October is Depression Awareness Month, and 10th October, 2022 was International Mental Health Awareness Day.
For many years, I have managed the Facebook page of the Swanage Depression Support Group. This was set up as a response by members of the support group, but it was left to me as the only person familiar with Facebook to manage the page.
Needless to say, there were many messages coming through on the page during the two lockdowns, sometimes people seeking help for themselves and at other times people seeking help for others. It is one of the kindest things you can do to point someone in the right direction when they are at a low ebb.
This is also the time of year when many people suffer depression because of the darker evenings and wetter, colder weather. This condition is known as SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Thankfully, special lamps exist that mimic daylight, which help.
Depression Is an Illness
But depression is not simply being fed up on a Monday morning – it is much, much more. It is an illness, and the best things you can do on such a day are:
- Accept the tired phase when you need to lie in bed most of the morning. Your brain needs to rest which prevents further stimulation and calms the brain.
- Read the first few pages of Depressive Illness, The Curse of the Strong by Dr Tim Cantopher. This book gives an excellent understanding of the true meaning of depression.
Dr. Cantopher insists that something has to change if you are to stay well and not relapse.
Some Things to Avoid If You Are Prone to Depression
- Keep off the computer. You may have to give it up for a while, but you will come back to it.
- Avoid reading the news or watching television news, especially when anxious.
- Avoid live TV as some storylines may be difficult to follow. Watch on Catch Up and pause frequently.
- Avoid negativity and people who are ‘glass half empty’ as they will not help you.
Some Things You Can Do to Alleviate Depression
- Shop each day for a few things. Use local corner shops if larger stores are overwhelming.
- Walk each day, at least twice. Increase the distance. Take a friend.
- Go swimming.
- Do yoga.
- Sing, dance, get a massage or reflexology.
- Do something new.
- Use a power workout DVD.
- Keep a notebook/diary of thoughts, feelings, actions that were helpful to you.
- Write down three things you want to do the next day.
- Write down three positive things that happened today.
- Write down three things you are grateful for. Gratitude is now known to be a factor in fighting depression.
Listen to Music
Play Smooth radio, relaxing music, CDs.
- Use lavender oil to relax at night and geranium which lifts the mood during the day.
- Practice deep breathing all the time, when waiting in a shop queue or watching TV.
- If you have a relaxation CD, play it 2 to 3 times a day and relax on the floor under a blanket.
Food & Drink
- Eat healthy food. Cut out junk food.
- Search for foods which help depression.
- Drink more water.
- Eat little and often.
- Use ready meals until you feel able to cook.
Practise Good Habits
- Go to bed each night and get at least 8 hours of sleep.
- Visit the library and sit with a book, just feel the warmth, feel the nearness of the human company and the ambience of books around you.
- Visit the library 2 to 3 times a week, take a few books out and return those that do not appeal. Stick with those you like after the first three pages. Try to sit down to read several times a day.
- Make reading a regular part of your day. Read happy romances. Avoid dystopian, tragedies and horror stories until you feel better.
- Follow mental health blogs and self-help websites such as MIND. Read what other people have written. Contribute your own positive ideas which make you feel good. Print out anything useful and put it in your GETTING BETTER file.
- Face up to finance. Budget and look at ways to save money. Avoid credit cards. Instead of regretting overspending, look at your accounts. It may not be as bad as you think.
- Keep occupied – do puzzles, crosswords and read for short periods throughout the day. Reading is known to improve mental health because training your eyes and brain to follow a line across the page will steady the overactive brain.
- Spend some time each day tidying up. A small area, one or two shelves or one or two drawers.
- Sort through your photo albums. This will remind you of happier times.
- Watch happy TV, explore Netflix and BBC I player
The World Health Organisation recognises World Mental Health Day on 10 October every year.
The theme of 2022’s World Mental Health Day, set by the World Federation for Mental Health, is ‘Make mental health and wellbeing for all a global priority’.
Finally, remember that these feelings will pass. Even those with serious mental health conditions are not very ill for very long.
Let’s Have a Conversation:
Have you suffered from depression in the autumn months, or are you someone who suffers it at other times of the year? What are your coping mechanisms? How do you help those who are near and dear to you?