Worrying statics reveal that one on four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. A further 17 out of 100 people feel so low that they suffer with suicidal thoughts. Celebrity life coach and clinical hypnotherapist Sloan Sheridan-Williams reveals her top tips for dealing with the mental illness.
1. AVOID ISOLATION BY CONNECTING WITH PEOPLE
People with depression often cut themselves off from the outside world. But becoming withdrawn and less talkative can create a downward spiral.
Connection is one of the six basic emotional needs and when depression takes hold it is often the need that gets most neglected in favour of satisfying the need for comfort through isolation.
When the first signs of depression appear it is important to spend more time maintaining relationships with family, loved ones and friends, for these are the very people who will be there for the individual as their support network.
Being able to talk about your problems makes dealing with them easier and therefore it is very helpful to identify the people you can trust and rely on.
2. LEARN SOME RELAXATION TECHNIQUES
Deep breathing and relaxing the muscles are the basis of all relaxation techniques and these two physiological actions work very effectively to help the psychological aspects of depression.
Yoga and tai chi are also great ways to help relax the body, and can provide the individual with much needed connection if done in a class.
3. IMPROVE YOUR DIET
Eating four to six small meals throughout the day rather than two to three large ones can help stabilise blood sugar, giving you more energy to deal with the day and avoiding sugar crashes and cravings that will sap what energy you do have.
Reducing the amount of simple carbohydrates like refined sugar and white flour in your diet can also help keep blood sugar levels stable and therefore help improve mood when depressed.
Although we head straight for the biscuit tin when we are feeling blue, eating processed carbohydrate-rich foods like sweets, biscuits, cakes and white bread will leave you feeling sluggish and heavy.
Swap these foods for healthier wholegrain or low GI alternatives which will have less impact on blood sugar and also keep you feeling fuller for longer.
4. BREAK TASKS DOWN INTO SMALL STEPS
A common symptom of depression is the feeling of being overwhelmed even by ordinary day-to-day tasks.
Even getting out of bed and getting dressed can feel like a huge hurdle and people become more withdrawn and less active as depression becomes more severe.
The best way to overcome feeling overwhelmed is to break down the activity in small, easier-to-achieve chunks.
This can either be in the form of writing a step-by-step list of everything that needs to be done or mentally visualising all the actions that would take place to complete a task and then doing those actions in sequence, slowly but surely.
5. GO FOR A WALK
The correlation between exercise and feeling good has long been established.
And feel-good hormones such as dopamine and endorphins which are produced during exercise can improve mood in individuals with mild to moderate depression.
It can be difficult to stay motivated when depressed so vigorous exercise such as running or going to the gym can be tough to keep up.
However even moderate exercise like a brisk walk has been shown to improve mood.
I suggest to my clients a brisk walk for 30 minutes a day, five times a week as it has shown to have a significant positive influence on the symptoms of mild to moderate depression.
Even better is walking with someone you care about, as this will increase the level of love hormone oxytocin in the brain.
6. ACCEPT PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY
The power of the mind is an amazing thing, and although pharmaceutical intervention is certainly beneficial in cases of severe depression, individuals can work towards overcoming mild or moderate depression faster if they start to take personal responsibility for their actions and behaviours.
This advice is not about “pulling yourself together” but more about what decisions need to be made by the individual to make them feel more powerful and happy.
We have all the answers we need inside of us and the challenge is to find ways to access those answers to help improve our quality of life.
It is good to establish the fact that you are the one who can make things happen rather than have things happen to you.
7. CHALLENGE NEGATIVE THOUGHTS
Negative thinking and obsessing on unhelpful thoughts are two common symptoms of depression.
Shifting the focus of the mind is key to getting perspective on the situation and reclaiming your power.
When you take responsibility for your thoughts and turn such focus towards gratitude you will start to feel comforted about the more positive aspects of yourself and your environment.
It is important for the individual to identify any warped thoughts, like negative filtering and over-generalisation that are not representative of reality, by getting perspective.
8. TAKE AN OMEGA-3 SUPPLEMENT
Omega-3 is an Essential Fatty Acid (EFA) which has a positive effect on mood when taken in high enough doses as a supplement.
It is present in fish, shellfish, flaxseed, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds so can easily be supplemented into a diet naturally should you so wish.
Alternatively, they are commonly taken as fish oil, krill oil or linseed oil supplements.
9. LIMIT ALCOHOL AND CAFFEINE
Alcohol and caffeine are used by many who are depressed to purportedly help them through the day.
This form of self medication may seem like a useful coping strategy to some, however it is far from helpful as both alcohol and caffeine are psychoactive drugs.
These cross the blood-brain barrier and affect brain function resulting in changes in mood, thinking, behaviour, perception and consciousness.
10. HAVE A REGULAR SLEEP TIME
Getting a good night’s sleep is important for everyone but especially for those suffering from depression. Conversely too much sleep (over eight hours) can exacerbate depression.
Regular sleeping hours are essential in managing mood and having a regular bedtime and rise time is important.
Go back to basics, set alarms, create a routine and introduce calming rituals before bed.