January and February can be tricky months for many.

Whether it is the dark evening, the dreary weather – or perhaps just having to wait another 10 months to see Christmas again!

This month we would like to highlight Depression and if you are struggling, how you can gain the help and advice that would help support you.

So let’s start by sharing some wise words from Stephen Fry aimed at supporting loved ones with depression. Stephen Fry has experienced Depression first hand and through this is empowered to speak out:

“Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.” ― Stephen Fry

Depression can show up in life in at any stage, in various different ways and for various reasons.

What is Depression?

One of our counsellors Nikki Alder helps to shine some light on what Depression is:

“Depression is a feeling of increasing hopelessness that negatively impacts your self- esteem, physical health, relationships, and how you value life and your place in the world. Gradually withdrawing under it into non-living. It needs the same immediacy and importance of treatment as any chronic physical illness.

Like all illnesses, it can be experienced as mild to severe.

It can be triggered from a single event or a period of time around illness, bereavement, redundancy, divorce, trauma, pregnancy and birth, or cumulatively from lots of small triggers, from alcohol or drug use, or for no discernible reason”

What does Depression look like?

NHS Talking Therapies provides this decription:

When someone feels very low for more than two weeks and feels like this day after day, week after week, this is called a depressive episode. When depression occurs like this, it affects the person’s mood and thinking. It leads to altered behaviour and creates a range of physical symptoms in their body.”

Signs and Symptoms

Rosie Waters from Rosie Waters Counselling shares with us “12 signs you should not ignore. If you or someone you know exhibits 4 or more of these signs for 2 weeks or more it is advisable to seek swift support from a professional.

  • Feeling a sense of hopelessness and pointlessness
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Restlessness or inertia
  • Irregular or changed sleep pattern (Insomnia)
  • Waking early
  • Decreased energy and motivation
  • Mood swings/changes
  • Difficulty making decisions.
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Persistently feeling sad or empty
  • Feeling tearful or crying a lot
  • In young people irritability is more common than feeling sad and if combined with 3 or more of the above symptoms can be a red flag for depression.

(Please see your GP if you recognise that you are experiencing the above they can give you guidance and advice on what treatment is best for you and maybe even refer you to talking therapies.)

Once you have had advice and a plan from your healthcare practitioner on how best to help your depression.

The Power of Diet

There are a variety of things that can really help us manage our mood and help lift us out of a dark place. Something as simple as our diet have an impact on our moods.

Flick from Ridgeway Nutrition has some wonderful insights into what and how food affects and impacts our mood and what we can do.

“Try and incorporate the following foods in your diet:

Probiotics: 95% of your serotonin is produced in your gut so low levels of serotonin can influence poor moods.

Selenium: Low levels of Selenium have been linked to poor moods.

Zinc: helps the body perceive taste, boosts the immune system, and may also influence depression.

Omega 3: May increase the level of healthful fats available to the brain, preserve the myelin sheath that protects nerve cells, and keep the brain working at the highest level.,

B Vitamins: Vitamin B12, folate, or vitamin B9, have all been linked to a reduced risk of mood disorders.

Protein: The amino acid, Tryptophan, is important for the production of serotonin.

Vitamin D: Get outside and get some sun. in the summer, take supplements between October and March. Vitamin D has been shown to help in mood disorders.

Antioxidants: Vitamins A, C, E are all required by the body to help repair cells damaged by free radicals such as premature cell death, ageing and cell mutations. It has also been shown that having your antioxidants helps reduce inflammation and stress related disorders.

Try and avoid or limit the following:

Processed food – These contain refined carbs and are not nutrient dense, thus, can cause mood and emotion swings.

Alcohol – not only is it full of empty calories, but is acts as a depressant

Caffeine – can cause anxiety, so it is best avoided after midday.

Foods high in Sugar – Again, can influence mood and emotions.

Processed oils – Oil as these are high in Omega 6. Whilst some Omega 6 is necessary, it can also promote inflammation in the brain and bring on depression symptoms

Self-care

Rosie Waters from Rosie Waters Counselling gives us some great and simple advice to follow in order to look after ourselves in the best way possible. Self care isn’t simple when you are experiencing depression. Be kind to yourself to even pick one or two of the suggestions below is a good place to start;

  • Spend time with friends.
  • Keep active. Exercise releases the body’s natural feel -good chemicals.
  • Distraction- Listen to music, draw, sew, bake, cook, watch a film etc. Make a list of things you enjoy doing. This helps focus the mind and helps you find things to do that give you pleasure. Really focus on the task as you do it.
  • Try to stick to a regular bed and sleep time. Try to get up at the same time each morning.
  • Try to eat regularly and healthily.
  • Plan something to do each day, however small.
  • Talk to a trusted friend or family member about how you feel.
  • Keep a gratitude diary- write down 5 things every day that you are thankful for. It could be as simple as a smile from a stranger in the street, a blackbird singing in the garden, the sun shining, the ability of your body to move you from one place to another.”

Perhaps even the things that may seem irrelevant for our mental health can have a huge impact on us mentally and emotionally.

Physical Touch

Physical touch can help our bodies to heal and soothe our nervous system  Monika Bauregger from Holistic Massage shares how massage can help with our mood and feeling good:

“From a mental health aspect, regularly received massage can have a quite profound, although less direct effect on our body by changing chemicals that are distributed through the body in the brain. Most notably, massage interacts with a number of chemicals:

Cortisol: ‘stress regulation’ hormone produced by adrenal glands during times of stress. Massage can reduce current levels of Cortisol in the body, which can boost mood, appetite and the ability to sleep.

Serotonin: ‘happy’ chemical. Neurotransmitter, most associated with depression. Low Serotonin is related to low mood, poor sleep and memory. Massage can help decrease depression by activating Serotonin in the body.

Oxytocin: ‘connection’ hormone; someone feeling connected to themselves and others with a sense of belonging. The physical touch of massage increases Oxytocin and can help reconnect a depressed person with their body.

Dopamine: ‘feel-good’ hormone. Many drugs, alcohol (and even access to social media) release dopamine to produce their addictive effects. To a lesser and not harmful extent, dopamine may be released during massage.”

Importance of Support

Having a counsellor to support you can be very beneficial Rachel Cooper from Rachel Cooper Counselling explained to us the importance of having the support of someone you can trust to help guide you through a dark place in your life where you may be feeling lost.

“Counselling offers a relationship in which you are welcomed and encouraged to be fully yourself, no matter how dark your inner world. To be fully met, heard and understood. An opportunity to have someone enter your darkness and sit in it with you, respectfully and at a pace and style that is right for you.

And, over time, as the relationship with your counsellor develops and you

find yourself naturally more able to reconnect with others, it provides an opportunity to shift that darkness and help you find ways to let in some light.

In depression the things that would most help you are usually the things that feel the hardest to do.

Arranging to meet with a counsellor can feel daunting and require

courage you may even doubt that you have. Yet it may be a first step to help you out of your darkness and back into the warmth of the sun.”

Sadly suicide is the second leading cause of death in young people.

A major cause of suicide is mental illness, very commonly depression. People feeling suicidal are overwhelmed by painful emotions and see death as the only way out, losing sight of the fact that suicide is a permanent “solution” to a temporary state — most people who try to kill themselves but live later to say they are glad they didn’t die.

An individual considering suicide will frequently confide in a friend. A friend who may be able to encourage them to seek the support and advice they require. When the risk is high, concerned friends and relatives should seek professional guidance.

Please click here for the podcast with Garry Poulson , founder of The West Berkshire Suicide Prevention Action Group.

I do hope this blog highlighted and informed you on the reality of this serious illness and where to go for help and advice.

For anyone who needs immediate support please find the suitable organisations below:

Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) 0800 585858

Samaritans on 116 123

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