Dealing with Depression
(as featured in the winter edition of Podio – See original here)
At least 1 in 4 of us suffer from mental health problems. And if we don’t directly live with it, the chances are we’re close to people who are.
I’ve had challenges with my own mental health since my teenage years. It’s what’s pushed me to travel, to volunteer and to start projects like Podio, Preston Pride & Global Amigos. My family, like most, has been directly affected by self-harm, suicide attempts and suicide over the years (like others, I’ve been in situations far too dark to share here). But, whilst social media allows people to open up about their struggles or support campaigns like #WorldMentalHealthDay, I’ve struggled to accept myself that, whenever life-changing events have occurred, running away or suicide categorically feel like my only options.
And that’s not right.
Recently I’ve adopted a different approach and I’d like to share it. The following points are neither eye-opening nor unheard of. If you’re in a good place right now, it may be worth reading to prepare for if or when you or a loved one does end up struggling.
Six Steps to Sustain Your Well-being
- Seek help
- Whether you request a referral from your GP for Minds Matter, call into a counselling group, or pick up the phone to call the Samaritans, you categorically should speak to a relevant organisation. I’ve always avoided anti-depressants but now understand that they can help stabilise how we feel whilst working through tough times; and so, only now, appreciate their value.
- Manage your drink
- I wouldn’t say cut alcohol completely if you do like a tipple. But definitely look at your habits. A night out with friends might be beneficial as a one off? On the whole though, I’ve minimised my intake – no set rules; only having a glass when it feels right, not necessary. When you’re feeling down you definitely shouldn’t go there as alcohol’s a mood enhancer – meaning it’ll make you feel worse. Which it will.
- It’s fairly common knowledge that exercise releases the happy hormones into our system. Now, you don’t need to sign up for a 10k run; even walking from one end of the city to the other each day can make you feel good. Instead of using your local shop, why not look for one 20 minutes away? Unless it’s pouring down, you’re likely to feel better for it! Alternatively, there’s plenty of gyms knocking about.
- Listen to positive audio playlists
- I’ve always cringed at these but, genuinely, having these on in the background as I’ve been getting ready for bed at night (and falling asleep to) has been a real help. It’s quite logical really, instead of internally feeding yourself negative thoughts, you instead bombard your mind with positivity, daily, weekly, or monthly. It costs nothing as well; simply open Google & search ‘Motivational Speakers, YouTube’.
- Keep busy
- If you get your teeth into things, it’ll focus your attention away from the stuff that could otherwise get you down (although, don’t avoid issues which may need addressing?!) Volunteer with a local charity, sign up to work with Global Amigos on one of our projects… Just try something. Open your mind to the different opportunities & possibilities out there & start the ball rolling… What’ve you got to lose?! (I’ll happily support you!?)
- Speak to a loved one
- If you have people around you, or people who would be if they knew what you were feeling, tell them. People aren’t mind readers. If anything, social media can send out the opposite signals. If you struggle to talk, send the person you’d like to open up to this post; I’m sure they’ll instantly understand. You might be surprised by what you learn once you do open up (my mum & best friend were surprise heroes in this respect).
The biggest challenge for me has been failing to understand how I could, one day (or most days) feel genuinely on top of the world but then, the next, fantasise about ending everything.
That’s poor mental health for you. And me realising that uncontrollable stuff can go on inside has helped me to detach & almost dissect the issue.
At the end of the day, mental distress happens and it can make any one of us feel unwell. It doesn’t have to be terminal though; there’s hope and there’s help and it is possible to live with depression and work through it.