Depression is a problem in our world today. It has been a problem for thousands of years. Hippocrates, the Greek physician and philosopher described it in 400 B.C, even proposing that it was “caused by black, heavy blood passing through the patient’s veins.” Plutarch put depression in a religious context in 66 A.D.; “He looks on himself as a man whom the gods hate and pursue with their anger.” Job had a different religious perspective, “When I lie down, I say, ‘when shall I arise, and the night be gone’? I am full of tossing to and fro until the dawning of the day…mine eye shall no more see good.”
Feeling down from time to time is a normal part of life, but when emotions such as hopelessness and despair take hold and just won't go away, you might be depressed. Depression makes it tough to function and enjoy life like you once did. Just getting through the day can be overwhelming. But no matter how hopeless you feel, you can get better. Learning about depression—and the many things you can do to help yourself—is the first step to overcoming the problem.
While some people describe depression as “living in a black hole” or having a feeling of impending doom, others feel lifeless, empty, helpless and hopeless. Some may even feel angry and restless. No matter how you experience it, depression is different from normal sadness in that it engulfs your day-to-day life, interfering with your ability to work, study, eat, sleep, and have fun.
When you’re trapped in depression, it feels like nothing will ever change. But it’s important to remember that feelings of helplessness and hopelessness are symptoms of depression—not the reality of your situation.
While there is no magic bullet, there are things you can do to start feeling better. When you’re depressed, it can feel like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. But the truth is that there are things that can lift and stabilize your mood. Feeling better takes time, but you can get there by making positive choices for yourself.
Here are some suggestions:
- Reach out to other people. Isolation fuels depression, so reach out to friends and loved ones, even if you feel like being alone or don’t want to be a burden to others. The simple act of talking to someone face to face about how you feel can be an enormous help. The person you talk to doesn’t have to be able to fix you. He or she just needs to be a good listener—someone who’ll hear you without being distracted or judging you.
- Get moving. When you’re depressed, just getting out of bed can seem impossible, and exercising? You’ve got to be kidding. But regular exercise can help counter the symptoms of depression. Take a short walk or put some music on. Start with small activities and build up from there.
- Eat a balanced diet. Reduce your intake of foods that can adversely affect your mood, such as caffeine, alcohol, trans-fats, sugar, and refined carbs. And increase mood-enhancing nutrients such as Omega-3 fatty acids. If you aren’t already taking vitamins, maybe you should?
- If grief is part of your depression, realize that the only way to get through grief is to grieve. If you try to ignore it, it won’t go away. Find a “safe” person to talk about the grief and wade through it a day at a time. It won’t always hurt this much.
- Forgive those who have hurt you…it is for your benefit to find forgiveness in your heart. Even when hard, forgive them for your own healing.
- Find ways to engage again with the world. Do something that you enjoy every day. Spend some time in nature, care for a pet, volunteer, take up a hobby you used to enjoy (or maybe a new one). You won’t feel like it at first, but as you participate in the world again, you will start to feel better.
- Don’t rule out the benefit of talking to your doctor about an antidepressant. And if one medicine doesn’t work, ask your doctor about a change.
If support from family and friends and positive lifestyle changes isn’t enough, seek help from a mental health professional, or the Simmons medical Care Clinics. Many times your Simmons Chaplains can help connect you to the help you need.
Jeremiah sent a letter to depressed captives (slaves) in Babylon a part of which says, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
Paul put it this way in his letter to the Philippian Christians, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy; meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:6-8—NKJV)