INSHAPE NEWS MIND MATTERS: Coping With Depression
Dr Kelly Baez – Licensed Counselor and Psychology PhD:
To sum up my clinical career, I’ve met clients who suffered from depression so severe they were nearly catatonic. This is usually the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain. In these less-common cases, a combination of medication and professional counseling can be beneficial.
Most of my clients are mild to moderately depressed. They feel sad, down-in-the-dumps, bummed-out. Maybe it’s been going on for some time and related to a certain event or life change. Most importantly, in these cases, unless there is a medical reason not to, our first approach is going to be exercise.
Coping With Depression Fact #1: Depression Equals Anger Turned Inward
Anger turned inward is depression. Yet, anger is just a type of energy. Energy must be in balance. That is to say, it flows-in when we sleep or nurture ourselves. Subsequently, it then flows out into our work, play, and relationships. When there’s a part of life that feels blocked to receiving our energy, it hurts. If an emotion hurts, we often describe the feeling as sad. You may have heard that anger is just sad’s bodyguard. So, this is how anger gets turned inward. It becomes stuck, and quickly goes stale, resulting in depression.
Coping With Depression Fact #2: Exercise To Beat Depression
Understanding depression can lead to one of the most effective treatments: daily exercise. Just ten minutes a day is enough to reverse the flow of energy. Plus, it provides a safe way to ease back into daily life with a more positive outlook. Moreover, with continued exercise you’ll gain an emotional resilience that is hard to produce any other way.
For instance, if you want to try exercise to ease depression, then consider:
Commit to 10 minutes a day.
Many fitness plans come with built-in rest days. But, if you’re exercising to cope with or reduce depression, exercise for 10-minutes every day. Although, you may have to scale back the exercise intensity. However, this can ease depression symptoms and maintain long-term motivation.
If you’re suffering with depression, making big lifestyle changes might feel overwhelming. Therefore, there’s no need to go to extremes. For instance, walking is a wonderful exercise. It’s simple, portable, uncomplicated and low-cost. Plus, you can adjust the intensity to suit your needs. Of course, walking is just a suggestion—I recommend that you pick any exercise that sparks your interest.
Respect your limits but have faith in your abilities.
Remember, you are not a machine. So, you will have good days and bad days and that is okay. Firstly, respect yourself enough to burn off the excess energy. But, do so without bullying yourself. As always, discuss any concerns with your doctor or counsellor.
Dr. Kelly Baez, is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a PhD in Psychology. In her 10+ years in practice, she has been a trauma counselor, crisis counselor, and addiction counselor. Currently, she is the founder of FitShrink and serves as a weight loss consultant for people who have tried everything to lose weight but feel stuck.
Through her supportive, information-packed blog posts, on-demand classes, and 1-on-1 coaching, she’s here to show you how to implement a healthy lifestyle change — while making it feel insightful, empowering, and sassy.
And when she’s not FitShrink-ing, you can find her running with her dog, watching her husband play polo, and being an all-in mommy.
Deborah Stevens – ACA Level 3 Counselor (BS, MASS):
Mental health experts define depression as an emotional state of sadness or dejection. Two most common forms are dysthymia and major depressive disorder. Dysthymia (chronic low-level depression with intervals of normal mood), lasts more than two years. Major depressive disorder (lethargy, feelings of worthlessness, loss of interests in life, affecting sleep and appetite), lasts up to five months without any notable cause (Westen, 2002). Likened to “emotional flu”, depression is a serious health issue. It’s noted by social and occupational dysfunction, co-morbidity and other health problems, along with possible suicide risk (mortality). (Akhondzadeh, Faraji, Sadeghi, Afkham, Frkhrzadeh, and Kamalipour, 2003).
This was the beginning of my article a week ago, but on Friday I chose to have a “mental health” day for myself; I went to a beginners crochet class. Now you are wondering, what does crochet have to do with coping with depression, well if you stick with me here it may become clear why I digressed from the clinical approach to coping with depression.
As I began the class, with self-doubt and a heightened sense of fear, it soon became apparent I was not the only one there with those feelings. Our instructor began with the words, “I am only a beginner too, so we are all in this together!” Upon hearing this, I instantly relaxed and so did the mood in the room. Despite a lot of “ooh’s” and “what nows'” we all managed to encourage, laugh and chat about the complexities of learning a new skill.
Learning How to Cope with Depression
Coping with depression can be much the same as learning to crochet. You have the support of those who are going through the same experience, perhaps on different levels, being able to laugh and relax in the moment, even challenge the negative thoughts (“I can’t do this. It’s too hard. I am stupid”). Followed by words of encouragement from those around you to keep trying. Over time, it will get better with practice. As a result, some interesting practice pieces came to life.
How Learning To Crochet Is Similar To Depression
Crochet looks beautiful, but learning the technique of crochet can be difficult. Coping with how to hold the hook, tension on the wool and working the stitches, all help to form the final product. Coping with depression is similar; each person’s experiences are unique. With Crocheting we all have our individual, tool box of strategies (how to hold the hook), skills and struggles (stitches, tension, practice), as well as those who support us (the instructor).
What Happens When You Suffer From Depression?
When we suffer from depression, our experience is different to the next person. We also need to find our tool box of strategies to cope (exercise, art, running, riding a push bike), skills (making time for ourselves, having a day off) and struggles (not being able to sleep, not eating, and sometimes crying or feeling angry and overwhelmed). Thus, for me, this is how learning to crochet is similar to coping with depression. It requires patience, practice and positivity, and even though the end result may not be perfect, you have created something of beauty!
Deborah Stevens is a registered (ACA Level 3), qualified counselor in private practice. She has a diploma in applied science counselling, a Bachelor Science (Psychology) and a Master of applied social science counseling. Deborah is an ACA supervisor and Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner. She has recently published a children’s book ‘I Am Wren’ about a young boy with Asperger. Her work includes use of creative therapeutic approaches, as well as traditional theories. Deborah works with all ages and provides Employment Assistance Programs and career coaching. You can follow her on Facebook at BeeCon Counselling or contact her via email: email@example.com.
Zoe Markopoulos -Psychologist (MAPS, CEDP):
Most people feel sad, miserable and lethargic from time-to-time—it is part of being human. However, when these feelings become intense, long lasting and interfere with daily life, then this is depression.
Approximately one in five Australians aged 16-85 years experience a mental illness. Often, these occur in mid-to-late adolescence. Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses. One in five women and one in eight men experience depression at some stage in life. Prevention and intervention in early childhood aims to increase protective factors (e.g. positive self-esteem) and decreasing risk factors (e.g. social isolation). Therefore, these are crucial in developing positive mental health and well-being in life.
Coping With Depression Fact #3: Symptoms of Depression
Depression has a variety of symptoms that include:
- Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness or excessive guilt.
- Fatigue and loss of energy.
- Significant appetite or weight changes.
- Finding it hard to sleep or sleeping too much.
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions.
- Thoughts of suicide.
There is no one cause of depression. For some individual’s stressful life events (e.g. unemployment or death of a loved one) might trigger depression. While for others there is no obvious cause. However, family history and social (abuse) and psychological (excessive worry) factors can result in higher depression risk.
Coping With Depression Fact #4: Treatment for Depression
For depression treatment, healthcare professionals may use psychotherapy (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy). Some will suggest antidepressant medicine (selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors). Consequently, the choice of treatment depends on each characteristic and symptom. In addition to professional help, self-help activities can help manage depression. Plus, these maintain good mental health.
Examples Of Depression Treatment
- Practice relaxation techniques (e.g. breathing).
- Take time out to do things you enjoy.
- Talk to someone you trust about your feelings.
- Develop a healthy sleep routine (e.g. regular wake and sleep times).
- Stay physically active – find an activity that you enjoy and make a plan to do it regularly.
- Eat a healthy and balanced diet.
There is no one proven way to recover from depression. Everybody is different. Despite this, there is a range of effective treatments. Self-help activities also assist in recovery.
In her professional practice, Zoe Markopoulos applies her psychological and educational expertise in the effective delivery of psychology services to children and families. She recognises the importance of fostering resilience and addressing the social, emotional and educational needs of students. Zoe predominately aligns her work with the principles and techniques of cognitive behaviour therapy, positive psychology and mindfulness. A significant part of her work involves psychological counseling and assessment, developing and implementing evidence-based programs, and consultation. Zoe is also interested in self-care activities to help maintain physical, mental and emotional health.
Zoe has contributed to academic publications focused on coping, bullying, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, children and families. She is a member of the Australian Psychologist Society and is regularly involved with the College of Educational and Developmental Psychologists (Victoria), as a committee member. Zoe is currently completing the Psychology Board of Australia Registrar Program in Educational and Developmental Psychology.
Jaime Parnell – Clinical Psychologist:
Mental health issues get talked about frequently now. Social media and instant access to information on the internet helps people spread the word. So, more people know about symptoms, treatments and steps to cope with depression. Many Government and non-Government agencies recieve funding to provide local communities with immediate and on-going support. Equally important is the sharing of share information about warning signs, treatments and support. For specific information about warning signs please visit www.beyondblue.org.au.
Coping With Depression Fact #5: What are the Signs of Depression?
Depressive symptoms are crippling to a person’s life. Thse include changes in sleep routines, and appetite, and a loss of pleasure in daily activities. Also, coping with day-to-day routines becomes exhausting. Cognitive therapy can include solution focused questions where the person identifies their desired situation. They then break down the thoughts and behaviours making it difficult for them to achieve those goals. Along with thoughts and behaviours that help them to achieve the goal.
Behaviour therapy involves identifying small daily activities to engage in each day with a goal of moving towards the desired situation. This can include physical activities such as short walks, swimming, and gym. It can include journaling, photography, practicing mindfulness. There is a range of medications to help people on their journey to recovery, and it is important to discuss your symptoms honestly with your medical practitioner. For instance, they’d rather know if you are experiencing the side effects of Spravato, for example, so they can help you overcome them rather than you giving up on medication.
R U OK
RUOK? Is a not for profit organisation that has focused on teaching and providing information to people to encourage them to have meaningful conversations with those around them, by simply asking if they are okay and thus extending a person’s support network. Their focus is on people developing connections, starting with the words “are you ok?” Further information is at www.RUOK.org.au.
Having Support Helps
It is important to access services for your own well-being and to liaise with your loved ones, medical practitioner and other health professionals. If you would like further information about depression and treatments, please look at the website www.beyondblue.org.au for support agencies that are in your local area, contact your medical practitioner or GP, or call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Jaime Parnell has a Masters in Clinical Psychology and has a strong interest in working with anxiety and difficult behaviours in children, adolescents and young adults. Having previously worked with children who have suffered trauma; and with an extensive history in working with children and teenagers with difficult behaviours, Jaime provides assessment, individual and group counselling tailored to individual needs.
Located in the Central Queensland region, Jaime is particularly involved in working with clients who have complex presentations, and offers several outreach services, and Skype consultations for the regional area. Jaime’s skills lie in providing a thorough assessment and being able to tailor interventions in a way that is solution focused. Jaime encourages using feedback informed services with clients to ensure that services are meeting clients’ needs. Jaime uses technology in her sessions and has recently released two apps — 30 days of gratitude, an app to appreciate the world around you, and Jacob the Frog, a guided breathing app for managing stress, worry and anxiety. Both, of which can be downloaded from the iTunes store.
Debbie Hopper – Registered Occupational Therapist:
Primary school aged children often come home reporting difficulty in class or disagreements in the playground. But as parents we need to be aware of some signs that their feelings are heading downhill. Having the “blues” or sadness is not “clinical depression”. Having the “blues” is a temporary feeling of being down, whereas “depression” involves feeling down or irritable and stops a person from enjoying or taking part in activities they enjoy doing. They may also not sleep well, they may feel worthless, have a decreased appetite and find concentration difficult. Even children of this young age may have thoughts of suicide which need serious consideration (Beyondblue.org.au).
How Can We Help Our Child Overcome Depression?
How can you support, encourage and reduce risk factors for a child who is depressed?
1. Establish and maintain good relationships with you child.
Take the time to listen, have a special time or a date with one child at a time. Show interest in what they do. Learn about Minecraft, their favourite book, talk about who their friends are, have down time where you can just “hang out”.
2. Encourage supportive relationships with others outside of your family.
Mixing with others of different generations can help build a support network and help your child be resilient. Encourage interaction with grandparents and aunts/ uncles if possible. If not, encourage friendships with adults of different ages. Friendships will people in sporting clubs, church groups or wherever you hang out. Inter-generational involvement increases resilience.
3. Establish family rules and consequences and routines.
Children may not like rules, but rules, consequences and routines all help a child to feel safe. The trick is that when you establish these, they need to be consistent. Give children chores so they are responsible for doing activities from a young age. For routines, reduce the amount of screen time and encourage active play. Children need unstructured down time so they become “bored” and create games. They need time to chill.
4. Encourage good health habits.
Go for short walks a few times a week to help you both reduce tension and stress. Also, this is a great time just to chat. Younger children love to walk next to you, hold your hand and tell you what’s happening.
5. Practice good sleep hygiene/ routine.
Having a regular bedtime at a reasonable time is really important for good sleep. Plus, have a No Screens For 2 Hours Before Bed policy as it can also improve getting to sleep and having a better nights sleep.
6. Help your child set goals, solve problems and label how they feel.
Helping your child to label how you feel is really important in teaching them how they feel. For example, using a feelings chart such as Deb Hopper’s Just Right Kids Technique can help children know how they feel. Download a copy of this chart here.
There are many ways to support and reduce the signs of depression in young children. Choose one way that you can help above and do something small to future proof your child today.
Deb Hopper is an Occupational Therapist, Amazon No. 1 Best Selling Author, and a Special Needs TV reporter, as well as a workshop and keynote presenter.
Deb is passionate about empowering parents and educators to understand the underlying reasons of why children struggle with behaviour, self-esteem and sensory processing difficulties. A practicing Occupational Therapist she understands the daily struggles that children, parents and teachers face.
Deb is the author of the Amazon No. 1 Bestselling Book Reducing Meltdowns and Improving Concentration: The Just Right Kids Technique and co-author of the CD Sensory Songs for Tots. Deb has presented at national and international conferences including the Asia Pacific Autism Conference and The National Occupational Therapy Mental Health Forum and is often called upon for media comment.
Deb is the special needs reporter for the online channel Toddlers to Teens TV and her goal is to help as many children, parents and teacher around the world.
Deb works from her Occupational Therapy Learning Difficulties Clinic in Forster, NSW. You can contact her for appointments, workshops and training on (02) 6555 9877 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclaimer: The information published in this column is the author’s professional and personal knowledge and opinion. This information and opinion are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any manner. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition and consult a qualified medical professional before beginning any nutritional or exercise program. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on InShape News.