What helps with depression? This is not the first time I have asked this question. I had post-natal depression for a long time. I took a long time to access help and when I did life became positive again. It is vital to keep an eye on the beast of depression and to recognise when it comes calling. When it does there are powerful tools you can tap into as this guest post shows.
“Depression is a very difficult thing to live with. It can suck the joy out of experiences that should be fun, make it difficult for you to sleep, make you too low to do things with friends and at its worst, make you feel as though you shouldn’t be alive. It isolates you from people and it can be very difficult to tell them how you’re feeling. This blog post gives you some simple tips for looking after yourself, and for what helps with depression. You will see that there are things you can do for yourself and also how you can effectively communicate your needs to other people.
Focus on the little things:
When you’re in the grip of depression, the little things suddenly don’t seem quite so little. It can be hard to know where to start, and everything can feel really overwhelming. When you feel like this, it’s important to focus on the absolute basics. Make sure you eat at regular times, even if you don’t feel hungry. Eat something that nourishes you, not just a chocolate bar. Make sure you drink enough water to sustain you – dehydration can make you more fatigued and make it harder to think clearly. Make sure you stick to a bit of a routine – get up at the same time each day, and make an effort to get dressed. Even if it takes you all day, it’s an accomplishment when you’re really struggling.
These are the things that can feel incredibly difficult when you have depression. But the good news is that you don’t have to do them alone. You can ask for help.
Recognise that you’re not a burden:
If you are depressed, your brain is probably screaming at you right now – “she’s wrong, you are a burden, just think about all of those things that your friends have to do for you now.” But just because it’s screaming, that doesn’t mean that it’s right. Depression is an illness. You are not being ill at other people; it’s not your fault that you’ve ended up feeling this way at this point in time. And because it’s not your fault, you’re not a burden on the people who care about you and who want you to be well again. They want to help you – please let them.
What helps with depression?
So we’ve established that you might need some help managing your depression, and that your friends or loved ones can help with this, but they need to know exactly what they’re helping with. Vague instructions to “just help” can be difficult to understand for most people, and even if you don’t really know exactly what might help, it’s not fair to make the people who care about you guess what you need, or get annoyed with them for not getting it when you don’t even get it yourself. When you’re feeling a little better, have a good think about what might have helped at the time, and write those things down. Then, if you start to feel bad, you and your loved ones have a bit of a blueprint of things to try. They might not help, but at least you’re trying to work out what is helpful.
Useful things might be: asking your partner to remind you to shower, or to make the dinner tonight because you’re too tired; getting your friends to come to visit you, rather than going out; asking your parents to come and do a little bit of cleaning for you. You can also ask for affection (“I just need a hug”) or even attention (“can you just sit with me for ten minutes”) in a way that sets clear boundaries and allows the people around you to show you that they care about you.
Make sure you’re being clear in how you ask:
When I’m working with people in therapy, this is probably one of the most common conversations that I have. Because we might be in relationships where the other person can sometimes intuit our needs, we stop being clear in our communication. Then, when they get it wrong, or they don’t do something that we needed them to do, we think that they problem is with their lack of psychic ability, rather than our communication style. I’m being flippant, but so many of us think that we’re being clear with others when we’re really not.
Consider the difference between the phrases “I really need someone to help me fix this table” and “will you help me fix the table?” One is a statement that doesn’t make it clear to the person you’re talking to whether you’re asking them for help, or whether you’re thinking out loud. The other is a question, addressed directly to the person in front of you. They’re allowed to say no, of course, but at least then you’re in no doubt as to where you stand.
Some people tell me that people should “just know” that the phrase above implies that you’re asking for help. For a lot of people, that’s probably true – but for people who might have difficulties interpreting implied statements, that isn’t the case. Also, if the person in front of you is distracted, or not really thinking about it, they might not understand that you want their help. And besides, if you really want help with that table, why leave them in any doubt?”
Huge thanks to Sarah for this guest post showing us exactly what helps with depression. I love how she gives simple and powerful strategies showing how baby steps can really help you move forward positively to a happier life.
Dr Sarah Blackshaw is a clinical psychologist working in Manchester, UK. She has a special interest in chronic physical health conditions, and in wellness topics like what helps with depression in general. You can find her at http://www.clinpsychsarah.com