What is Depression

Person with depression
Figure 1: Depression, the silent pandemic

Depression is the state of being consistently stressed, sad, and feeling hopeless. It differs from stress because it lasts for a long period, for example, three weeks or more, whereas stress lasts for a few days. According to the World Health Organization, about 260 million people suffer from depression worldwide. Many people associate mental health problems like depression with weakness, and those affected by it usually suffer in silence.

The dangerous thing about depression is that it is usually associated with suicide. Depression affects every aspect of a person’s life, for example, their behaviour, work, relationships, feelings, mood and eating patterns. It is important to manage it because it can eventually lead to suicide if left untreated. A problem shared is a problem solved, so people should no longer suffer in silence but share their problems with others.

Mental health problems like depression, stress and anxiety have been ignored for so long, but it is about time they should be addressed to improve the health of our citizens from a holistic approach. People who struggle with mental health problems like depression are stigmatized as being weak, so they usually hide their feelings in fear of being mocked and ridiculed. This can potentially worsen everything. Opening up about our struggles with depression helps in the healing of the same, because “a problem shared is a problem solved,” a great philosopher once said.

Symptoms of Depression

Depression is a genuine health problem, just like any other disease out there, and it is not just a passing or imaginary phase like some people think. It affects both young and older people alike. There are several symptoms of depression, for example:

  • Stress, anxiety and sadness
  • Feelings of tiredness
  • Feeling indifferent or uninterested in activities you used to enjoy
  • Changes in sleeping patterns, for example, oversleeping and insomnia
  • Loss of weight and appetite
  • Feeling worthless, hopeless, and guilty
  • Thinking a lot about death and suicide. Suicide attempts.
  • Forgetfulness, finding it difficult to concentrate and make decisions
  • Feeling irritable and crying excessively.
  • Pain and aches that do not ease with treatment

It is normal to have one or two of the symptoms mentioned above sometimes. However, when someone has 5 or more of the symptoms mentioned above for over two weeks, it is advised that they seek an assessment from a health professional for depression. People who suffer from depression rarely seek help on their own, so they need to be encouraged to seek help.

How to overcome Depression

Depression can be overcome
Figure 2: Overcoming depression

The only way to overcome depression is by deciding to take action on it. At first, it might seem impossible to do activities that will make you feel better, for example exercising, cooking, singing, and dancing, but it is always important to remember that everything seems impossible until it’s done.

Taking small steps to boost your mood, for example listening to your favorite music, helps in lifting the cloud of depression for at least some hours. Consistently applying mood-boosting activities will eventually help in overcoming that cloud of depression. Below are some proven steps which people can apply to get rid of depression.

Step 1: Seek help and talk to people you trust

How to overcome depression
Figure 3: People being counselled to overcome depression

Having an excellent support system to talk to, for example, friends, family and elders from the church is critical in overcoming depression. This is because your support system helps you to have a positive disposition in life. People suffering from depression usually isolate themselves from other people, which makes it really challenging for them to connect with even family and friends.

Another tendency that is common during depression is feeling ashamed and unwilling to talk, but that is just the nature of depression. Socializing and connecting with other people will help in lifting the burden of depression significantly. In addition, we should not perceive asking for help from family and friends as being a burden and weak.

Step 2: Do activities you love and those that make the body feel good

Figure 4: Do activities you love

People who struggle with depression are highly encouraged to do hobbies they like or used to like, even though they do not feel like it. Getting out to do activities in the outside world has a positive effect on one’s mood, even if one might not immediately feel it. Besides hobbies, it is also important to get enough sleep to overcome depression. At least 8 hours of sleep are recommended for optimum health.

Persistent stress makes depression worse and prolongs it. It is therefore important to identify factors that trigger stress, for example, unemployment, bereavement, work pressure, school pressure, and unhealthy relationships. The stress triggers the need to be consistently managed to eliminate the risk of sliding back into depression. Practicing relaxation techniques like taking deep breaths and taking a hot bath may help in relaxing and relieving symptoms of depression.

Step 3: Exercise

Activities to reduce depression
Figure 5: Activities to reduce depression

Exercise has been proven to be very effective in helping to overcome depression. For people struggling with depression, it is very hard at first to have the willpower to exercise. It is therefore recommended to take small simple steps at first, for example, walking for 15 minutes then gradually work towards heavier exercise, for example running for 30 minutes.

Rhythmic exercises, which move both arms and legs, for example, dancing, weight lifting, and walking are said to be the best at overcoming depression. It is highly recommended to find a partner or people to exercise with (for example, a gym or dancing class) to stay motivated and avoid quitting.

Step 4: Focus on eating healthy

Health food
Figure 6: Health food

Processed foods, for example, fizzy drinks, alcohol, french fries, and tinned foods can have a negative effect on the brain and mood in the long term, so it is advised to avoid these. Natural foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and unprocessed meat are recommended for a healthy diet. It is important to eat regularly, for example, at least 5 times a day. This helps in staying energized and reducing irritability. In addition, foods rich in omega-3 fats help in controlling the mood. Examples of these foods are tilapia, salmon, and mackerel fish.

Step 5: Think positively and overcome negative thinking

Positive thinking
Figure 7: Think positively

Negative thinking is arguably one of the most common symptoms associated with depression, so overcoming it is important to break free from the cloud of depression. It is important to note that feelings of hopelessness, powerlessness and not being able to do anything to turn around problems in life are just negative thought patterns that can be challenged and overcome by programming the mind to see the positive aspect in everything.

Inferiority complex is one example of a negative thought pattern that fuel depression. This includes labelling yourself a loser, beating yourself up over not achieving ambitious goals and believing that everyone thinks the worst of you. In addition, these patterns also include mentally filtering positive events and concentrating on aspects that went wrong.

Step 6: Get outside the house for fresh air and sunlight

Enjoying sun and fresh air
Figure 8: Get out for some sun and fresh air

Sunlight has been proven to help in boosting levels of the hormone serotonin in the body, and this hormone helps to improve mood. At least 15 minutes of exposure to sunlight is considered enough per day. Taking a walk outside to get some fresh air helps to clear the head and goes a long way in helping to overcome depression. I would highly recommend gardening to people dealing with depression so they can spend more time getting fresh air outdoors.