Understanding the Fog of Depression & How to Do Away with Our Inner Demons
Depression is a state of mind where you feel helpless and a constant lack of energy to do anything worthwhile in your life.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, a staggering 16.2 million individuals are afflicted by depression in the United States alone. In this data, depression was measured with the hopelessness and loss of pleasure experienced by the individual lasting for over two weeks.
While it’s common for humans to experience episodes of grief ever so often, a depressive disorder lasting longer than a month leads to dangerous complications in personal health and may even put your life at risk.
It’s necessary to seek help immediately upon experiencing a long period of confined sadness and that’s why if you suffer from it or know others who are in depression, it’s best to read this informative piece on the remarkable ways to beat depression.
UNDERSTANDING DEPRESSION AT ITS CORE
We’ve all heard the phrase used around often —
“I’ve been depressed my whole life.”
“My neighbor just went into rehabilitation due to his depressive episodes.”
But what is a depression in the truest form?
A little history behind “Depression”
The ancient Greeks were among the first to identify depression and it wasn’t as common in the medieval age as it is today. Interestingly, “Sadness” was an epidemic and was considered a disease in ancient times.
The term “Depression” was first used in the book “Chronicle” by Richard Baker, who was an English author in the 1600s. This term was popularly used in economics and physiology.
Sigmund Freud and Kurt Schneider were popular German psychiatrists who were responsible for influencing depression the way it’s today in the early 1920s. They showed the world that depression was much more different from grief and sadness and had a profound effect on the human mind that may linger for months and years after its affliction unlike any other form of mourning. This interesting insight was coined as — Endogenous Depression.
Now that we’ve understood how depression came to manifest in society, let’s further study the medical definition of depression in the modern world and how it afflicts someone.
Depression in the modern sense
Depression shouldn’t be mistaken for grief. While grief can manifest into depression if it isn’t treated on time, it’s a byproduct of sadness.
Similarly, scoring poorly in your exams isn’t depression but it’s the feeling of being let down by yourself. All these feelings are emotions that are felt by people frequently and shouldn’t be clubbed with depressive episodes.
When a person or individual strongly feels hopelessness and anxiety to the point where his or her life is controlled, and their decisions are based on their emotions, this is called depression.
A depressed mind will rarely feel happiness for extended periods of time and will almost always find ways to connect any topic with a negative mindset or feel completely helpless in completing a simple task.
Let’s take an example — Jane and Ann are two sisters. While both are introverted and prefer staying indoors, Ann seems to prefer sleeping all day instead of performing indoor activities such as Jane. Ann is always sad as she feels she is less accomplished than Jane. Whenever Jane tries to help Ann, she reacts violently and refuses to talk to Jane and simply withdraws into her room.
In the above example, we’ve isolated the behavior of Jane to be that of an introvert who doesn’t necessarily like to spend time with others but is also content with her life.
So, not all introverts are depressed individuals. However, Ann displays symptoms of depression such as —
- Aggressive behavior toward Jane
- Feelings of envy and jealousy towards Jane for no apparent reason
- Loss of energy to be creative
- Isolation from her sister
The above characteristics are strong symptoms of depressed individuals and we’ll learn more about these warning signs in the below sections.
Short Summary of Depression
Before we begin treating depression, it’s necessary to understand what depression really is.
Here is a quick summary to get you initiated about depression —
- Common symptoms of depression involve loss of interest, appetite changes, self-criticism, guilty conscience, depleted energy levels, and lack of sleep
- Depression has no age. It affects kids all the way to senior citizens
- Suicidal tendency is the single biggest risk factor for depressed individuals
- Young adults aged between 18-25 are among the most prone
- If clinical depression is left untreated, it leads to heart diseases and stroke.
- Research shows if the parent suffers from depression, their children are 3 times likely to have depression. Depression can be genetic.
- Brains of depressed individuals look different on imaging tests as compared to those that are mentally healthy
- Exercise has shown to be effective as it releases endorphins to destress the mental state
- During winter, some individuals are likely to be exposed to depression due to seasonal changes. This is known as Seasonal Depression.
Now that you know of these interesting facts about depression.
Let’s understand the warning signs of depression and the symptoms it presents itself with.
COMMON SYMPTOMS ASSOCIATED WITH DEPRESSION
Often, we feel let down by our moods and don’t always have a great day. While this isn’t something to fret about as there’s always tomorrow to look forward to.
However, when you feel your mood doesn’t improve for longer than two weeks, it might be a good idea to take the following symptoms into consideration and see if you suffer from them.
1. Loss of Concentration
Early signs of depression begin with a complete loss of concentration and your inability to make simple everyday decisions.
For example — A healthy individual will wake up and begin to commit to his daily activities of showering and getting ready for work.
A depressed individual tends to lose focus on their daily tasks and begins to laze around in bed all day thinking of all the negative factors. Due to depression, there is a loss of productivity and a lack of focus.
2. Aggressive Behavior
Depressed individuals react violently even to the slightest annoyance. Their tolerance levels are relatively lower than that of a healthy individual.
When the mind is depressed, these individuals shut themselves from the world and keep to themselves.
Trying to offer advice and sympathy may backfire as they are usually in a foul mood when faced with advice.
3. Extended Self-loathing
Almost every depressed individual feels the necessity to criticize themselves harshly than they normally would. This is because they have strong emotions related to a previous guilt that they can’t forget.
Self-loathing is a common symptom of depression to which depression soon takes over. Remember that mistakes happen by everyone, however big, anything can be forgiven.
4. Poor Sleep Patterns
When you’re depressed, a lot of your time is spent staying awake and playing back the negative events that occurred. This causes you to develop sleep apnea or insomnia where your normal sleeping pattern begins to change drastically.
You’ll find yourself oversleeping during the day and staying awake in the nocturnal hours of the night.
This is especially bad for your health as the body requires essential sunshine to remain energetic.
5. Weight Change
If you’ve been seeing a change on the weighing scales lately and demonstrating sudden mood swings, you may be a victim of early depression.
Weight loss or weight gain is common in depressed individuals as they either overeat due to stress or stay away from food due to a lack of appetite.
As a rule of thumb, ensure your body weight doesn’t increase or decrease by 4%in a month.
Let’s take a small test to find out if you suffer from depression or not.
In this test, simply tick the answers that you feel strongly towards as either “A” or “B” or “C”. The results will be displayed after.
Do you believe in your future goals?
A. Of course. I’ve mapped out my entire life
B. Not really. I believe in letting fate write my chapters.
C. I don’t believe in my future as I don’t see one.
Do you believe in forgiveness and letting go of the past?
A. Mistakes are a part of life. So is forgiveness. We should live and let live.
B. Forgive but never forget.
C. I can’t forget my past. I have done wrong to others and others have wronged me.
Have you ever had suicidal tendencies?
A. Never! I believe life has a lot to offer to waste my time in negativity.
B. Sometimes. But I’ve always convinced myself otherwise.
C. I constantly think about ending my life.
Are you able to complete your daily tasks on time?
A. Yes! Work priorities are something that I highly value and cherish.
B. I do procrastinate sometimes but I get the work done.
C. I lack the concentration to get my work done and I’m always putting it off for tomorrow.
Which book among the two appeals to you the most — “Glory of Life” or “The Ultimate Sorrow”
A. Glory of Life! Seems to be full of life and it’s the kind of book that I would read.
B. Don’t care about either of them. They sound stupid.
C. The Ultimate Sorrow is a name that touches the inner sanctums of my mind.
Here are your test results. Count the respective options and see what letter among “A” “B” or “C” did you pick the most out of the 5 questions.
Mostly A’s — You’re a bright and positive individual that enjoys the gifts of life. Your mind is as healthy as it should be, and depression is not a word that exists in your personal dictionary.
Mostly B’s —You’re treading a thin line between a healthy mind and a disturbed one. You may even fall into a depressive lifestyle if you aren’t careful. While some things in life don’t need to be taken seriously, it’s also necessary to pay attention to other areas.
Mostly C’s —You are a danger to yourself. It’s necessary to speak to someone close about your inner conflicts. Every problem has a solution. It’s necessary to find the solution by speaking to a psychiatrist about your troubles and seeking treatment immediately.
DEPRESSION AND ITS EFFECTS ON OUR PROFESSIONAL LIVES
Not everybody understands your definition of depression the same as you. Some take it as a casual medical condition that gets better with time while others seek timely help understanding the dangers of a disturbed mind. One thing we can all agree upon regardless of the type of depression is that – Persistent sadness should have no place in an active professional life.
- Depression ranks 3rd among workplace problems faced by employers in the U.S.
- More than half of all medical plans for insurance claims resulted in treating depression
- Every time the market falls or the economy collapses, depression takes the top spot for the most afflicted medical condition affecting workers worldwide
- At least 15% of employees suffering from severe depression always results in suicide
- Female workers were more likely to suffer from depressive episodes in the workplace
- Due to the nature of depression, employees rarely take help from medical professionals. They believe it hurts their chances at job-seeking and are worried about the confidentiality of it.
- In an NMHA data survey, 64% of employers were likely to refer their depressive employees to the EAP
Do we have your attention on how severe depression really is in the workplace? Now have a look at the problems that employees face in their workplace when they suffer from clinical depression.
- Unable to meet their deadlines on time and hence are reduced to the same pay cheque for years. Worst case scenario they are fired from their post.
- Restlessness and irritability at work cause depressed individuals to lead an isolated lifestyle where they don’t get to make any social contacts to build their professional career.
- Depressed employees tend to oversleep and always reach work late. This puts them at risk of being fired from the job.
- Due to the lack of concentration, despaired employees are always subject to learn less in their professional lives compared to their colleagues.
- Employers will never consider a mentally unsound employee for a promotion.
- The negativity from work can begin to build in the mind of a depressed employee. In the end, suicidal thoughts begin to enter their minds or worse they could cause harm to the entire management.
These are just some of the classic problems faced by the workforce across the world. Depression isn’t just a bad week or month, but it leads to fatal episodes such as taking your own life if you aren’t actively monitoring yourself.
For these very reasons, many companies hold activities and fun events such as picnics or a trip to the countryside to de-stress their employees. Companies understand that overworking leads to a threat that if left unchecked can topple their entire workforce as well as the company’s profits.
Here is a checklist of “Do’s” and “Don’t” to follow to ensure a healthy mind.
- Don’t think about the lashing that you just received from your boss and take it as a part and parcel of your professional life. Everyone gets a good verbal thrashing often in their career.
- Do try and listen to music during a break to destress your mind. Ensure the music is soothing or simply listen to the sound of ocean waves. Calming your mind can help bring down your work frustration
- Don’t work overtime for more than 2 days a week. The additional money that you get isn’t worth the stress that you carry home after.
- Do spend time conversing with your co-workers for a total of at least 1 hour in a week. Even if you don’t prefer it, socializing helps relieve the added stress.
- Don’t feel stressed when you don’t receive the promotion that was promised to you. If you truly feel the company has let you down, simply jump ship. Expecting something to go your way adds a lot of unhealthy stress and negative weight on your mind when it backfires.
- Do simplify your large goals into mini-goals. Milestones are easier to achieve and simple to work towards compared to long stressful goals.
- Don’t be afraid to point negative factors to your boss such as – workplace bullying, low salary package, bad worktimes, etc.
- Do have your lunch on time and more importantly follow a healthy diet. Nutrition is the key to achieving a healthy mind. Always have a small lunch to ensure your energy release is adequate. Have a cup of coffee to ensure you don’t fall asleep at your work desk.
With all said and done, it’s important that you work in a creative work environment to fuel a healthy mind. Constantly being harassed by your boss and colleagues can take its toll. When you feel you’ve had enough, it’s time to write that resignation letter and look for greener pastures. Remember, you don’t have to endure a stressful work environment just to fulfill your earthly desires, there are plenty of jobs that are stress-free and allow you to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
4 NATURAL TREATMENTS TO CONSIDER WHEN SUFFERING FROM DEPRESSION
Are anti-depressants your answer every time you suffer from a stressful episode?
Do you think walking into a medical center is deeply agonizing due to the stress related to opening yourself out to a stranger?
We understand the depressed mind and hence, recommend these natural remedies before you seek out professional help. A simple diet change and a check in your daily routine can bring about impressive results in your depressional phrase.
Before you try these natural remedies, ensure the following–
- You are in no way suffering from other serious ailments
- You haven’t had suicidal thoughts in the past
- You don’t suffer from heart conditions
- You have someone to supervise your daily goals.
If the above criteria aren’t met, schedule a medical emergency immediately and skip the following section.
The natural remedies work best when you follow them to the mark and consistently keep a check on them. Failing to follow them for in a string of days lowers the intensity of mental treatment. Hence, it’s fully recommended to follow the advice daily.
1. Healthy Diet
When you’re depressed, you don’t really consider what you put into your body for energy. Food is a major resource that fuels our mind and body with the necessary nutrients requires to lead a healthy and stable life. By not monitoring what your food intake is, you allow a major portion of your food to be junk such as fried fast foods, processed chips, canned foods, easy-to-tear packet foods, etc.
Switching to a Serotonin-enhancing diet is often recommended for mentally disturbed individuals. Serotonin is a chemical found in your blood that regulates mood, appetite, and sleep. When your body is depleted of serotonin due to a poor diet, you immediately begin to feel low. Continued intake of junk food leads to depression and the only way to improve it is by restoring the natural serotonin levels of the body.
Here are 5 foods that are high on Serotonin and recommended to include in your daily diet –
- Eggs: The humble egg is a major source of serotonin and a lot of invaluable vitamins that are essential for ideal mental health. Egg whites are great to have on a healthy diet if you feel the need to reduce the harmful cholesterol from the egg yolk. There are plenty of ways to add eggs to your diet, a simple egg omelet in the morning or adding 2-3 egg whites to your protein shake is a great way to consume them.
- Veggies: Yes! We get it, they have a bland taste and are completely boring when eaten on their own. But vegetables are a rich ocean of serotonin and vital nutrients that are important to build a healthy mind. To add flavor, you can always create a list of recipes that include the mixture of spices and vegetables to making a boring lunch or dinner into an exciting affair.
- Bran: Rice bran has a good amount of serotonin and it obviously is a great way to have your morning cereal. With the amount of bran flakes cereals available in the market, start your day with a bowl full of bran flakes and enjoy a day full of positivity and fresh perspective.
- Dairy foods: Milk products such as cheese, curd, and tofu are great to boost your overall mood due to their serotonin contents. Since dairy products are some of the most used food products in the world, including these into your diet isn’t going to be very hard. A simple homemade vegetable pizza to spice up the mood topped up with vegetables and a good spread of cheese will cheer you up instantly. Just don’t try ordering it out and maintain a healthy balance.
- Nuts: Nuts are filled with tons of omega fatty acids and the all-important serotonin. Replaced them from your traditional snack foods to munch on during a break and conveniently carry them to work. As an added benefit, apart from feeling great all around, you can improve your overall appearance since nuts help in bringing allure to your hair, skin, and nails.
2. Mood Enhancement
Sports psychologist Jennifer Carter suggests mood enhancement activities to help modify depressed behavior. By creating a schedule to dedicate time towards outdoor activities such as a light 30-minute walk or a simple game of badminton, Jennifer states many of her patients have been cured of their depression.
However, if you don’t feel like immediately committing to exercise, it’s necessary to boost your mood by consuming fish oil tablets for adequate brain function. The many benefits of fish oil tablets for your mental state are —
- Fish oil tablets help in lowering blood pressure which is usually high in depressed individuals
- Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids are directly related to treating various depressive episodes
- Fish oil helps in maintaining a healthy BMI and for curing heart diseases. Depressed people who are obese can cure both conditions with one fish oil tablet a day.
- Studies have shown that fish oil supplements have decreased the risk of anxiety attacks in depressed individual.
In fact, by spending30-minutes out in the sun daily, your body creates between 20000-50,000 IU of Vitamin D within 24 hours of exposure. You’ll get most of your daily required Vitamin D by just heading out. Vitamin D deficiency is one of the leading causes of depression. Most depressed people usually shut themselves in dark rooms and refuse to step outside of their safe zone. This causes a decrease in Vitamin D and the poor air quality in a stuffed room doesn’t help either.
It’s important to spend at least 30 minutes to an hour out in the open. Visit a nearby park, fresh air helps in filling your mind with essential nutrients required to boost your overall mood.
If you’re worried about tanning or skin damage, apply sunscreen with at least an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of 40-50. By protecting your skin from sun damage, you can encourage yourself in a host of activities that are fun such as swimming, trekking, biking, and other outdoor sports.
According to Florence William’s book “The Nature Fix”, an individual that spends his or her time outdoors every day has a significant reduction in depressive mood swings from afflicting their mental state. This is because a person tends to allow their brain to wander and explore as they travel leaving no room for negative thoughts to enter the mind.
Tip of the Day: When you’re feeling down and low, pack your travel bags and head out for a surprise weekend adventure.
3. Adequate Rest
Does the term clinical depression ring a bell?
Clinical depression majorly occurs when there is a significant lack of sleep in an individual. While most clinical depressed individuals usually self-diagnose the condition as insomnia, the link is stronger than you think.
The National Sleep Foundation concluded that insomnia is a direct symptom from underlying depression and unless you get your mental state in order, you’ll continue to face sleepless nights creating a vicious cycle of depression and sleeplessness.
Let’s first understand why sleep is so important to the human body —
- When we sleep we rejuvenate all the mental trauma absorbed through the day
- Sleeping heals our injuries and decreases fatigue
- Good sleep allows us to digest food and absorb nutrients into the blood stream
- Research shows that those who sleep less tend to weigh heavier hence increasing the risk of obesity
- Sleep increases our overall concentration levels and helps in memory management
- Bad sleep affects our insulin and blood sugar levels negativity
- Over 90% of depressed individuals that were surveyed reported poor sleep as a symptom
It’s quite clear with the above facts that there aren’t any positives to not hitting the sack on time. As a rule of thumb, it’s important to give yourself 7 to 8 hours of sleep every day. This requirement decreases to around 5 – 6 hours of sleep as we enter our late 50’s. For a complete sleep chart do refer below for different age groups.
Recommended Sleep Chart for Various Age Groups
|Newborn babies (0 – 4 months)||Between 16 to 18 hours|
|Infants (11 months to 2 years)||Between 12 to 15 hours|
|Toddlers (2 to 4 years)||Between 10 to 14 hours|
|Preschool (4 to 6 years)||Between 10 to 12 hours|
|School going children (6 to 12 years)||Between 9 to 11 hours|
|Teenagers (13 to 19 years)||Between 8 to 9 hours|
|Adults (20 to 50 years)||Between 7 to 8 hours|
|Senior Citizens (50+ years)||Between 5 to 7 hours|
The following chart is a rough understanding of the necessary sleep required by different age groups to maintain a healthy state of mind. Sleeping longer than the following duration can result in the opposite effect of rest and can cause mental strain and depression.
When we think of meditation, the first thing that comes to our mind is — relaxation. With stress being a major contributor of depression, meditation acts as a defense mechanism to release the built-in stress to ensure you focus on your inner self and all the physical sensations of your body.
According to researchers, the brain region that is closely associated with depression is the amygdala and meditation has shown to protect this region by alleviating stress and nullifying the overall negative sensations of the body.
The popular quote — “A Sound Mind lives in a sound body” demonstrates just how important meditation is in our lives to keep clear of depressive thoughts. By simply devoting yourself to 30-minutes of meditation every day, you’ll notice a profound improvement in your overall mental state. You’ll be in a better position to tackle a problematic situation and be able to disperse stress just as soon as it builds up through meditation.
Think of the mind as a boiling kettle of water, if you were to close all openings of the kettle, it will then begin to rattle around until it explodes. That’s why it’s necessary to allow an opening for the steam to be released like we utilize meditation to release the stress from our grieving mind.
Let’s demonstrate the health benefits of meditation that has been documented through various studies —
- Lowers overall blood pressure
- Improves blood flow
- Attain a deeper relaxation technique
- Stress dispersion
- Adequate perspiration to release harmful toxins
- Regulates bowel movement
- Mood-boosting properties
- Channel respiration to maintain an ideal heart rate
- Anger management technique
- Better overall sleep
- An improved nervous system
These are just a small list of benefits attained through practicing meditation regularly. You’ll also feel lighter and gain an improved sense of confidence as time goes by.
Consistent meditation provides more than protection for your mental state from a depressive episode, it helps you attain an enlightened sense to ensure you keep yourself healthy through life and helps you identify the positive side of wellbeing.
Here’s a simple beginner technique to get you started with meditation.
- Get yourself a yoga mat or a soft cushion to ensure you’ll be able to lie down and sit up at your convenience.
- Sit comfortably on the mat with your legs crossed inside.
- Close your eyes and ensure you enter a state of meditation by thinking of a happy moment in your life.
- Replay this moment and smile gently. Ensure your eyes are closed.
- Now take a deep breath and hold it to the count of 3.
- Release your breath slowly and continue to deeply breathe for 5 minutes.
- Try to focus your attention on your long-drawn breaths to ensure you improve your inner focus.
- Observe all your body parts — legs, shoulders, rib cage, belly, buttocks, thighs, ankles, etc.
- Feel the energy healing you from inside and maintain this posture for 10 minutes without opening your eyes and breathe normal.
- Now lie on your back with your arms distanced slightly away from your thighs.
- Remain in this relaxed position for 10 minutes and think of happy thoughts.
- Sit up after a duration of 10 minutes and gently open your eyes.
- You’ll find yourself in a rejuvenated state of mind ready to tackle the problems of your day.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON EXPERIENCING DEPRESSION
Depression is the leading cause of fatal conditions such as heart attacks, strokes, and suicidal tendencies. Seeking help is the best way forward to dealing with a mental breakdown.
Don’t be afraid to contact a psychologist or someone close to you when dealing with it. The faster depression is treated, the quicker your mind can recover.