When we think of depression, we may imagine being permanently pyjama-clad, lying in bed or on the sofa in a dark room, unable to move. Clinical depression (or major depressive disorder) can look this way and the Internet and media often paint this picture.
If we research depression symptoms online, it usually brings up Clinical depression information, leaving some of us thinking that, it feels bad but it’s not as bad as all that.
But some depressive symptoms are less recognisable. Most of us are busy. We might feel down but we can’t afford to stop. Even when a situation (like a breakup or job loss) triggers deep sadness in us, we have to keep going. So the symptoms are subtler, more gradual, and easier to disregard. They sneak up on us and if unaddressed they can become debilitating.
– A sense of heaviness you can’t shake
– Impatience, irritability, quickly losing your temper over little things
– Growing intolerance of others, our surroundings, or ourselves
– Heightened awareness of negative things
– An emboldened inner critic, bullying ourselves or self-loathing
– Incessant worrying (going over the same thing again and again) or catastrophizing (using words like always and never)
– Wanting to hide from the world and avoiding things that make us feel better (friends, exercise, nature)
Our brain activity is habit forming; the more we think and feel certain ways, the more likely we will think and feel that way in the future. A persistent low mood can spiral into depression and the lower we spiral, the harder it is to pick ourselves back up.
We all have low moods but when feelings of depression seem unshakeable, it is time to start paying attention to them. One of the best ways to deal with depression is to catch it early.
So instead of beating yourself up for not exercising, put measures into place that hold you accountable. For example, book a boutique exercise class, schedule workouts with a buddy, or join a beginner’s club team (your Frisbee-golf team depends on you). If you have no problem skipping those type activities, then hire a trainer for 30 minutes twice a week. Tell her/him to follow up with you if you miss a session.
Low mood often increases our critical self-talk. We feel down so we beat ourselves up, which makes us feel even lower. Interrupt the self-critical spiral with self-compassion. If this sounds too difficult, read or listen to The Self-Compassion Skills Workbook by Tim Desmond.
There is no such thing as a ‘negative’ emotion. Even depression serves to protect us. Our low mood is a red flag. Sometimes it is telling us to slow down, to reconnect with loved ones, or to disconnect from unhealthy situations. Or to get help.
The app Moodnotes helps you uncover the situations and thinking patterns that may trigger your low mood. And to find alternative, more helpful perspectives.
Everyone feels low, drained, or worn-out occasionally. Many of the symptoms of major depressive disorder – irritability, lethargy, and hopelessness – can be normal reactions to stressful life events. As social scientist, Karla McLaren, points out, ‘Sometimes, depression is a perfectly reasonable response to trouble in your life.’ However, if your low mood is cyclical or doesn’t respond to the healing changes you make, talk to your doctor or a professional therapist.
If you think you might be clinically depressed, you can take this test.