Firstly, you don’t have to be mentally ill to suffer mental health problems.
With everything going on in the world right now, it’s enough to cause anxiety and depression for anyone.
Turn on the news and there is never any good news only doom and gloom.
Mental and physical health is equally important components of overall health. For example, depression increases the risk for many types of physical health problems, particularly long-lasting conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Similarly, the presence of chronic conditions can increase the risk for mental illness.
How do I know if I’m depressed?
Depression is more than simply feeling unhappy or fed up for a few days.
Most people go through periods of feeling down, but when you’re depressed you feel persistently sad for weeks or months, rather than just a few days.
Some people think depression is trivial and not a genuine health condition. They’re wrong – it is a real illness with real symptoms. Depression is not a sign of weakness or something you can “snap out of” by “pulling yourself together”.
Depression affects people in different ways and can cause a wide variety of symptoms.
They range from lasting feelings of unhappiness and hopelessness, to losing interest in the things you used to enjoy and feeling very tearful. Many people with depression also have symptoms of anxiety.
There can be physical symptoms too, such as feeling constantly tired, sleeping badly, having no appetite or sex drive, and various aches and pains.
The symptoms of depression range from mild to severe. At its mildest, you may simply feel persistently low in spirit, while severe depression can make you feel suicidal, that life is no longer worth living.
Most people experience feelings of stress, anxiety or low mood during difficult times. A low mood may improve after a short period of time, rather than being a sign of depression.
It’s normal to sometimes feel down, sad, or upset. But feeling blue for days on end? That’s a red flag.
- Common symptoms of depression include:
- low energy, chronic fatigue, or frequent sluggishness
- trouble with concentration, memory, or decision making
- unexplained pain, aches, cramps, or digestive issues
- changes in appetite or weight
- sleep issues, like sleeping too much or not enough
- loss of interest in your favourite activities or hobbies
- constant sad, anxious, or empty feelings
- anger, irritability, or restlessness
- feelings of guilt, hopelessness, helplessness, or pessimism
- thoughts of death or suicide or suicide attempts
When to see a doctor
It’s important to seek help from a GP if you think you may be depressed.
Many people wait a long time before seeking help for depression, but do not delay. The sooner you see a doctor, the sooner you can be on the way to recovery.
How do I know if I have an anxiety disorder?
Experiencing occasional anxiety is a normal part of life. However, people with anxiety disorders frequently have intense, excessive and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. Often, anxiety disorders involve repeated episodes of sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear or terror that reach a peak within minutes (panic attacks).
When to see a doctor
- You feel like you’re worrying too much and it’s interfering with your work, relationships or other parts of your life
- Your fear, worry or anxiety is upsetting to you and difficult to control
- You feel depressed, have trouble with alcohol or drug use, or have other mental health concerns along with anxiety
- You think your anxiety could be linked to a physical health problem
- You have suicidal thoughts or behaviours — if this is the case, seek emergency treatment immediately
- Your worries may not go away on their own and they may get worse over time if you don’t seek help. See your doctor or a mental health provider before your anxiety gets worse. It’s easier to treat if you get help early.
How to know if it’s anxiety, depression, neither, or both?
It’s normal to feel worried from time to time. After all, stress is a natural response to external stimuli. That’s why you might have butterflies in your stomach before giving a big presentation or buying a new car.
But chronic anxiety isn’t your typical healthy dose of stress. It’s a bit like the “mean reds” Audrey Hepburn describes in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”: “suddenly you’re afraid and you don’t know what you’re afraid of.” It can be overwhelming and lead to irrational fears that mess with your life.
Common symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) include:
- difficulty with concentration or recollection
- muscle tension
- racing heart rate
- teeth grinding
- sleep issues, including difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
- restlessness, irritability, or feeling on edge
- consistent thoughts of worry or fear
- feelings of dread or panic
Tips for coping with anxiety and depression
- Take control of the little things
If you’re feeling overwhelmed – focus on regaining a sense of control. Maybe it’s as simple as making your bed or sorting your recycling. Whatever it is, do something that makes you feel empowered and leaves you thinking, “Hell yeah, I’ve got this!”
- Eat healthily
When you’re feeling depressed or anxious, you might find yourself craving comfort foods (pasta, anyone?). Unfortunately, these delicious foods might not be the most nutritious.
Try to feed your body fruits, veggies, lean meats, and whole grains — what you eat can make a difference in the way you feel.
- Reach out to that friend
Talking to a friend or family member is a natural mood booster. After all, friends encourage and support you.
- Relax and unwind
Yoga, guided meditation, and massage are gold star relaxation methods. Schedule one or more of these activities several times a week, just like you would for any other appointment, and stick to it! Consistency is key.
- Do something that makes you feel good
Watch your favourite movie or reread a favourite book. Save time for the little things that bring you comfort. Self-care is an act of self-love, and alone time is a great way to recharge your body and distract your mind from daily stressors.
Exercise is a natural mood booster. When you exercise, your body produces endorphins, which make you feel happy. Still, it’s tough to feel motivated to work out when you have anxiety or depression. Gyms can also trigger anxiety and fear. Just a gentle walk being mindful of your surroundings and try and be “In the moment” forget the past or worrying about the future and just try to be in the “here and now.”
- Mindful Walking in Nature
When we’re in the countryside or at the beach we can not only practice becoming aware of our individual bodies, but we can start to see ourselves as a small part of a bigger picture.
Our body takes its place as an instrument in nature’s orchestra of wildlife, swaying trees, falling rain and ocean waves. Seeing ourselves as a valid and equal part of life in this way, can be very healing and can offer us opportunities to cultivate gratitude and self-compassion.
To build on our mindful walking practice, we can expand our awareness to how our movement or presence affects our immediate surroundings, and reversely how our surroundings affect us. For example, if we are walking on grass or sand, we can notice how our foot sinks into it, flattening it, perhaps leaving an indentation behind us. We may gently touch nature as we move.
We might not feel comfortable walking or moving quite as slowly as we do at home, but this is okay. However quickly or slowly we walk and move, there is always the opportunity to bring awareness into it.
If you’ve heard of or read about mindfulness meditation — also known as mindfulness — you might be curious about how to practice it. Find out how to do mindfulness exercises and how they might benefit you.
Mindfulness is a type of meditation in which you focus on being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling in the moment, without interpretation or judgment. Practicing mindfulness involves breathing methods, guided imagery, and other practices to relax the body and mind and help reduce stress.
Spending too much time planning, problem-solving, daydreaming, or thinking negative or random thoughts can be draining. It can also make you more likely to experience stress, anxiety and symptoms of depression. Practicing mindfulness exercises can help you direct your attention away from this kind of thinking and engage with the world around you.
What are the benefits of meditation?
Meditation has been studied in many clinical trials. The overall evidence supports the effectiveness of meditation for various conditions, including:
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
How do I practice mindfulness and meditation?
Mindfulness is available to us in every moment, whether through meditations and body scans, or mindful moment practices like taking time to pause and breathe when the phone rings instead of rushing to answer it.
WHAT IS SELF-SOOTHING?
Self-soothing is a tool we can use to soothe and calm ourselves when we’re anxious or distressed, without using medication or resorting to any negative coping strategies. It’s a way of comforting, nurturing, and being kind to ourselves. For some of us, there might be times when we do need medication, but self-soothing can still be a useful thing to try alongside it.
EXAMPLES OF SAFE, APPROPRIATE, AND EFFECTIVE SELF-SOOTHING BEHAVIOURS
- Squeezing a stress ball
- Listening to music
- Taking a warm bubble bath
- Taking a shower
- Going for a walk
- Hitting a punching bag
- Talking about your feelings
- Writing about your feelings
- Engaging in mindfulness exercises
- Playing with a pet
- Hugging someone you love
Try out some of the above strategies and examples and see how you go! Do not hesitate to seek further advice and support if needed.
Guided Body Scan
What is a guided body scan?
The body scan is a mindfulness meditation practice involving scanning your body for pain, tension, or anything out of the ordinary. It can help you feel more connected to your physical and emotional self.
What is guided meditation?
As the name implies, guided meditation allows you to be guided by someone else. A guide may help you drum up some specific mental imagery or they may walk you through a series of breathing exercises or mantras to help you practice meditating.
What is a breathing meditation?
It is one of the most basic forms of meditation, and it ultimately enables you to consciously influence your breathing in daily life. Breathing meditation is focused on how deep you breathe, how often you breathe, and the parts of your body that are reached by your breath.
These are some techniques you can practice but only as a guide, if you think you have depression or an anxiety disorder, please seek medical help. Your GP should be your first port of call.