Depression is a feeling of lethargy, like nothing really matters or appeals. Life doesn’t seem as worth living. The emotions that go with depression have a chemical component, which is why anti-depressants can be very helpful. But like the old question of the chicken and the egg, it’s not so easy to tell whether chemistry creates depression or life circumstances and responses create chemistry.
Some people have a lifelong struggle with depression and others experience it in a situational way…often after a major loss of some kind. Because it has a chemical aspect, it is affected by chemistry, both medications and food. The more sugar you consume (and alcohol is a big sugar source) the more depression you will experience. The holidays, with their endless offerings of sweets and alcohol, as well as their other issues, are like a depression factory.
Think about it. In the month of December we face issues with family: missing those who are not here; grieving those who have died; dreading the company of those who are here that we don’t get along with; being re-triggered by family members that have hurt us or who STILL don’t live up to our expectations about the right way to be.
Besides family, we face economic issues. Social and internal “rules” about gift giving put a strain on budgets that are already tight. Being out of work or underemployed weighs heavier. Many entrepreneurs and retailers experience slower business times as people focus on families instead of shopping.
Spiritually we may find peace depending on our beliefs or a sense of alienation and depression because we no longer resonate with the religious upbringing of childhood but haven’t found a replacement. Some people are distressed by family members who are walking a different path spiritually and others are distressed by family members who shout their beliefs too loudly.
We have a lot going on in December. No wonder it can be a depression factory.
So if you are depressed, what can you do?
Start with the basics: your physical body. Avoid sugar as much as you can. Get outside and move your body, daily if possible. Get a good night’s sleep. Avoid staying in bed all day. Depressed people just want to sleep, so set your alarm on the other side of the room so you’re forced to get out of bed to turn it off.
Spirituality can be a help here. It doesn’t make much difference how you define your Higher Power. Just connect with something that is a higher energy than the mind that is depressed. Another way of defining prayer is connecting. Connect your mind to that higher power. Amp it up. Many people can find that power in nature when they can’t find it in church. If that’s you, count yourself lucky. You get to connect spiritually and get outside in one step–two strikes against depression in one!
Emotionally, you are feeling glum, but you can shift those emotions by doing something that will generate happier emotions. I recommend finding a way to help someone who has more problems than you do. Knowing that you made a positive difference in someone’s life will make you feel better. It’s also a great idea to count your blessings–actually write down what you have to be thankful for.
Mentally, your thinking is probably questionable. And challenging your thoughts is one of the healthiest things you can do. Don’t just accept those negative remarks. If your best friend was saying those things about himself or herself, would you be agreeing? Probably not.
Finally, one word of advice about depression. You will not feel like doing much of anything. Do it anyway. While I’m all in favor of paying attention to your feelings, I’m not in favor of bowing down to them. Sometimes emotions point us toward things we need to be paying attention to and other times they are just petulant lazy tyrants. Just because you don’t feel like doing something that would be good for you is not a reason to refrain, at least not if you want to get out of that depression factory!