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How to cope with a depressive episode

Feeling the impending onset of a depressive episode can be scary. Becoming overwhelmed with anxiety and panic is an understandable reaction to the initial symptoms of depression; however, these reactions may contribute adversely to low mood and worsen other symptoms, such as a loss of appetite and disruption of sleep.

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While depression can be serious, it is far from hopeless with effective treatments and resources to manage and overcome it. HealthMinute asked experts for tips to help deal with a depressive episode:

1. Be Honest
Registered Psychologist, Executive Coach & Author, Emmaline Golding tells HealthMinute that it’s essential, to be honest with ourselves to get to the root of our depression and says,”sometimes deep down we know there is something we need to change in our life whether it’s our career, a relationship, health, or something else but we don’t want to face it.”

“Be really honest with yourself. Don’t make major life decisions in a crisis, but do get professional help to make the changes you know you need to make. ”

2. Stay Connected
Golding says it’s important to stay connected with friends or family who you trust, “it’s tempting to want to stay inside within your space and withdraw from the world, however, we are social beings and we benefit from being with other people – even if it doesn’t feel like it. Try to keep up relationships and sometimes you might even find yourself enjoying the moment.”

3. Practice Self-Care
Self-care is essential for both good physical and mental health with taking time to relax, recharge, and connect with the self and others. It also means saying no to others when we’re feeling overwhelmed and taking space to calm and soothe ourselves.

ResilientME App Creator & Consulting Psychologist, Dr. Rose Aghdami, stresses the importance of self-care, “it’s important to do more of what energizes you, even if you don’t feel like it and believe you’re too tired. Almost always you’ll feel better if you do something – even for just a short time – instead of remaining passive and inactive. ”

“Take small steps in becoming more active again by taking a short walk outside, make a call to a friend, enjoy a soothing bath, or even preparing a meal.”

4. Challenge Negative Thoughts
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy that treats problems and boosts happiness by modifying dysfunctional emotions, behaviors, and feelings. CBT proposes that a person’s thoughts, rather than their life situations, affect their mood and encourages us to challenge distorted cognitions and change destructive patterns of behavior.

Dr. Aghdami says, “notice how often negative thoughts arise and what these thoughts say. Negative thoughts such as, “I don’t think my manager likes me” can realistically be neutralised by ‘I have a great team, and we all get on well’ and “my manager and I may not be a great personality match, but she is consistently pleased with my work, which is what I’m there to do.”

5. Get Centered
Scientific studies seem to support the view that yoga and meditation can improve depressive symptoms and benefit our physical fitness. Recent research by the University of Southern California found people who embarked on a three-month yoga and meditation retreat had lower physiological and immunological markers of stress and inflammation, as well as improved wellbeing. Participants also had lower levels of anxiety and depression and increases in mindfulness.

Upwell Health Collective Lead Yoga Teacher, Lydia Richards says regular yoga practice increases strength, flexibility mobility, and stability, “but yoga is so much more than that.”

“The diaphragmatic (deep belly) breathing that we invite in yoga helps to stimulate our parasympathetic nervous system through activation of the vagus nerve, this deep breathing also oxygenates and increases blood flow and helps to rid our body of toxins.”

“As a result, we feel more calm and relaxed and observing our breath helps to quiet the voice inside our head, allowing us to think more clearly.”

6. Mindfulness Is Key
Research suggests that regular periods of mindfulness can reduce symptoms of depression and improve the negative responses that some people with chronic or recurrent depression have to low mood. Mindfulness allows people to fully experience the moment they are in, instead of worrying about the future or dwelling on the past.

You can practice mindfulness while doing any activity, according to Clinical Psychologist Dr. Lillian Nejad who tells HealthMinute, “the key to mindfulness is focussing on physical sensations, such as “sight, taste, touch, and smell.  Focus on the moment, instead of the past or future.”

“Being aware of your internal and external experiences without judgement can help us identify and respond differently to our thoughts and feelings.”

Any of us who have experienced depressive episodes before should remind ourselves that we can overcome these feelings again by focussing on our strengths and on what we’ve learned from previous depressive episodes to equip ourselves better.

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