Basic Depression Facts
Depression can be a confusing term because it includes many different variations. The simplest form of depression is the normal reaction we have to disappointment, frustration, or daily stress–normally referred to as “the blues.”
However, if the feeling persists for a couple of weeks, starts to interfere with daily functioning, and affects your sleep, appetite, or energy, then it may fall into the category of clinical depression.
Depression can be related to stressful life events or be biologically based.
– About 5% to 10% of the population experiences major depression at any given time.
– One out of every six people will develop major depression at some point during their lives (Laurie, 2007).
– Clinical studies suggest that 50% to 75% of all doctor visits are primarily related to stress, depression, and anxiety, making the combined effect of these concerns a more serious risk factor in terms of mortality than tobacco or heart disease (Servan-Schreiber, 2004).
– Approximately 80% of people who suffer from depression can get well with treatment (USA Today).
Depression is serious business. The good news is, according to USA Today, approximately 80 percent of people who suffer from depression can get well with treatment. Many begin to feel better in just a few weeks (Moragne, 2011).
The full Empowered Life Solutions curriculum will aide you with each step along the way, but this article provides ideas to bring some immediate relief during those first couple of weeks.
Empowered Life Solutions depression curriculum is meant to complement, not replace, the care you receive from your mental health professional and your medical doctor.
Symptoms of Depression
Sharee worked as a claims adjuster for an insurance company. She coached her son’s soccer team. She enjoyed collecting healthy recipes and experimenting with nutritious meals for her family. Her dream was to write a cookbook with her original cooking tips.
Sharee began to struggle with sleeping and noticed she was feeling tired and irritable most of the time. She started to decline invitations to get together with friends and found no energy to write on her healthy recipe blog.
Feelings she hadn’t felt since she was a teenager returned–feelings of worthlessness. Sharee started to call in sick to work–sometimes for days in a row. One day her sister questioned her about her change in behavior.
Sharee responded, “I just don’t see the point anymore. I can’t figure out what is wrong. I feel like I am in a fog that I just can’t see my way through.” She ended the conversation by excusing the symptoms, “I’m just tired. I am not sleeping well. It’s no big deal.”
While Sharee may not have recognized it, she was experiencing many of the symptoms of depression.
What are some of the red flag symptoms that are important for you to notice?
A person suffering from depression may experience some or all of the following symptoms:
– Feeling sad or irritable
– Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
– Feeling tired or having difficulty sleeping
– A desire to be alone
– Feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness
– Difficulty concentrating (may interfere with school or work)
– Thoughts of death or suicide
It is also important to note that since anxiety and depression are both tied to thinking patterns, they are buddies that tend to hang out together. If you have depression, it’s very likely that you are also experiencing anxiety. If you believe you are dealing with depression, the following tips can help jump start your healing.
What Can I Do Today?
Talk to Someone – When you are depressed, it is tempting to shut out family and friends and dive into feelings of being alone, but its important to keep those supportive relationships strong. The love and support of family and friends can help ease the feelings of loneliness and despair. Solitude only increases feelings of loneliness.
Go Shopping – You don’t have to buy anything. It helps to simply get out of the house or change your normal routine. This tip can really help if you make it a challenge to buy one thing that is pleasing and costs a dollar or less (a sucker or piece of gum).
Go for a Walk in Nature – Get outside and go for a walk anywhere like a city park, river trail, or in your own neighborhood. Notice the color of the sky, the details of a flower, or the intricate structure in the bark of a tree. Listen to the sounds of the people around you: the river, a buzzing bee, or passing cars. Nature lives in the present moment and brings “a breath of fresh air.”
Dress Up – When depressed, it is common to stay in sweats or pajamas for days at a time. Get up and get dressed in some of your nicer clothes. Put makeup on and comb your hair.
Drink More Water – Water is a basic human need, but when a person is depressed, the basics can go out the window. On a side note, because alcohol can actually slow the healing process, it is best to avoid it.
Exercise – Exercising will provide natural endorphins that help counteract the crushing depressive symptoms. A vigorous walk, long bike ride, swinging on a swing, or a game of tennis or racquetball will do the trick.
Eat Fresh Fruits or Vegetables – Putting healthy food into your body signals to the brain that you are taking your health seriously. This signal tells your body and brain that you are worth the extra effort.
Make Time for Spirituality and Sustaining Values – Reconnect to those values that have been important to you throughout your life. Meditate, pray, read uplifting information, worship, write in a journal, or listen to positive music.
Participate in Pleasurable Activities – Hobbies or activities you have enjoyed in the past can be an important part of shifting your mood. Even though you may not feel like it, once you are engaged in the activity, you often experience a shift from feeling lethargic toward having more vitality.
Make a Self-Care Kit – Put something in the kit for each of the five senses. Make it very personal. Some examples include:
Touch – a soft piece of fabric, a seashell, or something that you can touch as a symbol of your movement forward
Taste – a favorite food, candy, or a piece of gum
Smell – a candle or fragrance with a pleasing smell to you
Sound – soothing music
Sight – a picture or painting that feels hopeful or healing to you
This kit may take a few days to put together, but using the five senses is one of the 10 pathways to the present moment and works wonders for movement out of the depressive symptoms (See Healthy Living Video: 10 Pathways to the Present Moment available in Empowered Life Solutions Premium Content).
Sleep 8 Hours – Sleep can be a tricky thing. Depressed people often have a hard time sleeping at night and then spend their days feeling tired. Instead of staying in bed during the day, go to bed at night when your body tells you it’s tired (usually 9:00-10:00 pm). That way you are working with the natural rhythm of your body. Get a full night’s sleep so you can wake feeling refreshed instead of slogging tiredly throughout the day.
Remember Sharee, the insurance claims adjustor who loved healthy cooking and coaching her son’s soccer team. Her sister gave her a copy of the Empowered Life Solutions list of “Depression: Quick Start” tips. I could tell you how it worked for Sharee, but she can do it so much better herself. Here is Sharee’s story in her own words.
My sister said she thought I was depressed, and I thought, “NO DUH,” but I didn’t have any idea what to do about it. I didn’t have enough motivation to even get out of bed, let alone call a therapist or go to my doctor. I was barely hanging on to my job.
My sister gave me a list of things to do that she looked up on the internet. That list just sat on my nightstand by my bed for a couple of days staring back at me–taunting me. Finally, I decided, “OK, OK, I give up. I guess I could drink more water.” I could try it.
At the very least I knew it wouldn’t hurt me. The other things on the list seemed too overwhelming to me, but I thought if I was drinking water I could also eat some fruits and veggies. To my surprise, the next day I felt a little better–actually better than I had in weeks. I decided I could do two more things. I hadn’t been out of my sweatpants in days so I got dressed and went shopping–not regular shopping, just browsing around at the quaint shopping center in my town. Even though it mostly had ritzy, specialty stories I decided to see what I could buy for under a dollar.
The challenge gave me something to think about that wasn’t stressful and kind of fun. I ended up buying a little handmade friendship bracelet from a street vendor. The bracelet became a symbol the said loud and clear, “I can get better.”
I was so surprised. Surprised is an understatement. I was shocked that after two days I was feeling a little bit better. I thought it would take weeks or months. Each day I felt just enough relief to try another thing on the list. It wasn’t miraculous, but I felt better enough that I didn’t have that weight on my chest anymore. I didn’t feel like I was in slow motion. I felt hope return.
Long term healing came from reading and participating in Empowered Life Solutions premium content. I took healing really seriously and worked hard at it because I didn’t want to ever go back in that dark hole again. Now I know the symptoms and respond at the first little hint of depression. I also learned that I experienced anxiety regularly – go figure.
I had no idea all that worry about not being good enough and feeling the need to go a million miles an hour to compensate was really anxiety.
I read every article–one a week.
I did the workbook exercises and the relaxation exercises.
The mindfulness training in the happiness section and learning about meditation was especially helpful for me. I now experience the blues and mild anxiety every once in awhile, but it is like a break in my stride. Depression was a face plant.
I want to give a big THANKS to Empowered Life Solutions.
Sharee is a great example of taking action. When you do something, you communicate to the brain that there is hope–you CAN heal.
The activities listed bring peace of mind. The movement of doing something is a jump-start that begins the journey back to a place of well-being.
Depression is a bully that thinks it has all the power. When you do something other than listening to the bullying messages depression is telling you, you start to feel a gentle, almost subtle, shift. The shift is usually enough to help you gain more knowledge and acquire other tools for managing depression for long lasting relief.
The standard treatment options to consider are:
Consult with your doctor about the use of antidepressants as a part of your overall treatment plan.
Attend psychotherapy. (If you are experiencing severe chronic depression or serious thoughts of self harm, these first two options are the treatment recommended.)
For many people, self-help programs such as Empowered Life Solutions are just the ticket. After working on the “Depression: Quick Start” list above, read the article “Depression: A Deeper Look” where you will learn why you get depressed and discover a basic map for your healing journey.
The other articles and workbook exercises will teach you how to recognize the symptoms when they are small. You will learn how the thinking and emotional parts of the brain become unbalanced. You will understand how to create harmony between your thoughts and feelings to help reduce depression.
Empowered Life Solutions will teach you to increase your sense of well-being through learning to live in the present moment, developing mindfulness training, and managing your thoughts through the observing self. You will find all the articles under anxiety, depression, healthy living, and happiness helpful, but for now, start with the small steps from the “Depression: Quick Start” list. As Sharee said, “Nothing miraculous, but enough relief to move forward.” Good Luck!