It’s a new year and an opportunity for a new beginning. But not everyone is thrilled about this cold January. According to the CDC, about 1 in 20 Americans struggle with depression each year. Depression is an ugly beast: it can take over your life and wipe out all of your energy.
So what is depression? Theories about what causes depression vary. It may be a result of anxiety or trauma; it may be a result of a chemical imbalance, environment or genetics. Depression literally depresses everything. It creates heaviness and a slowness that is difficult to battle. People who have not truly struggled with depression may have a hard time understanding what you are going through.
You need to be aware that depression can affect your health. Depression can lead to direct physical changes in your body. Some common changes caused by depression include:
Changes in breathing (i.e. slowed breathing)
Longer reaction times
Changes in blood pressure
Aches and pains
Cravings for food, alcohol or drugs
It is very difficult to seek help when you are truly depressed. Picking up the phone or reading an article may seem impossible. So what can you do right now to defeat the depression beast?
There are some small, but effective ways you can win against depression. Even if you don’t believe these small steps can help, why not just give it a try? You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Realize that you are not alone. There are millions of people who also struggle with depression and anxiety every day. By realizing that you are not alone, you can become part of a greater community that works to defeat depression together. There are support groups, therapists and individuals that understand more than you know. Not everyone shares their depression or anxiety concerns with others, but many professional, vibrant people that you know may also struggle with the same issues you face every day. You are not alone.
Move your body. When you are depressed, everything takes more effort. Get up, get out, and make yourself move. Even if you just walk to the mailbox. Even if you just take a small step. Don’t clean your whole house—just pick up five things right now. Don’t run a marathon—just listen to some cheesy music and dance for one minute if you feel moved to dance. (We won’t tell anyone.) Small moves now can help you take big steps tomorrow. Get your circulation moving and your happiness might follow.
Listen to your body. Does your stomach hurt? How is your head? Are you clenching your teeth right now? Is your posture straight? Sit back for a moment. Take a deep breath. Listen to your body. Talk to your body. Love your body. Think about every organ, every muscle—one by one. Thank your organs for helping you breathe, circulate and live. Thank your muscles for helping you sit, walk, and live. Thank your bones for supporting you even when depression makes things heavy. If you can’t feel happy about yourself, feel thankful for the organs, blood, bones and systems that keep you functional. Love the parts of your body that give you trouble.
Listen to your inner child. Imagine yourself as a child. Talk to that child, just as you are now. What would you say to your inner child if you could? Do you berate your inner child? Do you make him feel worse? How do you talk to yourself? Do you abuse your inner child? Perhaps it is time to apologize to the young person inside you. What would it feel like to hug that child? Take some time to cry with your inner child, take a moment to color or imagine or play. Get to know yourself again from square one. What does your inner child want in life?
Get rid of the sad stuff for a moment. Yes, your favorite movies may be dramas. Your favorite music may be mellow and emotional. Your friends may share problems constantly. You don’t have to get rid of the things you care about, but when you are feeling very down, let yourself take a break from the serious and melancholy. Indulge in a goofy movie, listen to some positive music, talk to someone you know who always laughs—it doesn’t have to be high-brow intellectual material. Give yourself a break and let yourself be silly for a few hours.
Not every one of these steps is possible for everyone. You may be overwhelmed, but you have a helpline. We are here, and we encourage your recovery and your wellness. Don’t let the Depression Beast win in 2012. You can beat depression this year, and the Heroes community can help. You can call us anytime of day or night—somebody is ready to talk to you. We’re in this together!