Depression: Defining the ‘Black Dog’ (part 2)

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In my previous article on depression, I suggested that depression was not so much a disease but a complex set of factors for which ‘depression’ is a label. (Obviously there are exceptions to this idea; Bipolar Disorder is a chemical imbalance requiring medication as well as therapy.) It is not an easy task to overcome that depressed state but there are many things that a person can do to help themselves, no matter how persistent or severe it may seem.Sometimes, renaming the problem can be a start. By labelling yourself as depressed, the connotations are negative, serious and implicitly hard to change. By changing the name, you may move away from these connotations and allow yourself to look at the problem in a different way. What does ‘depression’ feel like to you? How do you ‘do it’? Find an appropriate or pet name for your personal state of mind, rather than the generic term of depression.The next step is taking control! No matter how bad you may feel, by taking steps to make changes you are taking some of the power back to yourself and raising your self esteem. A recovery plan, which is realistic, workable and takes responsibility for changes and choices that you can control, is a very positive step towards recovery.The Plan

1 Take Baby Steps

Set small daily achievable goals, even something as small as taking a shower, phoning a friend or making a shopping list. Reward yourself for each accomplishment and be patient.

2 Do Some of the Things You Used to Enjoy

Finding pleasure again is not something that can be forced but you can choose to pick up a hobby or interest that used to give you pleasure. Force yourself to make an effort, remembering that it used to be fun and with time, will be again.

3 Exercise

This is very important. Even a daily 10 minute walk will help to lift your mood for as long as two hours each day! Choose exercise that is continuous and rhythmic but not too intense. Walking, yoga, tai chi, dancing or bike riding are good examples. Competitive sports are not recommended as they can be too stressful.

4 Identify Your Stress Triggers

Work out the major items in your life that trigger your stress and ‘depression’. They may be work, unhappy relationships, substance abuse or health issues. Once they are identified, you can make plans to minimise their affects on your life.

5 Be Kind to Yourself

Are you a perfectionist or overgeneralise? Do you constantly beat yourself up over ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’? May be you magnify problems or minimise your achievements. These are some of the cognitive distortions that can help lead to a depressed state or maintain it. Your therapist can work with you on changing these negative thought patterns.

6 Healthy Lifestyle

Get plenty of sleep (but not excessive), eat a nutritious diet, exercise regularly and avoid alcohol or recreational drugs, as these are all natural depressors.

7 Learn how to Relax

Find a relaxation technique that works for you. It may be meditation, yoga, having a bath with aromatherapy, watching a movie, massage or deep breathing. Once you have identified your preferred tools, use them regularly!

8 Set up a Help Network

Identify a supportive friend or family member that you can ring when you are feeling blue.

See a counsellor, changing negative thought patterns and identifying stress triggers are not always easy to do alone.

Make a friend of your local GP. They can help you with other areas other than medication.

Consider joining a support group.

If you are feeling suicidal, don’t hesitate to ring Lifeline (131114) or any other telephone support line.

Once you are on the way to making changes in the way you handle and view your ‘depression’, you can start to make goals for your future life whilst focusing on the achievements not the difficulties. Your journey towards a balanced and happier life, will have begun.

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