When Depression hits, it is difficult to find out how to escape. There are thousands of well-known metaphors for what depression really feels like, and it is true to suggest that none of them can ever fully encapsulate its reality. As a relatively confident and outspoken male, it wasn't unthinkable that writing a public blog and creating some of these metaphors myself could be a coping mechanism for me. However, I think there is an issue out there for people who don't necessarily wish to broadcast their issues in the kind of way I have done. I have written in the past about how this stigma is stifling people into their own darkness; but whilst this stigma still needs to fought; we also need help people whilst the stigma exists.
My aim, since the very first blog I wrote was to maybe give someone out there a chance to see that they are not alone, and that they can beat their depression. My recent film documented my wholehearted belief that self-help is the way forwards in doing this, and that your Depression can be contained, managed and beaten by the power you hold within you no-matter how weak and demotivated you may feel. However, I'd like to give some more practical steps that may help those who feel they need it.
These steps are optional, and some may work better than others. But with thanks to a few people who suffer from various mental health issues, I have compiled some genuine ideas that could help thousands of people around the world that are suffering everyday without any idea what they can do about it other than take medication and speak to a counselor. More importantly, they could help you.
1. Write stuff down
Obviously I would suggest this first, as it is one of my main forms of coping. You don't need to write things down in a serious way and tell the world, but just take a few notes down of what you're doing each day, and then try to see where the positive emotions come from each day and also where the negatives one may fester that can trigger your depression. Take note of the things that you really enjoyed, equally the things you really didn't enjoy. Writing down allows you to visualise what you've been doing more accurately; depression can make your deals roll into one, so this is a handy way of keeping on top of what you're doing and where you can eradicate negativity. Use your notes to do more of the positive things that are making you feel good, and gradually phase out the negatives where you have the ability to do so.
(Don't put school, uni or work into the negatives to phase out as they are quite handy in the long run for things like knowledge and money. If your job is really that bad then look for a new one but don't just slowly phase out attending as I'm sure your manager will ask questions when you've done 15 minutes less each day for the last four weeks and you're leaving before lunchtime)
2. Cut out the junk, the drink and the drugs
Of course, we all love a pint and a packet of crisps every now and again. But it's important to remember that each of them out of moderation can cause you much more hassle than breaking into the twenty note you used to buy them did. If you're depression stems from being unhappy about your figure, then use your will-power to remember that a positive state of mind and the feeling of happiness is a greater reward than a short-term thrill that cannot possibly fix a long-term issue. Alcohol is a depressant, so to drink excess amounts of a depressantwhen you're depressed is well.. daft. Even the sentence sounds stupid, so don't look stupid and think about your well-being. If you can't handle the drink, don't drink it. And if you can't stop drinking it, then you need to get yourself down to Asda because they're doing three boxes of bud for £20. Joking, of course I'm joking. Well, Asda are doing that deal, but it isn't a solution to making your life better in any case.
Cutting out these negative things is a crucial way for you to learn how to be happy in the real world, with the actual you, with your own personality instead of taking something that takes you to a world that you can never sustainably live in. Achieve real happiness that lasts and learn to be high on life.
3. Eat well and be active
A healthy diet and a decent exercise programme together are difficult for most people to follow; but those with mental health issues can see it as almost impossible. After all, how are you supposed to maintain a healthy diet and exercise regularly when you can barely muster up the energy to move out of bed? The answer is in your head. You need to. Eating well and being active is a great way of releasing positive hormones into your body to help boost your energy levels. As soon as you get the ball rolling then it's not so difficult and you'll be able to gradually increase how involved you get with the healthy eating and the activities you part-take in. It can help combat any negative self-esteem issues you may carry and it also gives you an opportunity to think about something new that is outside of the bubble that depression can lock you in. There are endless benefit to a healthier lifestyle and they can be broken down into simpler steps than you may assume. For instance, many people skip breakfast, so starting to eat breakfast is a good way to feel like you've achieved something at the very start of your day. A little glance at what foods are bad for you and good for you is dead simple thanks to the branding of what is in foods sold in the UK with the traffic light system of green for good for you, amber for not that good for you, and red for really bad for you. So do as your mother told you and eat your greens!
4. A good sleeping pattern and a day-to-day routine
One of the enemies of depression. My personal experience of depression deprived me of a lot of sleep and it was only when I began to create a routine around myself that I could really get to grips with going to bed at healthy times. If you get up early one day, have a bit of breakfast and then go about the things you need to do in the day, by the time you get home, you'll be knackered and ready for bed. If you don't get up, then it will be too late to do anything you need to do by the time you eventually awaken, so you'll feel even worse that you've procrastinated your life away by sleeping. Then the times you lie awake, you'll have only negatives to ponder on as you're not giving yourself a chance at doing anything positive. It is a fact that day light is good for you, and it is also a fact that you can only bring your life back to normality and snatch yourself from the hands of depression by having a good routine that fits in with the people around you. You'll find that even a light social activity or event will be helpful, and if you start to feel a little reclusive, you have tried and you can be happy that you got out of bed. You just need to keep trying again to eventually be able to say to your depression "No, I'm getting up and I'm not making you put me back to bed".
Over 60% of those who have issues with OCD will have also experience a major depressive mental health issue too, and as one of those people, I'd give a little pointer that making your bed when you get out of it makes it look far less inviting than when it does when you can see where it's asking you to lie. If my bed is made and my room is tidy, I'm less inclined to mess it up in the middle of the day again. Where as if it is messed already and the covers are back, it's so much easier to get back into. May well be just me that, in which case I am happy to accept I am a little bit of a weirdo, but I'm sure there is someone who will benefit from the idea.
5. Make big things smaller
Many males will find themselves trying to do the complete opposite of this title, especially when they're in public changing rooms because nobody wants anyone else to know that they've got a ridiculously average sized set of biceps. But in this case, making big things smaller is the focus.
As I mentioned about eating breakfast being a simple way to improve your diet and your routine, that serves as a perfect example of making an overall aim smaller. Valuing your small achievements in a day may not mean anything at all to someone else, but if you achieve just one small task towards your overall goal; then you've achieved. This is the best way to stop that feeling of "standing still". A problem that many sufferers mention is the lack of self-worth that derives from feeling like they're metaphorically standing still. The notion that you're making progress in life should be a constant, and we all want to make our lives' as exciting and enjoyable as possible in the short time we have; so start by doing small things to make the real big changes in the long-term.
6. Enjoy and immerse yourself in relaxation
Read, listen to music, clean, watch TV, catch up on the news, educate yourself about something new - do whatever you enjoy to your hearts' content. Make time for these things and embrace how they make you feel. It may be that you love having a sing-song into the mirror when nobodies in, it may be that you're into just sitting in the garden with your dog. Find what you love and embrace it. Learning new things is always a particular strength for me personally when I am feeling down, as I find that as soon as I can't sleep, I can go onto YouTube and watch videos about this new thing that I am interested in. I've learned so much because of my depression about subjects that have nothing to do with anything else in my life. So my endeavour to learn something new has merged into the times when I am sad and actually helped to take my mind of the things that worry me.
The ultimate way of coping is through speaking. Speak about your depression all the time. Tell your family, tell your work, tell your friends, because then you completely remove the elephant in the room and you help in removing the stigma. 1 in 4 people have a mental health issue, and whilst that is a terrible statistic, that means that mental health issues are sadly a part of normality. So let it be normal for you to say that you're not having a good day today. Let it be normal for you to tell people when you're not very happy. Equally, let it be normal for people to know that you might be feeling good today. An elephant in the room might feel massive for you, but from experience of talking to others, outsiders sometimes don't feel the elephant at all. So removing it all together benefits you so much more than you can imagine, and just allows you to break down those barriers to let people help you in every situation you are in. Of course, if you don't like talking about it as openly, then speak to a few important people. But keep it regular and make sure that you're expressing yourself because sometimes, a low feeling and a bad day can get so much better after a small conversation and a little cry to someone. And yes, it is okay to cry if you're a man.
As I say, not all of these may suit you. But I hope that some of them do and I hope that you find other ways that you can help yourself too. You certainly can do anything with the power of your own self, and all it takes is determination and a little bit of thought to make a start.
The best way to find a helping hand is to look at the end of your own arm.