Many factors come into play when it comes to living a healthy and inspired life. Your mental health is an important pillar of wellbeing that should always be made a priority.
We all have days where we feel down in the dumps, not like ourselves, or maybe just a little bit “blue”. Sometimes it can feel like there’s no way out, then we wake up and feel better the next morning.
Changing emotions are a part of being human. But it can be difficult to pinpoint if the negative feelings and symptoms we experience are a sign of something more serious. Sometimes, we might be experiencing symptoms of depression and not even know it.
This is one of the main reasons why it’s so important to understand the warning signs and the best ways to get help.
At HealthOne, we understand that every individual’s mental health journey is unique. Therapy can be an effective tool that allows a professional to educate you on the symptoms to look out for. A good clinical practitioner will tailor therapy to the specific needs of the individual.
“It’s nothing to be ashamed of if you are struggling at the moment,” says Adam Brotherwood, a social worker at HealthOne. When sitting with a patient, Brotherwood talks about the importance of language. He is trained in how to talk effectively with people who are suffering mentally, which helps to tear down stereotypes and biases about mental illness. The pathway to good mental health starts with a good conversation. It starts with education.
“It’s important to normalize (depression),” Adam says, "and to provide education as to what depression is and how it can manifest. We look at it similarly to other medical or physical health issues. When you have troubles with your heart or trouble breathing, you go see a doctor and take some medication. Depression is the same thing, and should be taken seriously as well."
We interviewed Adam to learn about three warning signs of depression and the best ways to get help. But first, let’s take a quick look at the troubling realities we’ve been dealing with over the past year.
A look at our current reality
With vaccines on the way, as the world slowly emerges from the pandemic, many of us are doing a self-assessment of our overall health state. Mental health is a key part of that.
In this age of lockdowns, that social support we used to rely on, face-to-face time has been replaced by face-to-computer-screen time. How many of us have had it with Zoom calls?
For many of us, the rise in home offices has caused our work to creep into our personal lives. People are working longer hours at home. Managers and companies are expecting more.
And it’s challenging to separate the two worlds – sitting on the couch trying to decompress, watching television, and there in the corner of the room sits the work computer.
Remember commuting? That was a time away from the office, to prepare for the day, or listen to the radio or a podcast on the way home. Today it’s wake up, get dressed and your office sits right there in front of you. For most of the past year, we haven’t even been able to take a laptop to the local coffee shop, to break up the monotony.
As we've mentioned before, Canada was in a mental health crisis before Covid-19. The pandemic only pushed those symptoms more to the surface. Whether you have experienced symptoms of depression in the past or have been struggling with your mental health as of late, it’s important to learn the facts and remember that there are ways to feel better again.
What is depression?
As Brotherwood says, clinical depression is feeling down or depressed for more than two weeks. The symptoms are persistent, not easy to overcome or shake off. It’s a common and serious medical illness. Left untreated, it can lead to a series of emotional and physical problems.
What does depression feel like?
There is a difference between feeling depressed and being depressed. “We all have moments throughout the week where we feel down and hopeless,” he says, “feeling worthless, lacking motivation. Those situations come and go, whereas with clinical depression you feel this way for a number of weeks, possibly months.”
How do I know if I am depressed?
Depression affects not only work but overall life as well, he says. It’s not just an unending feeling of hopelessness. People might feel more lethargic. It’s challenging to complete even the most mundane tasks, like making a meal or getting dressed.
Three common warning signs of depression are:
- Difficulty thinking and making decisions.
- Fatigue, often due to a lack of sleep. Or, you might be sleeping too much.
- Depression might be expressed more through heightened irritability, even anger.
There are other physical signs of depression, like digestive issues and aching muscles and joints that we have written on before. There also might be changes in appetite, leading to weight loss or gain, unrelated to dieting. Other symptoms might be an inability to sit still, the wringing of hands, and pacing.
The danger is when these feelings of worthlessness intensify into more serious outcomes, like thoughts of self-harm, even suicide. Suicide remains one of the leading causes of death among men and women from adolescence to middle age.
Everyday life is more challenging when you are depressed, Adam adds. And what’s worse, when you know you have a problem, conjuring up the energy to get yourself on track and do activities is not there at all. With self-care less of a priority, personal health risks, conditions like high blood pressure, arthritis, diabetes, go up.
How to overcome depression?
“It’s acknowledgement, understanding that you are depressed and struggling right now,” Adam says. “Talk to your doctor, or family and friends."
In some cases, a spouse, friend or family member might be the one who spots noticeable changes in your behaviour. Whether you or someone else spot the signs, it’s important to remember that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
“Things can get better. There is support, whether that’s counselling or even medication. Try to get back into your schedule, which can be hard to do if you are depressed. So that’s where others can come in to help. When we are depressed, we are stuck in our head, stuck in a rut, and we need to lean on others to help us get out of that rut, or mind space.”
A therapist is objective, and is trained in regards to dealing with depression and other mental health issues. At HealthOne, the process starts with a meet-and-greet with one of our therapists. This helps you determine if that therapist is a good fit for your needs.
“You need to feel comfortable and safe talking to that therapist,” Adam says. The internet is a place many people go to for self-help techniques and meditation apps. That can lead to more frustration if you are clinically depressed.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is one of the most common treatment methods that practitioners use to get the root of the problem.“It looks at thoughts, behaviours, and feelings,” Adam says. “It looks at how we can change our thoughts and behaviours to change our emotions and feelings.”
This can include journaling as well as thought exercises. The objective is to accept your feelings.“A lot of us, when we have negative feelings, we hide them, push them away, and don’t talk about them.”
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is another method that aims to solve that problem. “We accept that emotion and we objectively look at it through various exercises and let that emotion pass,” he says.
Getting to the root causes means making changes to our thought and behaviour patterns. Again, treatment varies from person to person. Someone may come to see me, this is the first time they have felt this way, they have been depressed, and the doctor has diagnosed them with depression,” Adam says.
“More than likely they will do well with CBT. Other people might have a history with depression. Perhaps it runs in their family.”
These are patients who likely know about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Perhaps they’ve already gone through it.
“They probably need a deeper exploration of the root causes of depression, possibly looking at more existential thinking in regards to their place in society, and in their jobs,” he says. “They might need medication to give them the energy, to engage in therapy. Some people can do it without medication. Either way working on it is good.”
And that’s the bottom line. Those afflicted by depression want to feel better. It’s a challenging reality for millions of us.
Improving your understanding of depression and the warning signs puts you on a straighter path to better health. HealthOne has licensed therapists available both in-person or virtually to help if you are experiencing any of these signs and symptoms. We look forward to helping you live a more inspired life with improved health and mental wellbeing.
Book a free meet and greet with a therapist today!