What is a low mood? What is depression?
Depressed is a term we hear thrown around a lot, "I'm so depressed today", "Well that was depressing" but depression is serious. So what is depression? Depression sucks away our happiness, it causes us to hate ourselves, to want to hide away from the world - it can be truly soul destroying.
What are depression signs?
If you are struggling with motivation, or have stopped enjoying things, it could be a sign of depression or low mood. At the least depression means that you only want to do the things you have to and nothing more, at the worst small like getting out of bed will feel like climbing a mountain.
The way that we think is a big sign of depression. It makes it impossible for us to recognise our achievements, our worth, our strengths. Depression makes us see all the bad and none of the good.
What are the symptoms of depression?
Everyone is different, so symptoms can vary, but these are the most common symptoms of depression or low mood:
- Poor sleep
- Feeling tired
- Reduced appetite or comfort eating
- Feeling sluggish or slowed down
- Difficulty concentrating or focusing
- Reduced libido
- Lack of motivation
- Reduced interest and enjoyment
- Suicidal thoughts
- Common thoughts and beliefs of depression
Depression can develop at different points in people's lives, and for different reasons. But the likelihood is that the beliefs listed below have been familiar to you for a long time to some extent:
- I'm not good enough
- I'm a failure
- It's my fault
- I'm un-loveable
- There's no point
- No-one cares about me
- They'd be better off without me
When you see all that comes with depression and low mood, it is not surprising that it can feel completely overwhelming and engulfing. It can be so easy to get swallowed up in how we feel.
Treatment for depression
There are many different options for treatment for depression. Psychotherapy is one option. You can also look at anti-depressants, exercise for depression, or alternative therapies.
Even within the world of Psychological Therapy, there are lots of different types of treatment for depression. It can be hard to work out what option is best for you. The therapy I offer is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for depression. I offer a free brief consultation call, and during that conversation I can provide guidance on what type of therapy might suit you best. If I do not think CBT is appropriate, I will share this with you, and try to refer you to a therapist that offers a more suitable type of therapy.
If you'd like to know more about CBT for depression, or what I can offer, please do get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org
Self-help for depression
One of the approaches we use in CBT for depression is what's known as activity scheduling or behavioural activation. I've provided below a condensed and simplified explanation for those wanting a starting point for self-help for depression.
I have also written a blog with advice on how to improve problems with sleeping - https://www.awarenessinmind.co.uk/blog/having-trouble-sleeping
When we look at why we do things, it's usually because we want to, or we know we will enjoy it, or get some other positive feedback afterwards. As human beings we do look for quick results. Unfortunately, if our mood dips below a certain point, we stop experiencing this benefit. As a result, we can start feeling like "What's the point?" or "Why bother?" This often leads to stopping doing things.
Are you waiting for your motivation to return?
Unfortunately, it won't come back by itself. And the longer you stop doing things for, the more you get sucked into the dark hole.
We need to shift our reasons for doing things. Instead of doing things because we want to or will instantly get something from it, we need to do it because we want to avoid feeling worse and want to start feeling better. Think of it as like exercise - when you go to your first class, you know you won't feel fitter, change your weight or body shape the first time, but you know that if you keep going the results will be achieved. Tackling low mood is quite similar, initially you might be pushing yourself and not seeing rewards, but keep at it and the results will come.
How to improve it …
Firstly it's important to accept that our reason for doing things now is not because we want to or feel like it, but instead because not doing it will make us feel worse.
Start by creating a list of all the things you want to be doing in future.
This can include things that you have stopped doing recently, or things you are doing less often, or new things that you want to start doing to help yourself.
Think about these in categories:
- Routine activities - e.g. getting up, getting washed, getting dressed
- Home management - e.g. deal with bills, washing, dishes, tidying, cleaning, put the bins out
- Essential activities - e.g. order and collect prescription, book appt to see GP,
- Work or study - e.g. going to work, completing tasks when at work, applying for jobs, completing coursework tasks
- Social activities - e.g. calls, texts, social media engagement, seeing friends, seeing family
- Hobbies - e.g. things you do alone like reading, gym, cooking, listening to music
- Relationships - e.g. go on a date, planned activities with children
We then want to start to plan these activities into a diary. We generally plan up to a week ahead, but at least 3 days ahead. The aim of this plan is to give us time to consider what we should be working on in the week ahead, and by writing the plan and committing ourselves it makes us more likely to do something. Saying I'll do it some point this week isn't as effective for example as saying I'll do it Wednesday afternoon.
Diary plans are split into days of the week, and morning/afternoon/evening. Consider what you did over the last week, and what small steps you could take over the next week to make progress. Break bigger tasks down into smaller parts if needed. Think about what day, and what time of day to plan activities that gives you the best chance of achieving them. Make sure you have a balance of activities covering the categories above.
Depending on how low your mood is currently, depends on where you will start with your planned activities. If your mood has only dropped a little, it might be most things are good and you just need to plan in a bit more of social activities and hobbies. If your mood has really dropped goals can start with things like get out of bed by midday, get showered, get dressed, eat a meal etc.
If you find that you don't manage to do something you'd planned, try to not see this as you failing, but the plan not being right. Think about what you could alter with the plan for next time. E.g. the plan might have not been realistic in the first place, or you might have needed to break it down into smaller goals, or plan it at a different time of day/different day of the week.
Starting this approach can be particularly hard if your symptoms are long-standing or severe, so give yourself a bit of time to figure it out. It's important to push ourselves to move forwards, but it's also important to be kind to ourselves.
Helplines and support for depression
Available 24/7 on 365 days a year.
You can also often attend your local branch to speak to a volunteer in person, see the Samaritans website for more details.
Text SHOUT to 85258
This is a free Text based Crisis Service.
0845 767 8000
This helpline is available from 6pm until 11pm every evening and is provided for clients and their families/carers as a support service.
0800 068 41 41
For young people up to the age of 35, (10am - 5pm & 7pm - 10pm, Weekends 2pm - 5pm).
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If you would like to find out how I can help you to achieve Freedom from Depression, get in touch on 07588576026.