Recognizing & Coping with Depression

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Guest article by Jennifer McGregor 

Depression can strike anyone at any time in life, but it’s difficult to understand because many people often look for a reason behind it. Sometimes we are genetically predisposed toward depression; others begin to show symptoms as a result of drug or alcohol abuse; still others experience depression after a major life change, such as a divorce, a death in the family, or an abusive relationship. The reasons vary from person to person, and so do the symptoms. These can include too much or too little sleep, changes in appetite, feelings of anger or frustration, lack of sexual desire, and isolation from friends and family.

It’s important to remember that being upset about a breakup or because you had a particularly bad week does not mean you suffer from depression. Clinical depression is very different, and can affect your everyday life for months or even years if it goes undiagnosed.

Often, depression makes us experience feelings of self-loathing, which can lead to substance abuse or risky behaviors. We become a version of ourselves we barely recognize because it’s difficult to cope with these feelings and because we can’t believe that anyone else would understand. It’s important to remember that there are people out there who understand, however, and that help is available.

Because depression brings feelings of lethargy, it’s difficult--or seemingly impossible--to even think about getting out of bed some days, let alone get exercise or meet up with a friend. However, those two things are imperative for depression sufferers as they can help mitigate some of the worst symptoms. Having a circle of support in friends or family is one of the keys to finding healthy ways to cope with depression, as is getting daily exercise, which can improve your mood and make you feel like you’ve accomplished a goal.

Here are some of the best ways to alleviate symptoms of depression:

Volunteer

If depression is making you feel as though life isn’t worth living, consider volunteering at an animal or homeless shelter. Seeing and hearing the needs of others helped me realize that there are others out there who are suffering, and that I could make a difference. It might make you feel a sense of purpose or even give you ideas for a new career if it’s something you enjoy.

Work with animals

Animals--especially dogs and horses--are wonderful companions for people who suffer from depression. If you can’t have a pet due to restrictions where you live, consider finding a way to work with animals. Spending time with them can help you relax, lower your blood pressure, and feel a sense of camaraderie.

Get creative

Finding ways to express yourself creatively can be one of the best things you’ll ever do. Painting, singing, acting, cooking, writing, and gardening are just a few examples of hobbies you can try out. Remember that you don’t have to be great at it in the beginning--none of us are. But getting your emotions out and onto a page or into the soil is wonderful for your soul and will help you cope with them in a healthy way.

Therapy

It’s important to see a doctor if you feel you’re suffering from depression; an early diagnosis means you won’t be in the dark when it comes to what’s going on with your body and mind. There are lots of treatment options available, so do some research to find one that’s right for you. This can include talk therapy, medication, behavioral therapy, or group therapy, among others.


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