Depression is a common mood disorder that affects about 11% of Canadian adults. Common symptoms of depression include: depressed mood, hopelessness, fatigue, lack of motivation, loss of interest in usual activities, changes in sleep and eating patterns, difficulty concentrating, and suicidal thoughts. Each person will experience depression differently and may not exhibit all of the common symptoms. Depression can be debilitating and negatively impact your work or school, relationships, spirituality, and self-esteem.
The good news is that depression can be treated with proper guidance and effective tools.
Tips on managing depression:
1. Set small achievable goals. Increase your goals once you see progress.
If you are experiencing depression, you're probably noticing a lack of motivation. It may be tough to get out of bed in the morning or to take proper care of yourself. To set yourself up for success, it is important to set small goals that are realistic and achievable given your current circumstances. Go easy on yourself! Instead of making a huge to-do list with 10 big tasks, think of 1 or 2 simple goals for the week (and write them down). At the end of the week be sure to evaluate your progress. You might have to simplify your goals more or amp up your goals. It can be helpful to check in with your psychologist or a trusted friend to help you stay accountable.
For example: Rather than planning to run for 1 hour each day of the week and clean your entire house, start with walking for 10 minutes 3 days a week and doing your laundry.
**Don't forget to celebrate each step that you accomplish! Every move makes a difference.
2. Motivate yourself with healthy rewards.
You can increase your motivation by planning ahead. Make a list of healthy rewards that you enjoy, such as: Starbucks coffee, treating yourself to dessert, watching a TV show or movie, connecting with a friend, playing a video game, or snuggling with your pet. Mentally prepare yourself for achieving your goals of the week by reminding yourself that you will treat yourself to one of your healthy rewards once completed. You deserve it!
3. Spend time with people that you love and trust, who lift you up and inspire you.
Re-evaluate who you surround yourself with and how these people make you feel. If your friends don't encourage or support you, or if they bring you down, you may want to consider taking a break from them. Energy is contagious. Spend more of your energy with those who truly care about you and who make you feel loved and inspired.
On the other hand, it is common for people experiencing depression to isolate and withdraw. If this is something you are noticing, try to really push yourself to reach out to a friend or loved one, whether this means texting, calling, or seeing them face to face. Remember, set small goals and remind yourself that you usually feel better when you connect with these people in your life.
4. Start doing things that you used to enjoy or things that you are good at.
Depression causes us to lose interest in activities or hobbies that we once enjoyed. The longer we go without these things, the harder it is to get back on track. Think about the things that you used to love doing - what made you happy? This could be playing sports, running, being outdoors, playing with a pet, going to movies, knitting, reading, or traveling. Engaging in tasks that you are good at can also increase self-esteem and confidence, and help you find your passion again. Write out a plan with small, achievable goals to get back into at least 1 of these activities.
**Research shows that exercise or physical movement is an effective and powerful method to combat depression.
5. Partake in ongoing therapy.
Many people who experience depression are also struggling with other issues, such as anxiety, low self-esteem, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or relationship issues. Working with an experienced psychologist can help you heal from your past and make effective changes in your life. My approach to therapy is to help clients overcome the root of their problems so that they can experience long-lasting change and build a life worth living. Therapy is not easy, but it is definitely worth it, if you want to have meaning and fulfillment in your life. A lot of times, people lose themselves when going through hardships, and it is common and normal to reach out for professional help to find your true self again.
Depression is an illness, not a sign of weakness.
Written by Vanessa Goodchild, Registered Psychologist