Depression doesn’t have to be clinical

Seeking the Good Life - Depression Doesn't Have To Be Clinical

We can all get depressed at one time or another – it doesn’t have to be clinical depression, it doesn’t have to fit a list of criteria and require professional diagnosis and treatment. Think back – have you ever thought something like “I just can’t be bothered” “What is the point in trying?” “I have no energy or motivation”? Being depressed doesn’t necessarily mean you feel sad, or suicidal, or even particularly bad – it means you feel “pressed down.” The weight of the world leaves you feeling tired and flat.

I’ve been depressed for a very long time – one of the perks of having a Seriously Messed Up Childhood, I guess. I thought I’d gotten pretty good at recognising when I was feeling depressed; turns out I was good at recognising when I was feeling really depressed. I was surprised to realise, just recently, that while things have mostly been alright, I’ve had this ordinary, everyday depression humming away under the surface. It is the voice that suggests that there’s no point bothering with housework because it’ll never be enough – may as well have a nap instead. It’s the black hole sneakily draining my enthusiasm for life, my hope for the future, my energy for working toward our goals. By the time I noticed it, I was feeling really flat, demotivated, and seriously tired.

Tackling depression

Introspection and mindfulness

Depression can be sneaky – you can feel blue and not really know why. It can be easy to ignore; distractions are everywhere, such as TV, food, social outings, alcohol, etc. Make a point of checking in with your own feelings a few times a day. Feeling a bit down? Take note of the thoughts running just under the stream of your consciousness – are they positive or negative thoughts? How are you viewing the world? Some of mine recently have been along the lines of, it’s all too hard, I can’t do this, everything is going wrong, our situation is hopeless, I just wish things could be better. [Considerably more bleak than how I feel, but explains why I’m so demotivated and lacking energy]

Talk about it

Humans need to communicate in order to stay sane. It’s hard to think coherently inside your own head. A first step if you’re not ready to talk or aren’t sure who to talk to is to talk to yourself – either out loud (on your own, of course!) or in writing. Imagine you’re talking to a counselor or friend and just let the words flow. Try to explain what you’re feeling and why.

If you’re ready to branch out and try talking to someone else, there are a few options:

  • A close friend
  • A trusted family member
  • A mentor – usually someone older and wiser
  • A counselor – often available through your local church, or a recommendation can be made by your GP
  • A psychologist or psychologist – book in with your GP for a referral, and a mental health plan if you are eligible
  • A mental health hotline – Google for your area

Look after your mind by caring for your body

It might sound a little New Age, but it’s really quite scientific: your mind and body are linked, and part of establishing good mental health is looking after your body. Neurotransmitters such as serotonin (the feel-good chemical that our brains just can’t get enough of!) are manufactured in the bowel, so good bowel health is essential. Eating wholesome, nutritious food with plenty of vitamins, minerals, fibre and other nutrients will facilitate this, and improve your energy levels. Drink plenty of water to avoid headaches and that general crap feeling. Skip the junk food and sugary treats as these will wreak all kinds of havoc on your body and mind by messing with your blood sugar levels, decreasing gut health, etc [yeah, go Google that stuff, I’m not in the mood right now].

Exercise is a word of advice that’s so common from doctors and health professionals that it’s almost cliche, but whatever. Go do it. Get outside (if conditions permit), suck in some fresh air (if it’s available) and get moving. Join a gym if you’ll use it. Chuck a fitness instruction video on YouTube and work out in your living room. There’s all kinds of good things that happen when you exercise [go Google that too].

Don’t ignore it

There will be more things you can do – things that relate to the specific issues in your life, advice you receive from the person you confide in. Try things out and find what works to improve your mood and your general outlook in life. Whatever you do, don’t just ignore it and hope that you wake up one day feeling less blue. These problems can tend to grow bigger whilst lurking in the background, until they suddenly become this storm cloud of bad feeling that suddenly feels impossible to face. Tackling the problem head on will help you to address all kinds of issues, and will equip you with the personal resources and resiliency to cope when life gets hectic again.

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What do you do when you’re feeling blue to pick yourself up again? Leave a comment below!

Introspection, binge eating, and the secret to a better life

Introspection is the practice of examining your own thoughts and emotions. It can quite literally be as simple as stopping at any given moment and noticing what you’re thinking and feeling. To turn this practice into a useful tool, though, I’ve found that you need to take it a step further, and ask some questions. Let me give you an example.

Binge eating: my big problem

I am a chronic stress-eater. There’s been a lot of stress lately for me and my family, ergo, I’ve been prone to overeating and binging. Chocolate, carb-heavy foods (think rice, pasta, bread), even delicious, creamy yoghurt… When I’m stressed I find that I just can’t seem to stop myself. Later I have serious regrets while staring at my pooch in the mirror, but that just makes me more stressed, leading to more eating!

A moment of introspection

I was in the very act of devouring a large plate of linguine pasta when I happened to contemplate the issue of my overeating. It lead to me wondering why I do this. I took a moment to observe how I felt at that moment: I felt happy! The food was making me feel happy! But… why? Besides the general deliciousness of the food, what was making me feel so elated to be eating it in such a large quantity?

Delving deeper

The answer to this question surprised me a little, and made me feel a bit guilty. This tiny little voice from deep within my psyche (just try it, you’ll get what I mean!) called out, “food is my one good thing in life.” WHAT?! Really?? I never considered myself one of those people who use food as a treat but it seems that all this time I have in fact been putting it up on a pedestal as the one thing in life that can make me happy! And that’s just not something I believe; after all, I have a wonderful husband, two beautiful children, this big old family that may be dysfunctional but is also the best — and so much more!

I have gotten into the habit of dwelling on all my problems in life and feeling bad because of them that I’d come to believe – subconsciously, and without realising – that my only joy in life comes from eating food I love. If I want to stop binge-eating, I need to do some things to address these fundamental beliefs.

  1. Adjust my attitude. Instead of being negative all the time and always listing my problems, I need to take time throughout the day to be grateful, to focus on the good in my life, to let myself enjoy those good things!
  2. Self-care needs to become a priority. Instead of using food as a way to feel good, I can substitute other activities such as exercising, getting out in the fresh air, spending some time pursuing hobbies and interests, reading, or even watching a favourite telly show or movie.

Until you become aware of why you do what you do, you’ll struggle to make any real changes. As much as I would tell myself that I didn’t want to overeat because of the consequences when I looked in the mirror, I couldn’t override that powerful urge because I didn’t know what was causing it. Now I see that I have a legitimate need to feel enjoyment and happiness in life, and I can take control of fulfilling that in healthier ways. And since making that realisation, I have been dealing much better with my overeating.

Have you used introspection to identify and address problems? Has this post been helpful, or is there something you would add? Comment below, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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