Feelings of sadness affect everyone. An endless array of uncontrollable circumstances in life can trigger depressive thoughts making the world seem a very bleak place indeed. Such feelings are the common lot of everyone, and therein lies the temptation to glibly dismiss depression in ‘we all get down from time to time’ terms. But depression is more than the blues. Depression is to the blues what the common cold is to pneumonia.
One sufferer who suddenly found himself afflicted with depression likened it to having an agonising pain but not knowing where the pain is located. He described a kaleidoscopic mix of emotions such as confusion, anguish, fear, and sorrow.
There are often no preliminaries either. This affliction will frequently strike without warning and, adding to the state of confusion, without any obvious cause. Indeed, even when life appears to be going well, a depressed person may feel they are living their life under a cloud.
Many people who have or have had depression may feel a sense of shame which manifests itself in feeling responsible for everything that goes wrong, often things over which they have no control at all. That shame may extend to feelings of guilt because of feelings of letting others down and of being a burden. Feelings of utter unworthiness are also common amongst those battling depression.
It must be remembered that while in the grip of depression, that great powerhouse of imagination, the human brain, is impaired and won’t be working quite as it ought to be. The tendency, therefore, is for the imagination to magnify personal failings or misinterpret external events as being the fault of the sufferer even though a cool head and reason will show otherwise. The brain, under such circumstances, has been likened to an 80s-style calculator with a run down battery. No matter how many times the correct digits are entered, the answer is always wrong because the device is not working at peak performance. Perceptions of the outside world and the sufferer’s relationship to it are likely to be thoroughly distorted when stalked by the black dog, as Churchill aptly referred to it.
Though it may not feel like it to someone in the throes of this malady, there are steps that can be taken to at least alleviate the suffering. There are various treatments that a doctor may prescribe depending on the severity and type of depression. Without recommending specific medication here, there are measures someone with depression could implement to at least alleviate those dark feelings.
Get Sufficient Sleep
Sleeping is not always easy while depressed, but is essential in restoring a sense of well-being. Avoid napping early in the day, and try to keep active in some productive pursuit throughout the course of the day. Don’t drink caffeine after 6pm. On the other hand milky drinks have been shown to assist in dropping off to sleep. It’s also important to avoid heavy eating before going to bed.
Watch Your Diet
There is evidence to show that foods containing omega 3 fatty acids, such as is found in tuna and salmon, can go some way in alleviating depression. Spinach and avocado are likewise recommended. That is not to say, of course, that it will simply go away as a result of a better diet, but sufferers will invariably find that it will help.
Try Creative Pursuits
Many of the world’s most creative accomplishments have been born out of the depths of despair. Vincent Van Gough, Ernest Hemingway, and Winston Churchill, who was not only Britain’s wartime Prime Minister, but also a prolific writer, all suffered with depression. Writing, painting, learning to play an instrument, are all useful ways of channeling negative feelings into something productive. Again, this is not a cure, but it’s a step toward making the malady more endurable.
Crystallise Your Thoughts
Getting thoughts down on paper can be a therapeutic experience. In a state of depression, thoughts can be like an entangled and knotty ball of string, but when we start to write, then our thoughts become clearer. It’s as if they begin to crystallise giving us something to work with. This can be very effective when done without conscious deliberation. Just write freely and without restraint.
This is certainly not an exhaustive list of measures to alleviate the symptoms of depression. Neither should such suggestions be taken at the expense of visiting a doctor or a specialist. A combination of speaking to the right people and getting advice from a reliable source, sufficient rest, appropriate diet, and at least trying something creative may work towards shifting that oppressive cloud. And who knows? Perhaps a few rays of sunlight may just break through.