It's Depression Awareness Week -- and as nearly a fifth of the UK population has experienced depression, or its second cousin, anxiety, it's time to talk about how to deal with it.
I have experienced a few forms of depression myself, from mild cases of unremitting sadness to a seriously scary case of depression where I could barely lift my head without wanting to cry.
The rulebook for depression is small as far as I am concerned, and contains just one phrase: "Try to do a little". The other advice in the book consists of suggestions to help your mind and body through this difficult period. But the only hard and fast rule is to try.
When you feel seriously depressed, it is difficult to find the energy to do anything. By its very nature, depression leaves you feeling resourceless, lifeless and limp. But however serious your depression, there are steps you can take to alleviating it, or at least not allowing it to deepen.
If it's that bad, it may a case of simply be putting one foot in front of the other while you wait for it to pass. But is important to try and live wisely and healthily despite your condition, otherwise you risk making your depression worse. Support your brain and body to get over your illness.
Drinking alcohol, eating junk, isolating yourself, and listening to Leonard Cohen albums non-stop will do toxic, unhelpful things to your body. Even if you have depression, your body still plays by certain rules - so watch what you feed it mentally and physically.
People sometimes try to tell those suffering from depression to do upbeat, cheery things, but if you're too far down in the illness, that may make you feel worse. A good approach is to keep it simple. Do the helpful, healthy things below, even if you do them little by little until your mood has lifted. And just try.
Talk: No, you aren't expected to be the life and soul of the party when you have depression. You may not feel like seeing anyone, or socialising. That's OK, but it's important to keep talking and not close yourself off from the world.
A close friend can sometimes bring some brightness to your day. But if you can't face your friends or family, having a chat with the Samaritans or online with others suffering from the same thing can be a huge relief. It's important to realise you are not alone.
Walk: Yes, it's an effort to lift your head from the pillow sometimes when you have depression. But walking releases good brain chemicals and can help to boost your mood.
If you don't feel like doing a whole lot, a brisk walk around the block or popping briefly to the corner shop will do you more good than staying in all day. Getting a little sun on your face and some fresh air is another benefit of being outside for a bit.
Eat: Your body can not be happy and healthy unless you support it with the right nutrition. Foods with B and D vitamins are well-known for supporting healthy moods. Porridge, potatoes, oily fish, dark chocolate and spinach tend to be good mood boosters.
If you've lost your appetite completely, eat easy, nutritious things like chicken or vegetable soup, bananas and natural yoghurt and consider taking a good multivitamin to supplement your diet.
Hope: Remember that depression doesn't last forever, and you will get through it, as you may already have done before. Stay as hopeful and as positive as you can. I know that negative thinking can be a symptom of depression, but dwelling on dark thoughts can make them worse.
My mantra when dealing with my own depression was: "This is not the end of the world". Not particularly happy-clappy, but hopeful enough to get me through the other side. Focus on what you're grateful for, rather than the difficult things that are happening. Validate yourself for your efforts at coping and give yourself a mental hug.
Again, the only rule for all these suggestions is to try, a little at a time. As soon as you feel the dark clouds parting, try a little more. Step by step, you will pull yourself out of that difficult place.
If your depression isn't shifting, it's very important to seek outside help. There is no need to feel ashamed - doctors and mental health professionals deal with this illness on a daily basis. Reaching out to an understanding, caring professional can help to support you through your depression.