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Shining a light on depression

Depression thrives in the dark, in the shame, in the hiding of our feelings- by bringing it into the light, by talking about it, we make a difference.

Depression impacts around 1 in 6 of the adult population in the UK at any time. It is one of the leading causes of workplace sickness and can have a hugely detrimental impact on the lives of those experiencing it and those supporting them.

It can be helpful to understand some of the drivers behind these figures, and why are so many people experiencing depression in today's society. During my depression I found exploring what was driving it helped me understand myself and make choices about the changes I wanted to make in my life. This in turn changed my relationship with depression and led to a healthier, more meaningful life.

In this fast-paced, competitive world, it is easy to feel like we are constantly chasing our tails. The pressure to excel at work, maintain a picture perfect social life, and keep up with the latest trends can leave us feeling exhausted and disconnected from our true selves.

Factors behind depresssion

Depression can be linked to life events for example physical ill health, divorce or bereavement. In this article I want to look at some other reasons which we may not appreciate are having an impact on our mental health and may lead to depression.

  1. Tech overload: We can be constantly bombarded with information and notifications, whether this is our work emails at 9 p.m. or social media feeds that are designed to keep us scrolling. It's like we're always "on," and that constant digital noise means our minds have no time to rest or to process challenges.

  2. Disconnect from nature: Spending more time indoors and less time outside can lead to a disconnection from the natural world, our nervous systems are wired to want to be in green spaces, it calms our minds and body.

  3. Loneliness and isolation: Despite being more connected via tech we are seeing a huge increase in loneliness. Social media may give the illusion of being surrounded by friends but they may not give us the meaningful connections we crave.

  4. Comparison and unrealistic expectations: Back to social media and the constant unreal images of people's lives can leave us feeling less than others. We may strive for things that aren’t important to us but seem important to society or feel we are constantly falling short.

  5. Material wealth: The never-ending pursuit of material possessions and the constant urge to keep up with the latest trends can leave us feeling empty and unsatisfied. It may provide temporary happiness, but you always be left wanting more- the next trend.

  6. Stigma: We have made a lot of progress regarding mental health over the last few years, but stigma still exists especially within certain communities and groups. Men for example still find it more difficult to discuss their struggles which may lead to them hiding them which only exasperates the issues and makes recovery more challenging.

  7. Drugs and Alcohol: are often used as coping strategies when people are unable to talk about their struggles. These are depressants that will make issues worse over time and can build a cycle of mental ill health and addiction.

What helps?

When we think about what helps depression we usually discuss antidepressants, counselling or CBT. But there are also many other approaches that we can use alongside or as alternatives to traditional methods of treatment.

We are all individuals, and just as we have looked at the different reasons behind depression the ways that work for us to move out the other side are different too. There is no one size fits all, Do any of the following resonate with you?

  • Talk: Reach out to a friend- don't underestimate the power of a good chat. Sometimes, expressing what's weighing on your mind can be incredibly therapeutic. Rather than hiding your feelings in the dark reaches of your mind get them into the light by sharing.

  • Exercise: Moving our body is important for both our physical and mental health. It can feel very difficult to move when we are depressed, but even 5 minutes can boost endorphins and make an impact, Maybe you can get a friend to encourage you to regularly get moving.

  • Mindfulness and meditation: can help you bring awareness and understanding to your thoughts and emotions. It supports the reduction of stress and helps you use your breath to calm the mind and spend more time in the present moment.

  • Nature: Being outside helps calm the nervous system, and boosts endorphins. Whether that is a walk in the park, gardening, going to the beach or a long walk. in the countryside. Being outside is essential for our wellbeing.

  • Creative outlets: Letting the creative juices flow whether that is painting, crafting, or playing an instrument can be a powerful way to express our emotions if we are finding it hard to talk. It allows us to express what is hidden and explore our feelings.

  • Sleep: Sometimes in our lives, new parents for example this may be impossible but for most of us prioritising sleep and a good sleep routine is key. Depression and sleep issues often go hand in hand, create a relaxing bedtime routine, and stick to the same time to go to bed and get up.

  • Healthy eating: The fuel we put in our bodies and minds helps boost our metabolism, supports gut health and reduces exhaustion. Regular small meals help you manage throughout the day, reduce energy slumps and support sleep.

  • Connection: Depression often makes you want to retreat and hide away, but we know meaningful, supportive connections or even tiny interactions can help. This could be a support group to share experiences, a best friend or having a goal to speak to someone every day, a cashier rather than the self-checkout is a start.

  • Gratitude: It can be very hard to notice anything to feel grateful for in depths of depression but there is always something. Notice or celebrate every tiny positive- the sun was out this morning, I spoke to one person, I got out of bed- whatever it is, look for it and highlight it. Building a practice of gratitude helps build new neuropathways in your brain which supports recovery from depression.

Remember we are all individuals and it may take some time to understand yourself and what works for you. It is usually a combination of many things and this takes energy and perseverance, which can be challenging.

Keeping a diary, journalling or having a regular catch with a supportive friend can all help you see what is helping and where you could focus your attention.

Take it slowly, be kind and compassionate to yourself as you take steps towards a new version of you.

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