Depression is much more than feeling blue, wanting to stay in bed, or being tearful. You can be depressed and still manage to smile, chat to colleagues, and function relatively well. However, feelings of hopelessness can sneak up on you and grow stronger each day, until they are the only feelings left.
A 2009 South African Stress and Health (SASH) study concluded that one in 10 adults would experience depression. Fast forward 11 years, with record-high unemployment and uncertainty, plus the loss and grief linked to the pandemic, and this number has increased substantially.
South Africans are overwhelmed, and they’re looking for help. Last year, the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) saw a significant increase of more than 1 400 daily calls from people seeking help. And it’s no surprise that the South African Society of Psychiatrists is calling mental health the biggest threat of 2021.
Depression makes everything so much harder
- Feeling empty
- Frequently exhausted
- Loss of interest in favourite activities
- Sleeping difficulties
- Feeling worthless or guilty
- Concentration difficulties
- Suicidal thoughts
Six steps to help you cope
“If you’re struggling with depression, it’s important to take action, and seek the help you need – the same way you would see a doctor for a sore throat or a sprained ankle,” said Dr Eugene Allers, a prominent psychiatrist. Here are some tips to help you:
- Reach out
Isolation makes depression worse. Get in touch with loved ones who make you feel safe and talk to them. Sometimes you need someone to listen and not judge what you’re going through.
- Get active
Exercise may be the last thing you feel like, but being active can help you feel better. A run, walk around the block or a hike can ease your depression and lift your energy.
- Set easy and realistic goals
Break tasks down, so that you don’t feel overwhelmed. The adage, “there is only one way to eat an elephant, one bite at a time” is true, so instead of cleaning the house, consider taking out the garbage. Once that’s done, see how you feel before taking on the next task.
- Enjoy a nutritious diet
Certain foods like refined carbs, sugar, caffeine, or alcohol can affect your mood, and not in a good way. Add mood-enhancing nutrients such as vegetables, lean meats, and Omega-3 fatty acids to your diet for a boost of energy, and to improve your overall wellbeing.
- Reward yourself
Recognise and celebrate your achievements, no matter how small. It will be easier to push aside negative talk and feelings when you remember how far you’ve come.
- Get treatment
With the right treatment and support, #BreakingDepression is possible. Just like the Japanese art Kintsugi that involves repairing broken objects with gold, depression can be treated. Seek professional help. Give yourself time to heal and soon you too will look back on your experiences and how they made you the person you are.
To learn more about depression and access valuable tools and advice, visit Our Mental Health. This website provides credible information to help people with depression, and other mental illnesses, so that they can recover and live a fulfilled life.