Be kind to yourself
Jenna is a trainee counsellor, having studied for the last three years with the Open University and is about to undertake her next course entitled "Challenging ideas in mental health." She currently works as an online relationship adviser for TheSite.org and a chat moderator where she offers advice and support to 16 to 25 year olds who are often struggling with mental health issues and relationship problems. Jenna has also recently started contributing her advice to Bliss magazine, as well as helping out on Radio 1's The Surgery Facebook page.
One in five people become depressed at some point in their lives, everyone gets low at times but in some cases depression can interfere with a person’s everyday life.
On one website it informed me that there are two treatments available for helping those with depression, the first is talking treatments like counselling and the second, medication. However, this isn’t necessarily true, there are other ways for someone with depression to help themselves, ok, they may not treat or cure the depression but it’s possible and they can definitely alleviate some of the symptoms.
I think it is interesting to look at depression as a cycle, if someone is feeling low or worthless and has the perspective that they will not do well at something then the chances are they will not apply themselves and therefore it is a self fulfilling prophecy; this in turn continues to make them feel worthless and the cycle starts again. I think the awareness of this is important, to know that your thinking and behaviour are linked (as I mentioned in one of my previous posts, there is no mind and body split). The next thing is to remember is that you can change, even if at first they are small changes that make you feel better that’s what matters, be kind to yourself and most of all know that is what you deserve.
Little things can help; I often ask the young people I help to write down positive things about themselves each day, things that they like about themselves or nice things that have happened to them. To write these down and then read them back, to try to not question them, argue them or diminish their meaning but to take them as fact.
Exercise is a known stress reliever and encourages endorphins to be released making us feel good. There is no need to set yourself high targets in a sport or exercise programme that you will find hard to commit to or worst still, won’t enjoy. It could simply be going for a nice walk or gentle cycle ride, or maybe doing an exercise class with a friend. It may sound daunting, especially if you find it hard to get out of bed in the morning but you can do it, so just start with that; simply get out of bed in the morning and feel good about the fact that you decided to face the day, then build up to that walk or that cycle and try to do it regularly. Exercise will also help you to sleep better and getting enough sleep will aid in helping you with your depression.
Eat healthily and often, junk food will give you a sugar rush and surge of energy but it doesn’t last and you can end up feeling tired which increases your low mood. Eat foods that slowly release carbohydrates and therefore give you more energy that lasts longer. The more energy you have the more you are likely to go for that walk and the better you will feel, which in turn will encourage you to eat well - now that’s the kind of cycle we like!
Do something for you, treat yourself. It might be buying a magazine, having a spa treatment, listening to music, going to the cinema; do something for you, something that will relax you and make you feel good. Remember this is the least you deserve, it is so easy for us all to become busy in our everyday lives with work, meeting deadlines, fitting in time with friends and family, making sure we have the latest trends and technology and meeting everyone’s expectations to become the best we can be in all areas of our lives. We have numerous identities now, mother, sister, daughter, girlfriend, boyfriend, father, employee, home owner, tenant, friend, neighbour (the list goes on) and with these roles comes additional responsibilities. We can’t be expected to do well at ALL of them ALL of the time; we need to look after ourselves, to stop, to recharge and to be kind to ourselves.
I know you could be reading this and simply saying “I know all this, I just can’t bring myself to do any of it.” First of all, you already have, you are reading about how you can feel better, that’s a great first step, congratulate yourself for that. Try not to put pressure on yourself or expectations, maybe don’t address it as getting over depression or feeling low maybe just look at it like this...
“Today I’m going to do X because it may make me feel good about myself and I deserve and want to feel good. I’m not going to worry whether I do enough or whether I do it again; I’m just going to do it today. If I don’t enjoy it or it is not what I expected then I don’t have to do it again, I can do something else tomorrow but at least today I would have tried something and that is good enough”.