We never get a heads-up when we are going to be depressed. I mean, to be honest, sometimes I want a warning sign saying; “Depression ahead” so I can decide whether I want to turn back or if I want to prepare my mind for what’s ahead. But life’s unfair that way so all we can do as humans is learn to deal with what life throws at us.
I call it “a coping mechanism”. The good thing is we can overcome depression if we take the right steps and are intentional about those steps. In this article, I’ll guide you through the ways I feel you can help yourself face depression no matter how hard it may seem. Let me add that the process of healing and overcoming depression takes time, intentionality, and consistency.
Before we talk about what to do when you are depressed and whatnot, let me establish the meaning of depression. According to the dictionary, depression means a state of mind producing a serious long-term lowering of enjoyment of life and inability to visualize a happy future.
Here are some examples of what depression looks like;
You know that moment when you’re scared to your wits of failure but you have no urge to be productive, you just lay around helpless. You know you should be doing something to make progress but you don’t even feel like moving a finger. That’s depression!
Let me paint another picture in your mind. There are sometimes when you want friends, you like the idea of having a lot of friends that you can have fun with but you hate to socialize, just the thought of having to meet and talk to a new person sends chills down your spine. You know what I mean, right? Exactly. That’s depression!
Depression is wanting to be alone but not wanting to be lonely. It’s feeling everything at once then feeling paralyzingly numb. It’s like being scared and tired at the same time. If you’ve been there, I know you understand what I am saying and if not, I hope my examples paint a perfect picture and give you an idea of what depression is.
In Africa, especially in Nigeria, mental health issues, in general, have been overlooked and considered taboo in the past. Imagine telling my millennial African parent that I am depressed. The response I expect is “It’s because you press your phone too much” or “You don’t have anything doing that’s why you have time to be depressed” and honestly, we can’t even blame them because they didn’t grow up with much or even any talk about mental health so they feel psychological problems like depression are nonexistent. Anyways, it’s impressive that Gen Z is now placing a lot of importance on mental health and taking active steps. We love to see it!
Before I go further, I’d just like to state that it’s not a crime to be depressed! You didn’t harm anybody, you’re just going through a normal life phase that you’ll get through. And to my dear African parents, it’s okay for your child to be depressed, all he/she needs is to get help and not to be forced to do house chores.
Sometimes it feels like you’re going in and out of depression, some days you’re up and alive and you think you’re finally healing but then you just feel down and uninterested again all of a sudden. I want you to know that’s okay too. In this article, I’ll give you tips on what to do when you’re depressed and I hope they help. If it gets worse, I’d advise you to go for therapy and with time and consistency, you’ll be fine.
- What To Do When You Are Sad
- What To Do When You Are Depressed And Alone
- What To Do When You Are Depressed And Don't Want To Do Anything
- What Not To Do When You Are Depressed
- What If You Take Antidepressants When You Are Not Depressed
- What Does Seasonal Affective Disorder Feel Like
- Treatment Of Seasonal Affective Disorder
- What Do You Say To Someone Who Is Sad
- How to Handle Depression the God-Way?
What To Do When You Are Sad
Nobody wakes up in the morning and decides or chooses to be sad. Everyone wants to have a bubbling, everything-is-going-as-planned day every day, with no dramatic event or annoying person in traffic that ruins your mood for the whole day. But you and I know very well that it is quite difficult to have a 100-perfect day. Many situations and people are just out there, waiting patiently to stir up your emotions in a negative way and make you sad.
You don’t have a manual in your bag that says ‘what to do when you’re sad’ and you probably picked up your phone and searched for what to do when you’re sad because your emotions seem all over the place and you want to know what to do. You’re reading the right article. I’ll tell you a few things you can do when you’re sad and I hope it helps because you deserve to be happy.
Here goes nothing:
#Writing: Writing is one creative thing that is so therapeutic. You don’t necessarily have to write to someone, you can write how you feel and describe all your emotions in your journal when you’re sad. You don’t even have to be a perfect writer, all you need is to write exactly how you feel. It’s one way of letting everything out of your mind and it helps you to feel relieved.
#Drawing: This is also another creative thing to do. Get into your creative space. Do something that you derive joy in doing. These creative things help you take your mind off being sad and allow you to focus on positive emotions.
#Helping: There’s something about helping people that are good for the soul. For me, when I help other people, even with the things that I think are so little, I get this sense of fulfillment inside me. Helping others can make you feel happy so when you’re sad try to lend a helping hand to someone. You don’t need to do something big, as a matter of fact, most times, it’s the little things that usually matter the most.
#Cleaning: Have you ever tried to clean a room without being asked to and when you’re done you feel so alive and productive? I love that feeling! It makes me feel whole and useful. When you’re sad, you can just decide to clean the whole house or even just your room. It is worthwhile and it helps you to feel productive, making your sadness go away at least to an extent.
#Take Care: Most times, we get so busy with work and other people that we forget that we also need attention. Whenever you feel sad, stop, take a break and take care of yourself. You can do a lot of things to take care of yourself— giving yourself a food treat, spa treatment, and lone dates, and you can even set in the comfort of your home and binge-watch your favorite TV series. You need to be taken care of too.
Ask for Help: Talking to trusted friends when you feel overwhelmed and sad is always the right thing to do. I know that sometimes, you feel like you don’t want to disturb other people but trust me, your true friends will always be glad to hear you out and try to help you, and also letting it out makes the burden easier to bear. You don’t have to deal with it alone.
Related topic: living with happiness and joy
What To Do When You Are Depressed And Alone
Being alone can be positive; like when you take time off and isolate and get in touch with your feelings, self-care and all but it begins to be negative when it extends too long and you don’t want to get back to society and have social interactions and you begin to experience anxiety or panic when thinking about social interaction. That extent of being alone can be unhealthy if it’s not taken care of and it can lead to depression.
Humans are naturally social beings so when we don’t get enough social interaction it can have a negative impact on our health. Loneliness can increase the number of stress hormones in your body and an increase in stress hormones can affect your immune system which increases your risk for some health concerns like obesity and diabetes.
Depression is a complex mental health condition that is caused by several reasons and one of the reasons is loneliness. Being alone for a long time can be a contributing factor that leads to depression.
Depression slowly creeps in and sometimes you might not even notice till it gets so bad. Below are what to do when you’re depressed and alone;
#Allow Yourself To Feel It-Validate Your Feeling: On the journey of healing and getting better, the first and most important step is realizing and accepting the problem. If you don’t admit that you have a problem, little or nothing can be done for you. It’s not a crime to be depressed. You’re just one normal person that’s going through a phase so allow yourself to feel. Feel all your emotions and validate every one of them. Never allow yourself to feel bad because you’re going through a rough patch.
#Make A List Of Connections That You Have: Sometimes we tend to focus on the big things that are not being done and we forget to be grateful for the little things. We feel lonely when we think no one cares about us because our friends don’t call or text us every day and we forget the day when that old friend of ours made time for us out of his/her busy schedule or when that friend just randomly called to say “I love you”. You have people in your life who care about you and they show it by the little things they do to or for us. Make a list of those connections. It’s like counting your blessings.
#Know That You’re Not In It Alone: Depression affects 3.8% of the world’s population including 5.0% among adults and 5.7% among adults older than 60 years. I’m giving this information because, at times, it feels good to know that you are not the only person in the world going through a situation. You’re not abnormal for being depressed. You are not in it alone and it’d be nice and helpful if you find and join a community of people going through the same thing as you.
#Hit The Brakes And Slow Down: More often than not, we get so busy with a lot of things; earning a living, being there for friends and family, and the like and we forget ourselves in the process. Slowly it begins to affect our minds and make us lose ourselves and sometimes we might not notice till we finally break down. The best thing to do at a time like this is the hit the brakes and slow down. You don’t need to stop completely or quit being there for others, you just need to pause and breathe! In the process of getting all busy with life, don’t lose yourself. Don’t forget that you matter too. Take care of yourself.
#Appreciation And Self-Love: Appreciate your little and big efforts. Take care of yourself and do the things you love. Sometimes, you need to let go of the weight of others and live for yourself because even you deserve the happiness and care that you give out. Learn to let others drink from your overflow and not your cup because you can only fully give what you have.
Get a Pet: Pets tend to give this feeling of companionship and trust. Stroking, hugging, or touching a loving animal can calm and soothe the nerves when you are anxious and depressed. Also, taking dogs for walks or to a dog park helps you to talk and socialize with new people.
Related topic: maintaining positive and faith confession
What To Do When You Are Depressed And Don’t Want To Do Anything
Not wanting to do anything can happen to anyone at any time. I mean, there are days when we feel out of the blue and uninterested in everything. At the same time, it can be a major sign of depression. Over 15 million adults experience depression in the US so it’s safe to say that you’re not alone. Going through depression might be challenging, the most challenging thing a person has to go through.
While there are a couple of reasons why so many people are experiencing depression, it is clear that depression is a major issue for children, teens, adults, and seniors. Depression has no respect for age. It affects anybody.
Depression can make you feel so unmotivated and you just don’t feel like doing anything even when you have a lot of work to do. Sadly, life is not going to stop moving on because a person is depressed so you might just need to get out of that dark place and know what to do when you’re depressed and don’t want to do anything. Here are some things I think would help you to get out of that dark place.
Firstly, you need to go outside. Depression can make you want to stay indoors in bed all day and either cry your eyes out for no reason or make you want to eat everything anything all at once. It makes you feel empty. But going out helps. Taking a stroll and admiring nature can help put you in a better mood. It may not completely take away the feeling of depression but it sure does help.
Another thing to do is to explore your emotions. Sorting out your feelings and knowing exactly what you are feeling can help put you in a better place mentally. Ask yourself questions. Questions like:
√ what exactly am I feeling?
√ am I anxious?
√ am I sad?
Decipher your feelings and give them names.
Another thoughtful and helpful thing to do when you are unmotivated is to reach out to a friend. You might feel like you want to be left alone to deal with your depression yourself but reaching out to a friend can be helpful. It may not even necessarily be a long deep conversation but just letting a trusted friend know how you feel and what depression feels like for you might just be your cue of letting that baggage go. Speaking about how you feel and letting out all the hurt helps to remove a burden from your mind in a kind of way. So this might be your sign to pick up your phone and talk to that friend today.
Trying out some easy house chores can also be helpful. Depression can make you so sad and unmotivated that you find it to do some basic things like house chores. As much as it sounds contradicting, doing house chores can put your mind in a better place. You don’t necessarily have to do the most strenuous work to start with. You can just begin with the little and easy chores like doing your laundry, arranging your wardrobe, and washing plates.
Doing these things might be daunting especially when it’s been piling up for a long while so an easy way to do it is this create a list of things that needs to be done. Arrange them in order of priority and pick one task at a table and do it bit by bit till you’re done. As little as these things may be, they can be so therapeutic and they can help to put you in a better place mentally.
Finally, you can read or listen to a book. The feeling of being unproductive can be so saddening and one thing depression does is make you unmotivated and this can make you unproductive. If you desire so much to be productive you can read a book as it’s low-key a productive thing to do especially if it’s a non-fiction book about something you’ve been wanting to learn about. If you feel like you don’t have a lot of energy, you can listen to an audiobook instead.
Different people have different ways of dealing with depression but the above are helpful tips that you can use and I hope they help you.
Related topic: cultivating the spirit of joy
What Not To Do When You Are Depressed
Depression is a very common issue and people deal with or respond to it differently. There are so many things to do when you start your journey of recovery and we’ve discussed a few that might be helpful in this article. Similarly, there are also things you should avoid when you are depressed and those things are as important as things you do when you’re depressed.
Below are what not to do when you are depressed;
#Do Not Avoid Your Problems: Ignoring your problems and avoiding your feelings doesn’t make you feel any better, it just stacks up and never go away. Your issues might seem stressful and starting the journey of healing might be painful but it gets better eventually. Don’t try to hide what you feel when you are depressed because the first step in your journey of healing is admitting and deciphering your emotions and feelings.
#Avoid Taking Alcohol: Honestly, taking strong drinks when you are depressed does not help one bit. It may make you feel better for a while but in the end, it just introduces new issues that you’ll have to deal with. Also, strong drinks can act as a depressant which just makes you relapse if you’ve started your healing process.
#Do Not Let Your Sleeping Pattern Become A Mess: When dealing with depression, trying not to stay in bed all day can be really helpful. Insomnia can make you more depressed so trying to maintain your sleeping pattern is the best way to avoid this. Don’t sleep too much and at the same time, do not deprive yourself of sleep.
#Do Not Stay Alone Always: Depression can make you want to be left alone and you just want to stay in your bed all day but you need to resist the urge. Do not avoid social interactions. Research has shown that enjoying the view of nature helps to lift one’s mood so you can just take a stroll once in a while and enjoy the sunrise and the trees.
#Depression Is Not A Crime, Do Not Feel Guilty About It: You are not abnormal because you are depressed. Genetic and environmental roots can be a major cause of depression so it’s not your fault that you’re depressed. Depression is an illness so if you don’t blame yourself for having malaria then you shouldn’t feel guilty because you’re depressed. You are not feeble because you are depressed and you can’t just snap out of it.
#Try Not To Wallow In Sad Music: Most times, we always want to listen to songs that match our mood but you must resist the urge to wallow in sad music. It might be perfect for your present mood but it doesn’t make you feel better or lift your mood.
#Resist The Urge The Compare Your Life With Others: So many people never show their struggles and problems and you can only see their rosy days so do not compare yourself with other people. You have your own life to live and living and moving at your own pace is just fine.
#Avoid Bad News On The Media: This may be hard because recently, there has been a lot of bad news on the media and this news seem to be more than the good ones. You just need to learn to filter what you allow your mind to consume and you can take occasional breaks from the media.
#Do Not Deal With It Alone: As much as you want to be left alone when you’re depressed you shouldn’t go through it alone. Talk to family and friends or even better, you can talk to a therapist.
What If You Take Antidepressants When You Are Not Depressed
Antidepressants are common treatments for depression. They are pills prescribed by doctors to people going through depression. Some people that are treated with antidepressants get better after the first try but some people need to try two or three more until they find the one that perfectly works for them.
Antidepressants are not a problem forgetting pills, they do not make you forget your problems they just make it easier for you to deal with those problems. Therapists have reported that when patients take antidepressants, they help their progress in therapy.
All drugs have side effects and antidepressants are no exceptions. The common side effect of antidepressants is weight gain. Also, taking antidepressants does not necessarily mean you have to take them for life, some people get better after taking antidepressants for 5 to 6 months.
Now that we have basic knowledge of what antidepressant is and whatnot the question is what if you take anti-depressants when not depressed? First, I would like to state the fact that an antidepressant is not a happy pill, it does not improve a person’s mood or energy.
Research showed that antidepressants may alter the structure and function of the brain even used by those who are not depressed. While antidepressants can be helpful to people that are depressed, researchers were curious about the effect of these antidepressants if they are used by people that are not depressed. Their study showed that the drugs that are antidepressant reduce the volume of two important regions of the brain; the part of the brain that controls mood which is called the anterior cingulate cortex and the hippocampus where memories are registered and consolidated.
According to the researchers, depressed people have small volumes of these two regions compared to non-depressed people. The research showed that antidepressant increases the volume of the anterior cingulate cortex in depressed people while in non-depressed people, the volume of the anterior cingulate cortex and the hippocampus is reduced when antidepressants are used.
Generally, it’s not advisable to take any kind of drug without a doctor’s prescription and I feel antidepressants too are no exceptions. You need to confirm with your doctor before taking antidepressants. It’s even easier because they help you find the one that’ll work perfectly for you.
Related topic: understanding the love of God
What Does Seasonal Affective Disorder Feel Like
Seasonal Affective Disorder, SAD, is a type of depression that appears during late fall or early winter and goes away during spring and summer. For some people, it’s the other way around that is it gets triggered in late spring or early summer and ends in fall. This type of SAD is commonly called “summer depression”.
It’s normal to feel down on some days but when it gets prolonged and you don’t have the urge to be productive for days then you need to see a doctor. Especially when your sleeping pattern gets disrupted and you think of taking alcohol to feel better or when you start having suicidal thoughts.
There is a mild version of a seasonal affective disorder called “winter blue” and it’s not much of a big deal because it is normal to feel down during cold months. But SAD goes beyond winter blues. It affects your daily life and also affects how you feel and think.
Seasonal affective disorder affects more women than men. About 75% of people who get SAD are women and it tends to start in young adulthood. It is more common in women and younger people. Asides from this, people who are at higher risk include:
people that have a family history of mental health conditions such as depression and schizophrenia.
people who have other mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder.
people who live at higher latitudes
SAD is not considered a separate disorder, rather it is a type of depression. The following are symptoms of seasonal affective disorder;
√ Inability to concentrate
√ Carbohydrate cravings and weight gain
√ Limbs feeling heavy
√ Suicidal thoughts
However, the symptoms are slightly different for people with summer depression. Their symptoms include:
√ Episodes of violent behavior
√ Agitation and restlessness
√ Decreased appetite and weight loss
There are no specific causes of seasonal affective disorder but some factors might play a role. These factors include:
#Biological Clock Change: The internal clock of a person regulates mood, sleep, and hormones. When a person is exposed to little sunlight, their biological clock shifts and this may lead to the person having trouble regulating and controlling his/her mood.
#Vitamin D Deficit: The brain contains certain chemicals that aid communication and one of these chemicals is serotonin which contributes to feelings of happiness. Serotonin gets a boost from vitamin d and since sunlight gives us vitamin D, less exposure to sunlight leads to vitamin D deficiency in the body and this affects serotonin and leads to mood changes.
Related topic: Maintaining a winning attitude
Treatment Of Seasonal Affective Disorder
Doctors always know a perfect treatment for seasonal affective disorder and some of these treatments may include:
√ Phototherapy: This involves using bright(a special lamp) to treat SAD.
√ Going outdoors: Exposure to sunlight helps to improve symptoms. You can also increase the amount of sunlight that gets into your home.
√ Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): It is a type of talk therapy that’s can treat the seasonal affective disorder. Research has shown that CBT produces long-lasting effects compared to other treatments.
√ Taking vitamin D supplements can also help to improve symptoms.
When treating SAD, you need to follow your treatment plan strictly and see your doctor if there are no improvements. You also need to take good care of yourself by getting enough sleep and eating good food. Most importantly, you need to start your treatment early.
Do not isolate yourself when dealing with SAD because being alone makes your symptoms worse. Also, do not take alcohol or drugs because they interact negatively with antidepressants.
What Do You Say To Someone Who Is Sad
Humans are different and it’s obvious in the way we react to things or situations. We all deal with things in different ways so knowing what to say to someone sad isn’t always easy. Most times, what we all fear is saying the “wrong thing” and messing it all up.
When we are dealing with the people we love when they are sad, we try to be cautious about what we say or do so we don’t sound or act insensitive, and sometimes, we might just want to stay quiet because we feel it’s better to be quiet than to hurt their feelings. That’s understandable but it may not be the best approach because we may leave them doubting and thinking we are not accepting them or we don’t care about them although we know the reverse is the case.
Below are a few things to say or do to someone sad that’ll be helpful;
Since people are different, asking questions is the best and most effective way to know what they want. Questions like ” How can I help?” ” Do you want to be left alone for a while?” ” Is there something I can do for you?”. Asking questions makes you know exactly what they’d want at that moment.
#Validate Their Feelings: It’s good to let sad people know that their feelings matter and are not taken for granted. Say something like; ” You have every right to feel that way and I’m so sorry you’re going through this”. Also, encourage them when you see them trying to be happy again. Say ” I see that you’re getting your smile and vibes again. I’m proud of you. You got this.”
#Assure Them Of Your Presence And How Willing You Are To Help: Let them know you’ll always be there for them no matter what. You can say things like; ” I’m here to listen if you want to talk” or ” We can figure it out together”
Tell them you care: A sentence as simple as “I care about you and what you are going through” can help a sad person. Knowing that someone is not just there for them alone but also concerned about their struggles is soothing.
#Buy Food Or Cook For Them: A sad person may not have the motivation or energy to cook or get food. Getting them food or cooking for them will be very helpful. Although, you shouldn’t force them to eat. Be patient and let them decide when they want to eat.
There are so many things you can do to help a sad person. It may not be easy but you can just give it your best. Be careful not to be insensitive and always look out for them. Every person will cherish someone that stood by them in their trying times.
In conclusion, I hope It helps you even if it’s just a bit.
And for you that have been depressed for so long and it seems like it’s a part of you now; you want to heal but you’re scared of what the new you will be like. I’d like to tell you that it’s okay. The journey of becoming a better person might be scary but all you need is to take one step; a step in the right direction. Little by little, step by step, you’ll become a better person. Give yourself time, be consistent, and don’t be hard on yourself. You got this and I’m rooting for you!
How to Handle Depression the God-Way?
We tend to talk so much about the therapeutic way of dealing with depression but we must not forget the spiritual part of handling it because it is as important too.
As Christians, we should always remember that God is our hope and He’ll always be there for us. We must know that God is interested in us. He cares about us, from the big things to the little things. He knows when we are going through tough times and He’s always ready to help because He’s our present help in time of need.
We must never ignore or put Him aside or forget that He’s there. He loves us so much and He’s concerned about every part of our life. Yes, He’s concerned about your depression too if you are experiencing one.
So how does a Christian handle depression? What are the right things to do when you’re discouraged and depressed? Here are a few;
#Praises: When you are depressed and discouraged, you tend to lose every strength and you may not even find the strength to pray. At that point, you can praise. Praise God for the countless blessings. Praise Him for the little things. Praise Him for the things He’s doing that you don’t see. Trust me, God is always working and maybe sometimes we don’t see it but it doesn’t mean He isn’t working.
Remember that all things happen together for the good of those that love the Lord. Instead of asking “Why me?” ask “Why not me?” and praise God. Sometimes God allows some situations just to make us stronger. Remember that He won’t let you go through something you cannot handle. He’s with you every step of the way so praise.
#Meditate on God’s Word: Sometimes, our faith shows when we go into the shell of God’s word and choose to trust Him. The foundation of our relationship with God is faithful and we can gather up faith when we study God’s word and hold unto His promises. When you are discouraged and depressed, go to the word. Speak God’s truth into your heart. Spend time with God. Stay with His word until His truth sinks and chases away the worry in your heart.
#Avoid Worry: As humans, we tend to worry about a lot of things and it makes us discouraged and overwhelmed. There’s one certain thing, worry does not make the situation better. It doesn’t bring a solution rather it makes you feel like the world is against you and you break down.
When you’re faced with life challenges and you’re tempted to worry say; “I have a God that cares about me and He’ll always attend to my needs so I’ll trust Him”. Say it over and over again till it sinks and your worry fades away. Always resist the urge to worry about everything.
#Fellowship With Other Believers: Fellowship with like-minded people can help when you’re depressed. These people can pray for you, encourage you and give you the right words. When you feel down and discouraged, call that trusted godly friend and share your worries, that might just be what you need. Hang around people that bring your hope alive. If you can see a bright future, depression will disappear.