Feeling depressed? Learn to discern between depression and the blues and apply these self-help tips to help you rebound
What can we do when the blues take hold of us? How can we function in daily life? Can we really beat the blues? If the blues are really more likely to be depression, then we’re really stuck, aren’t we? This has been my story over the past month or so before I learned to beat the blues. Read my tips on how you can, too.
What causes the blues?
I’m not sure what caused my latest round of ‘the blues’. For many of us, it can seem like we experience lots of challenges over a short space of time and we feel unable to cope. For example, I can remember back to 2008 when my sister was undergoing heart bypass surgery, my mother-in-law died suddenly, my husband contracted shingles and then pericarditis (inflammation around the heart), my dog was attacked by another dog, my other sister was seriously ill with undiagnosed conditions which left her in hospital for weeks on end, my mother died after a few years of steady decline caused by Alzheimer’s, and I was struck by mystery ill-health (later diagnosed as chronic fatigue syndrome), leaving me unable to work. And they say God / the Universe never gives you more than you can cope with!!
Blues or depression?
Back in 2008, I became unable to function in my daily life. I found myself taking laundry to the bedroom to put away in the wardrobes only to find myself still sitting on the floor 45 minutes later staring at the same piece of wall. This was no ordinary case of the blues because I wasn’t feeling anything. That for me has been the distinguishing feature between low mood and depression. With low mood I can plummet, run the gamut of negative emotions, cry, and then after a few days have passed I find that I’m over the worst.
With depression (and I speak as a non-expert here and solely from my personal experience), there’s a feeling of nothingness. You don’t care about anything (in most extreme cases, even your life); you don’t feel anything about anyone. It’s a dark, horrible place to find yourself in, and you MUST SEEK HELP if you find you have fallen down this dark well of depression. It won’t get better by itself. If you seek help, you have many options from CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy, or ‘talking therapy’) to anti-depressant drugs, to nature ‘prescriptions’, and many more.
Not sure if you are experiencing a bout of the blues or a more lasting depression? Here are ten common signs of clinical depression (symptoms have persisted for more than 2 weeks).
10 Signs of Depression:
- Persistent sad, anxious, or ‘empty’ mood
- Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
- Decreased energy, fatigue, or feeling ‘slowed down’
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
- Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
- Appetite and/or weight loss or overeating and weight gain
- Thoughts of death or suicide or actual suicide attempts
- Restlessness or irritability
During my latest bout of depression, I could feel an ever-increasing melancholy growing within me. I could see decay all around me in fallen leaves, denuded trees, one of my dogs dying, the other becoming unwell, dwindling sunlight with the shortening days. I became entrenched in the sadness of it all, in particular the sadness of the terrible events happening all around the world. But I recognized depression’s gnarly symptoms and knew how I could help myself out of my emotional slump.
Tips for Beating the Blues:
- Nature prescriptions
Firstly, I take lots of nature ‘prescriptions’. I force myself to get out for walks with my dog. I persuade myself to spend as much time as possible outdoors, tidying up leaves in the garden, pruning back trees and shrubs, doing some light exercises if it’s warmish. The sun’s rays are really beneficial for my physical and mental wellbeing. I literally feel warm, loved.
Distraction is a useful strategy, since focusing on something or someone else other than me and my woes can be transformative. It doesn’t have to be gardening; it’s whatever you can find during crisis moments to distract yourself: a meditation app, painting that section of skirting board (base board) that needs repair, etc. I find baking particularly useful as it involves following a set of instructions. It’s a creative yet logical activity that uses both sides of the brain. Further, it involves a reward that you can share with others. Seeing their enjoyment as they eat your baked goods will give you happiness.
- Guided Meditations
I need to give a shout out here to the wonderful Meditation Oasis Podcast. I’ve listened to, and found great comfort from, these beautiful guided meditations by Mary and Richard Maddox that you can download as an app onto your phone or tablet. There are meditations of various lengths to support you in times of struggle. Mary’s voice is so soothing, and the music provided by Richard is wonderful. (I’m not affiliated in any way with this site; they simply provide such an amazing service that they deserve praise and thanks!)
- Faith and Prayer
My other recommendation for helping you through periods of the blues, or even more severe depression, is faith and prayer. I’ve come to this late in life but am finding my growing belief and trust in God to be extremely helpful and soothing. I go to my meditation room where I pray for strength to endure this challenge (or ‘mini test’ as I see it). I hand over my pain to God, then I pray for others who are suffering. I believe by prayer and meditation I am connecting with my soul. The more we can do this, the more we ask for help to help ourselves, the healthier we will become in every way – mind, body and spirit.
A sense of perspective also helps. When my ego is strong and has dragged me down into the depths of self-pity, I find the strength to bring to mind the suffering of so many around the world who are in much greater agonies than I. People who have no home due to war or natural disasters; those who have lost limbs and mental equilibrium in the fields of conflict; those who are starving. It is a very long list and it doesn’t do to focus on all this sadness for too long lest melancholy assail you, as it did me over the past couple of months. However, in times of crisis, a sense of perspective is definitely helpful. We all know that phrase, “There’s always someone worse off than yourself.”
- Read something positive and uplifting
I am always mindful of what I subject myself to in terms of (social and news) media input and reading material. In the seasons of Autumn and Winter this is especially important, as many people are affected by S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder). The cause of S.A.D. is unknown; however, it is known that dwindling hours of sunlight can disrupt the body’s internal clock and bring about a drop in the level of serotonin (feel-good hormone), both of which may lead to seasonal depression.
We all know there are horrible events happening all the time all around the world, but we don’t need to immerse ourselves in every detail over and over again. That’s why I now limit my exposure to television or social media news. Such media has the effect of entrenching us, pulling us further downwards when we are already in a vulnerable emotional state of sadness, anxiety or depression. Instead, nourish yourself with emotional self-care and it will bring more balance to your mental and physical health.
When it comes to reading, I may not have the attention or concentration to read a full novel, but I can dip into poetry, and I find myself doing this more and more often. It’s like a positivity bullet — a feel-good nugget that keeps me going. Reading poetry makes us slow down because we need to take time to read and re-read a poem to really get a sense of what it means to us. Even reading a melancholic poem when you yourself are feeling sad, can give hope, advice and even comfort that you are never alone.
My latest book, Rose Petals Floating Downstream, is an uplifting collection of spiritual poetry offering solace in a chaotic world. The poems came through into my consciousness during meditation and in those times between sleep and awake. I see them as exquisite jewels, precious words of beauty gifted to the world.
I hope this article may help you or someone you know to cope with the blues or more serious depression. Do not hesitate to seek professional advice if you recognize in yourself some of the signs in the above list. In the meantime, please remember to:
- Love yourself
- Get help
- Keep well
- Be happy
>You may also enjoy reading My Return to Medication for Depression and Anxiety Disorder, by Indira Abby Heijnen