*This article has been written and composed by Tazeen Mohsin*
There’s a huge misunderstanding around depression in our culture. I often hear people casually saying, “Oh, I am so depressed,” or “If I don’t get that job, I’ll be depressed for life”. Every event that slightly triggers sadness or disappointment is mislabelled as depression. But depression isn’t just feeling sad for a while then forgetting all your woes. There’s literally quite a grim side to depression. As a clinical psychologist, I’ve seen people struggling to cope up with their lives despite being on medications for over 20years. They have had a hard time performing simple tasks such as brushing their hair or teeth. One of my clients described it as “a dark cloud that surrounds you at all times, sucking your energy and no matter what you do you can’t escape it. It’s there just waiting to swallow you whole.”
Depression changes the entire way you look at life. You might find yourself feeling empty and crying all the time for no reason. At night your mind keeps you awake no matter how physically exhausted you are, you just can’t sleep you are or you might just want to sleep and never get out of bed. Things don’t really interest you anymore. Life no longer has any meaning. Lethargy and the lack of energy pulls you down like a gravitational force. You feel stuck and nothing you do is helping.
And no, “You can’t just get over it, because it’s all in your head”. Depression is very real. It has nothing to do with your imagination, willpower or character. I repeat, nothing. Patronizing yourself or someone you know for having depression isn’t the way to go. Understanding the factors definitely is. These factors can range anywhere from genetics to specific traumas, life transitions to even low self-esteem. They are unique for each person.
Here are some very simple steps that I have found to be generally helpful in my practice, no matter what the reasons are:
ACKNOWLEDGE WHAT YOU FEEL:
We usually avoid our emotions until they get to the point where they are out of control. Start pinpointing what you are feeling. If you feel sad all the time, what is accompanying that sadness? Is it loss? Is it rejection? Once you accept, without judging yourself, whatever you feel, the emotions will start to change.
Tip: Practice listening to yourself like you would listen to a child. Keep a diary to monitor your emotions.
When we are swimming in our depressive thought patterns, it’s very easy to focus on the negative things in our life. By practicing appreciation or thankfulness, we break the pattern and refocus on other things that are positive. You can notice simple pleasures or acknowledge everything you have that you could be grateful for.
Tip: Start an appreciation diary. Make a daily list of things which you can appreciate currently happening in your life.
One of the things I’ve noticed is when depression takes over, people start shutting down and isolating themselves which further puts them at risk. I’m a huge believer of having a strong support team. This doesn’t matter whether it’s a friend, family members or a meetup group. Human connections make us feel better especially when they appreciate us. Researches have shown that the more you are surrounded by people who are there for you, the less likely you are going to experience depressive symptoms.
Tip: Next time you feel like shutting down, call up a friend and talk instead. Ask them to monitor your progress and keep encouraging you.
As contradictory as it seems, especially given how low the energy is, getting yourself to exercise is actually one of the best ways to beat depression. I love that saying, when down, move around. Exercise releases natural painkillers in our body which makes us feel better.
Tip: There’s no need to run a marathon. You can take out 10mins daily to take a slow walk in the park to get you started.
Take small steps, and make gradual changes. Remember, you don’t have to do it all alone. Seek and accept help and you will find that there’s a way out of depression.
ABOUT TAZEEN MOHSIN:
Tazeen Mohsin Imran is a clinical psychologist and a workshop facilitator. She takes interest in understanding human behaviour and is working towards improving as as many people’s lives as she can. Her ventures have lead her into numerous fields such as advertising, research and education. She indulged herself in learning alternative healing modalities like Mind Sciences and Reiki, before finally pursuing psychotherapy.
Tazeen is also responsible for developing and implementing the Career Counselling Program conducted by The Citizen’s Foundation that now runs successfully in 14 different cities. She has worked with ICI, Nestle, 3M, Lu biscuits, Unilever, Research International (India), Synovate (India), Engro and has conducted workshops in Telenor, Raaziq International, The City School, The Citizen’s Foundation, and Siraat-ul-Janaat. Her public workshops included participants from Standard Chartered, LUMS, IBA, UBL, Engro, Shaigan Pharmacy, Lotte, LaFarge, OBS group to name a few. For 4years, she was working directly under Sidra Jafri, who is an internationally acclaimed Awakening Facilitator based in UK. She is also an associate consultant with Paul Keijzer for Engage Consulting. She, currently, works with clinically depressed and suicidal clients to everyday people who feel stuck in certain areas of their life, in Pakistan and internationally as well.