of these shadows and reclaim control.
I’m not here to say I am cured of depression but, I have better tools to manage it.
Recognizing the Signs of Depression
Recognizing the signs of depression is the first step towards overcoming it. Some common symptoms include persistent sadness, feelings of hopelessness, irritability, loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating. Additionally, physical symptoms such as changes in appetite or weight, sleep disturbances, and unexplained aches and pains can also be indicative of depression.
It’s important to remember that these symptoms must be persistent and last for at least two weeks for a diagnosis of depression. If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, it’s crucial to seek help.
How to Feel Better: Tips and Techniques
Despite the challenges posed by depression, there are various strategies and techniques that can help you feel better. Engaging in regular physical activity, for instance, can boost your mood by stimulating the production of endorphins, our body’s natural mood lifters.
Mindfulness and meditation can help retrain your brain to better cope with stress and negativity. Practices such as deep breathing, yoga, and progressive muscle relaxation can reduce symptoms of depression by lowering stress levels and promoting a sense of wellbeing.
Maintaining a balanced diet can also play a crucial role in managing depression. Certain nutrients, like omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B-12, have been shown to help reduce symptoms of depression.
How to Feel Happy: Boosting Your Mood
Beyond merely feeling better, there are also ways to actively boost your mood and cultivate happiness. Engaging in activities that you enjoy can elevate your mood and provide a much-needed respite from the weight of depression. This could be anything from painting to playing a musical instrument, reading a book, or going for a walk in nature.
In addition to pursuing hobbies, building and maintaining strong social connections can also play a crucial role in boosting your mood. Spending time with loved ones, making new friends, or even interacting with a pet can provide emotional support and contribute to increased feelings of happiness.
Coping Strategies: How to Deal with Depression
Coping with depression often involves a combination of various strategies. One key component is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), a type of psychotherapy that helps individuals challenge negative thought patterns and develop more adaptive ways of thinking and behaving.
Self-care practices such as getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and taking time each day for relaxation and recreation can help manage symptoms of depression. It’s also important to avoid alcohol and other substances, which can exacerbate depression and make it harder to cope with.
Reaching out and connecting with others, be it friends, family, or support groups, can provide much-needed emotional support and help alleviate feelings of isolation often associated with depression.
Seeking Professional Help: Therapies and Treatments
While self-care strategies and lifestyle changes can go a long way in managing depression, professional help is often necessary for more severe or persistent cases. Psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists are trained professionals who can provide effective treatment for depression.
Therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, and other types of psychotherapy are commonly used to treat depression. In some cases, medication may also be recommended.
Lifestyle Changes for Fighting Depression
Adopting a healthy lifestyle can be a powerful tool in fighting depression. Regular physical activity, a healthy diet, adequate sleep, and avoiding alcohol and other substances can all contribute to better mental health.
Focusing on self-care, setting realistic goals, and taking time each day for relaxation and recreation can also help manage depression. Lastly, building strong social connections and seeking support from others can provide emotional support and help combat feelings of isolation often associated with depression.
Whether you’re struggling with depression yourself or you know someone who is, the key is to reach out for help. Depression is a serious condition, but it’s also one that can be effectively managed with the right approach.
Remember, you don’t have to face the shadows alone. Reach out, seek help, and remember that with every dawn, the shadows recede, offering a new day filled with possibilities and hope.