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Coping With Depression

Coping with Depression

Dr Kelly Baez – Licensed Counsellor and Psychology PhD:

I’ve met with clients who suffered from depression so severe that 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.

More often, when a client comes to me and tells me she is depressed, she is mild to moderately depressed.  She’s feeling sad, down-in-the-dumps, bummed. Maybe it’s been going on for some time and related to a certain event or life change.  In these cases, unless there is a medical reason not to, our first approach is going to be exercise.

Depression is Anger Turned Inward

You may have heard that depression is anger turned inward. Anger is just a type of energy.  Energy is meant to be in balance, flowing in when we sleep or nurture ourselves and flowing 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.  This is how anger gets turned inward, becomes stuck, and quickly goes stale, resulting in depression.

Understanding depression this way leads to one of the most effective treatments: daily exercise.  Just ten minutes a day is enough to reverse the flow of energy and provides a safe way to ease back into daily life with more energy, a more positive outlook, and with continued exercise, an emotional resilience that is hard to produce any other way.

Exercise to Beat Depression

If you want to try exercise to ease depression, then consider:

  1. 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, the ideal is to exercise for at least 10-minutes a day, every day.  You may have to scale back the intensity of the exercise to be able to do it, but it’s ideal both in easing symptoms of depression and in maintaining long-term motivation!
  2. Start simply. If you’re suffering with depression, making a big change in your lifestyle might feel overwhelming.  No need to go to extremes!  Walking is a wonderful exercise!  It’s simple, portable, uncomplicated, low-cost, and you can adjust the time spent and intensity to suit your needs.  Walking is just a suggestion—I recommend that you pick any exercise that sparks your interest.
  3. Respect your limits but have faith in your abilities! You are not a machine.  You will have good days and bad days and that is completely normal.  Respect yourself enough to burn off the excess energy but make sure to do so without bullying yourself.  As always, discuss any concerns with your doctor or counsellor.

Dr Kelly BaezDr. Kelly Baez, is a Licensed Professional Counsellor with a PhD in Psychology. In her 10+ years in practice, she has been a trauma counsellor, crisis counselor, and addiction counsellor. 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.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/fitshrink

Deborah Stevens – ACA Level 3 Counsellor (BS, MASS):

Mental health experts define depression as an emotional state of sadness or dejection. Two most common forms are dysthymic (chronic low-level depression with intervals of normal mood), which lasts more than two years and major depressive disorder (lethargy, feelings of worthlessness, loss of interests in life, affecting sleep and appetite), lasting up to five months without any notable cause. (Westen, 2002) Likened to “emotional flu”, depression is a serious health issue, which can exhibit characteristic consequences, such as social and occupational dysfunction, co-morbidity of other health problems, and a possible increased risk of suicide (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.

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).

When we suffer from depression, our experience if 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!

DeborahDeborah Stevens is a registered (ACA Level 3), qualified counsellor in private practice. She has a diploma in applied science counselling, a Bachelor Science (Psychology) and a Master of applied social science counselling. 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: beecon@optusnet.com.au.

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 are more intense, pervasive, long lasting and interfere with daily life this condition can be characterised as depression.

Approximately one in five Australians aged 16-85 years experience a mental illness, with onset typically occurring around mid-to-late adolescence. Depression is one of these most common illnesses – one in five women and one in eight men will experience depression at some stage of their lives. Prevention and intervention in early childhood aimed at increasing protective factors (e.g. positive self-esteem), decreasing risk factors (e.g. social isolation) or both is, therefore, crucial in developing positive mental health and well-being in life.

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
  • Difficulty or excessive sleeping
  • 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. Family history and social (e.g. abuse) and psychological (e.g. excessive worry) factors may place an individual at higher risk of developing depression.

Treatment for Depression

For the treatment of depression, healthcare professionals can employ one or more types of psychotherapy (e.g. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) or suggest antidepressant medicine (e.g. selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors). The choice of treatment depends on each characteristic and symptom. In addition to professional help, there are a number of self-help activities to help manage the symptoms of depression and to maintain good mental health. For example:

  • 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, and it is different for everybody. Despite this, there is a range of effective treatments and self-help activities that can help individuals recover and stay well.

Image - Z MarkopoulosIn 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 counselling 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:

No longer are mental health issues talked about behind closed doors! The age of social media and instant access to information on the internet helps to encourage people to spread the word on symptoms, treatments and steps to cope with depression. Many Government and non-Government agencies are funded, or provide funding to agencies and local communities to provide immediate and on-going support to people who are experiencing depression. Equally important is to share information about warning signs, treatments and supports available.  For specific information about warning signs please visit www.beyondblue.org.au.

What are the Signs of Depression?

Depressive symptoms are crippling to a person’s life: changes in sleep routines, and appetite, and a loss of pleasure in daily activities and coping with day-to-day routines becomes exhausting. Cognitive therapy can include solution focused questions where the person identifies their desired situation and then breaks down the steps into the thoughts and behaviours that are making it difficult for them to achieve those goals, as well as the thoughts and behaviours that will help them to achieve the goal. (see link www.progressfocusedapproach.com/#article/323 ) 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, practising 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.


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 can be found on 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 ParnellJaime 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.

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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 classed as “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 to be taken seriously (Beyondblue.org.au).

How Can We Help Our Child Overcome Depression?

So how can we support, encourage and reduce risk factors for children being 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. Be interested in their interests. 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 who might also be involved in sporting clubs, church groups or wherever you hang out. Inter-generational involvement has been shown to increase 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. Have small chores that children are responsible for doing from a young age, and expect them to be done. For routines, reduce the amount of screen time and encourage active play. Children also need to have unstructured down time to learn to be “bored” and create their own games and have time just to chill.

4. Encourage good health habits
Go for short walks a few times a week to help you both reduce tension and stress. This is also 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. No screens for 2 hours before bed 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. 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.

DebbieDeb 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 therapy@lifeskills4kids.com.au.

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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.

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One thought on “Coping With Depression”

  1. Thanks! This article has helped me a tonne. I can actually see where I’ve been going wrong. This may help me to get well after so long.

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