Beating the Blues: A Guide to Identifying and Coping with Depression
Sadness is an inevitable, common, and normal emotion. It is a response to disappointment, a lament of loss, and an indicator of discomfort. While sadness may not be a desirable emotional state, everyone experiences it at some point in their lives due to the unpredictable nature of life. Life doesn’t stand still and often brings forth change that opens the way to loss and discomfort. Though initially sadness can seem like an unnecessary burden, it can also serve as a much needed tool; one that can be used to process the past, inform the future, and take in the present. That said, sadness can also be emotionally draining, physically exhausting, and behaviorally paralyzing. Thus, it is important to learn how to identify sadness as an emotional response from sadness that is a result of depression.
What is depression?
Depressive sadness is a condition that:
- Consists of persistent feelings of hopelessness and despair that are not explained by any recent events or medical condition and lasts longer than 2 weeks. Some forms of depression can be chemical in nature or even chronic.
- Isn’t a response to life’s changes or difficulties and often doesn’t go away with time.
- Can interfere with everyday functioning like work, studies, relationships, friendships, and sleep.
- Can be accompanied by feelings of emptiness, apathy, or a loss of interest in things that used to bring joy.
- Can influence one’s appetite, thus affecting the desire to eat more or less than usual.
- Can influence other emotions making it difficult to concentrate and causing one to be more angry or irritable.
- Can result in loss of energy as well as general aches and pains.
“The deeper the blues the more I see black” …
No matter how hopeless the feeling can be there are ways to cope and move forward:
- Build up a social support network: Don’t neglect your friends and family. Sadness and misery are conducive to isolation. Spend time and reach out to others even when you don’t feel up to it. Supportive human contact is therapeutic.
- Improve your sleeping habits: Learn to practice better sleep hygiene by sticking to a sleep schedule. When going to bed practice getting into a sleep routine by dimming the lights, turning off all electronics an hour before bed, and lowering the levels of excitement or agitation. Learn to use your bed for sleeping or sexual activity.
- Learn to challenge, beat, and suppress negative thoughts and thinking patterns. Be conscious of your personal self-deprecating and deterministic thinking patterns. Become your own thought scientist by mindfully exploring your personal thoughts as they come up. Rather than ruminating in sadness ask yourself, what’s causing the sadness? Scrutinize your negative thoughts rather than obsess over them.
- Create a go-to wellness toolbox. Have a set of activities, songs, or movies that makes you feel better in stressful times. Rather than avoiding pleasant activities re-engage with your past interests.
- Remove all other stressors. Sadness can be a result of excess worry and anxiety. Stress causes the release of the hormone cortisol which is helpful for short term alertness but can lead to sadness and depression if present in high quantities for long periods of time.
- Do not procrastinate and let your chores, responsibilities, and personal hygiene fall by the wayside. Practice finding your own level of discipline and sticking to a dedicated active routine.
- Check out meditation, mindfulness, and physical activity. Not only will they get you motivated and moving but they also have the potential to release naturally occurring brain chemicals that will make you feel happier. Exercise causes the release of serotonin, which is a natural anti-depressant. Mindfulness and meditation can also provide a better understanding of the mind and body connection.
- Monitor your nutrition. Eating habits are important as research has shown a link between diet and mental well-being. Healthy food provides the brain with nutrients that can impact the symptoms of depression.
- Try to avoid self-medicating by using substances such as drugs or alcohol, which can become habit forming and hazardous to one’s physical and emotional health. Substances can seem like a temporary solution to a permanent problem. Learn when to seek help from a mental health professional.