Last January, I wrote a blog about what you can do for someone struggling with depression. One year later, and what seems like several years into a pandemic, many of us have experienced or are experiencing depressive symptoms ourselves.
Some of these symptoms include:
- Sadness, hopelessness, or irritability
- Decreased pleasure and interest in activities that used to be enjoyable
- Changes in appetite (over or under)
- Changes in sleeping patterns
- Body movement changes (slowed or restless)
- Loss of energy, feeling fatigued
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Poor focus and indecisiveness
- Thoughts of death or suicide ideation
Here are some ways to manage and improve symptoms and help those you care about, including yourself:
- What has changed for you?
- Are you more easily annoyed than usual?
- Are you spending more time alone?
- Have you struggled in your relationships with others?
- Are there changes in your environment?
Sometimes we are unaware of how much has changed because symptoms gradually occur and slowly impact our functioning. Assessing changes in your mood and actions can give you better insight into how you are doing and help identify where to make changes.
It is okay to be feeling this way! All of us have experienced ongoing stress for a long time, some much more than other times in our lives. You are not alone. Ignoring your symptoms and denying them often makes you feel worse. Acknowledging your feelings helps you better address them.
Isolation increases depression. Even when you don’t feel like it, it is important to connect with others. Meet a friend for coffee, volunteer to help someone else, connect with family through Facetime, Zoom, or even email. Making these extra efforts will not only help you but maybe your friend or family member as well.
Many of us have become glued to our screens and the constant frightening and tragic headlines in the news. This can greatly increase our stress, and ongoing stress contributes to depression. In addition, research indicates the more time spent on social media, the worse we feel. Intentionally limiting the time we spend reading the news and scrolling on social feeds can help shift our moods for the better.
What do you enjoy? Are there things that you used to do that made you happy that you can try again? How about new activities or hobbies you want to try? Is your environment clean and relaxing? Are you practicing good hygiene to feel good about yourself? Are you eating healthy and getting some exercise? Be kind to yourself. Do things that make you feel good and improve your mood, even when you don’t feel like it. Set small, practical goals for self-care each week and prioritize them. If this is difficult to do on your own, ask a friend to help hold you accountable and set goals together.
Most people will experience times of depression in their lives and is often temporary. However, it can be very serious and may require professional support. Talking to a therapist or your doctor is a good first step.
Depression is treatable and you can feel better. Try to take one small step towards feeling better today.
This blog article was contributed by Shawna Croaker, LCSW, Therapist and Director of Community Based Services for Nexus-PATH, an agency of Nexus Family Healing.
Nexus Family Healing is a national nonprofit mental health organization that restores hope for thousands of children and families who come to us for outpatient/community mental health services, foster care and adoption, and residential treatment. For over 45 years, our network of agencies has used innovative, personalized approaches to heal trauma, break cycles of harm, and reshape futures. We believe every child is worth it — and every family matters. Learn more at nexusfamilyhealing.org.