Do you have depression or think that you may have depression? While it is normal to feel occasionally down or sad in life, depression is an illness that impacts daily functioning. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NAMI), symptoms of depression include:
- “Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
- Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
- Decreased energy, fatigue, being “slowed down”
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
- Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
- Appetite and/or weight changes
- Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts
- Restlessness, irritability
- Persistent physical symptoms”
First of all, if you have depression or suspect that you may have depression, know that you are not alone. Depression can feel very isolating, which can amplify depressed feelings. However, depression is a disorder that doesn’t discriminate – it affects people of all ages, races, genders, orientations, classes, and backgrounds. NAMI’s website states that “An estimated 16.2 million adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode. This number represented 6.7% of all U.S. adults.” So, again, if you are depressed, you are not alone, and there are resources to help you.
Here is a list of tips for what to do if you have depression:
Seek help. Depression is a common disorder, yes, but it can have devastating consequences if left untreated. Therapy can seem daunting, but remember that therapists are trained in specific techniques to help support you and your mental health. If you’re not ready to talk to a therapist, visit your physician. Doctors will be able to rule out any other possibilities for your current state with tests and questions, and can often support you in finding a referral to a qualified mental health clinician. When you make an appointment with your doctor, make sure you have a list of any medications and supplements you are taking to help them rule out other causes of your depressed mood. It’s okay if you’re nervous to seek formal medical help, but remember that you deserve to feel better.
Find a routine. Routines can be comforting, and they can also be a gentle way to guide you through your day. If your depressed feelings are making you struggle with your normal day to day routine, you can cut it down to just the essentials. A routine can include things like making sure to eat, staying hydrated, taking a shower, changing your clothes, etc. It doesn’t have to be super fancy, but these rituals can be comforting and a good way to help you feel a bit better.
Join a community. This one may seem daunting, but having a community of people who intimately understand what you’re going through can be very valuable. There may be support groups in your community (ask your doctor or therapist if there are any they can refer you to), and you can even seek out support online. Groups can be a great resource because the focus isn’t entirely on you, so you can ease yourself into it.
Be kind to yourself. There is still stigma surrounding mental illness in this country, unfortunately, but mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. Don’t punish yourself for something that is outside of your control. Be gentle and kind to yourself. Sometimes this means drawing boundaries with people who are not accepting of your mental illness. This can also include things like self-care (which is not all bubble baths and face masks!).
Make time for things that make you happy. Do you like to read? Spend time with your friends or family? Snuggle a pet? Watch TV? Whatever it is that makes you happy, make sure you give yourself permission to do those things.
Journal. If you’re not in the habit of it, journaling can feel a little weird, but try not to judge yourself. There are many approaches to journaling – there are apps, bullet journals, planners, and regular old notebooks. It doesn’t need to be anything elaborate, but sometimes writing down your thoughts and feelings can help you process what you’re going through. A journal can also be a great resource to keep track of things that you’re grateful for or things that make you happy so that you can refer back to it when you’re struggling.
Remember that depression looks different for everyone. Another thing to keep in mind is that while there is a set of diagnostic criteria for depression, it can look very different on different people. Just because someone looks depressed doesn’t mean they are, and vice versa. You don’t need to fit into a certain stereotype of a depressed person to validate your experience.
Know where to turn in an emergency. If you have depression and you feel hopeless and are thinking of suicide, please get immediate help. To reach the national suicide prevention hotline, call 1-800-273-8255. This hotline is available 24 hours a day. If you prefer to text, you can text HOME to 741741 to reach the crisis text line anywhere in the United States.
If you think you are depressed and you are ready to reach out and get support for your depression in Houston, look no further. Grief Recovery Center is here. You can reach us at (832) 413-2410 or by filling out the form on our website.