I’m not entirely sure when I became fully aware of my depression. Whenever it was, I waited way too long to actually do anything about it which meant that it just continued to get worse.
If you think you may be suffering from depression there are plenty of things that you can do to help your recovery. Below is a list of things that I did when I eventually decided to seek help for mine.
See a Doctor
If you think you might have depression, go to see a doctor. A doctor will be able to confirm whether or not you do, in fact, have depression and prescribe the appropriate treatment. This might involve going on medication. It might not. It might instead involve seeking some form of therapy.
I waited far too long to seek help for my depression, thinking that I could beat it on my own with the help of Google. All that actually happened was that it was left to develop into a full blown depressive episode. The sooner you see a doctor, the sooner you get on the path to recovery.
If you feel as though your doctor is not taking you seriously and not helping you in the way that you need, just go to see another doctor who is more understanding of depression. I had various experiences with different doctors, and some were definitely better than others in terms of how seriously they took my depression and how much help they offered.
Talk to Somebody
It can pretty difficult to talk about mental health. But it’s even more difficult to deal with a mental health condition alone. You need a support network. People who will listen and help make sure you are okay and looking after yourself.
Open up to someone close to you to let them know what you are going through. You don’t necessarily need to go into full detail about your depression if you don’t want to, but simply talking about things can take a load off your mind and help them better understand how to help you.
If you don’t feel comfortable opening up to someone that you know, there are plenty of online communities out there, such as Elefriends, where you can discuss your problems with other people who are going through the same thing as you.
You may have already been referred to therapy by your doctor. Maybe not. It took nearly a year for me to get referred for proper therapy through the NHS. If you haven’t been referred for therapy, consider going off your own back.
If you can afford to seek therapy privately then great. If not, try searching for groups in your local area that focus on mental health. Groups can be much cheaper and it can be helpful to meet people who are suffering from similar things to you. My first step into CBT was actually in a group setting and I found it really helpful and motivating to hear what other people were doing to fight their depression.
Journaling was a really helpful tool for me when I first started struggling with depression. I journaled every day to track my moods, behaviours and anything that had happened that day. This enabled me to identify the situations that triggered my low feelings and from there I was able to actively manage my exposure and response to those specific situations.
Make Time for Yourself
Taking time for yourself is such a simple thing. But the reality is, very few of us actually prioritise that personal time. There’s always so much to do. Working hours are getting longer, the pressure to stay fit is getting heavier and of course we need to see friends and family and generally do all the other responsible life stuff that is required of us as adults.
But that can all take a pretty heavy toll on your mental health. Burnout is actually the thing that triggered my most serious bout of depression.
If you’re struggling with your mental health, it’s time to start making yourself a priority. That means setting time aside to work on yourself and do what you love, and sticking to it. Even if it’s just taking 30 minutes a day to have a bath or read a book, when you start to make looking after yourself a priority it will have serious benefits for your mental health.
I really struggle to see friends when I am struggling with my depression. It’s difficult to make myself do anything and I often feel so drained at the end of a work day that all I want to do is curl up in a ball and sleep. But every time I force myself to leave the house and see my friends I feel so much better. Laughing with the people I love takes my mind off all the shit inside my head and seriously boosts my mood.
Cut Down Your Alcohol Consumption
I drank so much alcohol when I was in the worst of my depression. I sometimes still find myself consuming a bit too much alcohol when I’m having a bad mental health week. But it’s a bad habit to fall into. It might numb some of the bad feelings in the short term. But the fact is, it’s still a depressant. Once the pleasant effects of alcohol have worn off you inevitably end up feeling worse, waking up feeling run down and with that terrible feeling of self-loathing.
On days when I drink a bit more than I should, I find it really difficult to manage my depression and keep myself on track for the next few days. Cutting back on alcohol can help you feel more in control of your mental health and help you avoid the depressive after effects of alcohol.
I’m a little wary about recommending exercise because when I was unwell, I found it damn near impossible to make myself do anything, let alone exercise. And when I couldn’t manage to get myself out for a run or even a walk I fell into a cycle of beating myself up about how lazy I was.
Don’t do that!
If exercise seems too difficult for you right now then don’t put too much pressure on yourself to do it. But if you do feel up to it, get out and do some exercise. Even something light like a short walk or yoga class can seriously benefit your mental health. Exercise is now the number one thing I do to manage my depression but it took 6 months of CBT to get me here. So just do what you can, when you can.
Be Kind to Yourself
Depression does quite a number on your self-esteem. It’s one big swirling mess of negative thoughts in your head. When you’re struggling with your mental health, it can be really difficult to stay compassionate to yourself and refrain from beating yourself up about all the things you feel you should be doing but can’t quite manage.
Keep in mind that depression is an illness. And like any illness, it takes time and effort to recover from. You are inevitably going to be able to do less than you can when you are well. And that’s okay. It’s important to focus on your mental health above anything else. And if that means that you can’t do all the stuff you usually do for a while, then so be it. Just remember to be compassionate to yourself and allow yourself the time to recover, guilt-free.
Do you have any other tips for what to do if you think you might be suffering from depression? Write them in the comments!