Everyone at some point in their lives go through what may be called as a low life condition in which the lives which we lead feels empty and there is a feeling of helplessness. We tend to measure our problems as greater than others which only adds to the miseries. When this happens for a prolonged period of time it may lead to depression.
Depression – symptoms of which can range from insomnia, lack of concentration and fatigue to emotional paralysis and suicidal thoughts—has always been considered a disease of life’s middle or later years, but doctors are now reporting a surprising surge in cases among younger people.
Why is depression striking earlier and more often? No one knows the precise cause, but Dr. Robert Hirschfeld, chief of the mood, anxiety and personality disorder research branch at the US National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), points to the tremendous social changes of the past 20 years. These include the shifting roles of men and women, the flood of women into the work force, and the acceleration of geographic movement that separates people from the support of their families and friends.
Experts caution that “clinical depression,” which can be very serious, requires the attention of a physician or psychologist trained to treat the disorder. If your blue mood persists day in and day out, week after week, or turns to decidedly darker tones, see your doctor.
But you may also be able to help yourself. Here, from leading authorities, are some approaches:
1. Do something constructive – Depression feeds on inertia, and action is its natural enemy, says psychiatrist David Burns at the Presbyterian Medical Centre of Philadelphia. The less you do, the less you want to do. To fight inertia, he advises, write down a daily plan of action— from wake up to lights out. List everything, including baths and meals, because if you’re really depressed, even little tasks can seem large. Break complicated activities into small, discrete steps; they’ll seem more manageable.
If just making out your plans seems an impossible project, take heart from Dr. Burns’s observation that action often must come before motivation. This means you shouldn’t wait until you feel like it to start moving because as long as you’re depressed, you may never feel like it. Instead, you might have to prepare for future action by taking a small step to get started, even if you are not in the mood.
2. Lend a Hand – Altruism is rapidly gaining acceptance among doctors as a good way to help yourself to better health. Volunteer work, community service or such neighborly gestures as shopping for an elderly invalid person can have a therapeutic effect. “You see that you have compassion and understanding,” says the Reverend Florence Pert, who, as associate minister at Marble Collegiate Church in New York, works with volunteers. “You say to yourself, ‘I can do things. I am not worthless.’” Moreover, because isolation from people is an important cause of depression, human contact in and of itself heals.
3. Schedule joy – Many depressed people give up the pastimes they enjoy most, which only makes matters worse. To turn life around, include upbeat activities on each day’s agenda. Focus on social interactions, especially get-togethers with friends, projects that make you feel competent, such as mastering a new skill, and pleasurable events, including dinner out or a movie. Also, try smiling. Extensive research shows that our behavior shapes our emotions, says psychologist James Laird of Clark University in Massachusetts. If you’re feeling sad, don’t drag your feet, walk briskly; don’t slouch, sit upright; and don’t frown, smile. The attempt alone may put you in a good mood. “The actions that go into being happy – the expressions, the postures, the movements—can make you feel happy,” Laird says.
4. Exercise regularly – Researches have shown that regular exercise is one of the best ways in combating depression. No matter how wretched you feel before running, you will feel better afterwards. Scientists think that aerobic exercise—activities like walking, jogging, swimming and bicycling—may boost your self-confidence, improve your sense of well-being, and heighten your energy. And, by helping you relax, it can reduce the tension and anxiety that contribute to depression. Another helpful and effective way is through meditation.
5. Brighten your day – In one case, Angela, a successful writer, always sought out bright places to live, until one winter when she couldn’t get away from a gloomy work location. She felt lethargic and couldn’t finish a book project. Angela was suffering from seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, a light-sensitive depression in which mood slumps coincide with dark winter months.
Research has shown that exposure to light—from the sun or artificial devices—can help relieve such seasonal depression, which affects a relatively small number of people. Specialists like Norman Rosenthal of NIMH, have shown that special bright fixtures can be helpful, but they should be used only under medical supervision. You can introduce more light in your home yourself by creating a brighter indoor environment. And by choosing a daytime activity, such as walking or jogging, you can get natural light.
Before embarking on self-therapy for what you suspect is mild depression, get a physical exam to make sure your health is good. Then set a two-week target. If you don’t feel better by then, or if you feel worse or have suicidal thoughts at any time, talk to your doctor. And heed the encouragement of Dr. Burns: “The decision to help yourself is the key to feeling better.”
One must not forget to appreciate their own life every single day. So why depend on medication when you already have the healing powers within you?