Depression. Creeping in at any hour of the day, it consumes you and removes from you a sense of peace, stability, and positive consciousness. But how do we know we are experiencing the effects of depression and how does it morph our way of being in such a significant way? If you or someone you know is or has suffered from the effects of depression, understanding the triggers and tendencies can begin the transition to overcoming the symptoms and lifting the burdens.
To begin, depression is defined as a common and serious mental health illness that negatively affects how you think, feel, and act around others and by yourself. Depression often causes feelings of sadness, anger, or loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed, and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical issues that can decrease an individual’s ability to function, both at work and at home. Ranging from mild to severe, the symptoms of depression can include feeling sad, loss of interest, changes in appetite, trouble sleeping or sleeping too much, loss of energy, increased fatigue, feeling worthless or guilty, difficulty thinking or concentrating, and thoughts of death or suicide. (If you or someone you know has been experiencing these symptoms for a continued duration of two weeks or more, please contact your physician or therapist for additional support and resources).
Although some people can take the “good” with the “bad” throughout life, often letting the highs and lows of life come and go as a typical ride at the carnival, others, however, are not as resilient. For them, any stressful life event, whether the loss of a loved one, a recent separation from a significant other, or a job loss can kick-start a dramatic downward spiral. If you have a personal or familial history of depression, stopping the spiral before allowing it to get out of control is the key to identifying the cues and clues of what causes your depression. Since every individual is unique, symptoms of depression will also arise uniquely. Thus, no two people will experience depression in the same way, shape or form. No matter what triggers your depression, help is always readily available and within reach.
COMMON DEPRESSION TRIGGERS:
Job Loss: In today’s unsteady economy, many people are losing their jobs. This can often lead to feelings of shame, worthlessness and depression, especially in a person who is vulnerable.
Mood-Boosting Solution: Getting laid off doesn’t mean you are powerless! Perhaps seeking employment counselling as a way to maintain social contacts and connectedness within a workplace environment. Also, this is a creative way to obtain resources and get new contacts to locating potential new places for employment.
Caregiver Stress: There is a high rate of depression among people who take care of a loved one with a chronic illness as it can be physically and emotionally gruelling.
Mood-Boosting Solution: It’s not selfish to take care of yourself. You need to eat well, sleep well, and get exercise or you will not be able to take care of your loved one as efficiently. Many caregivers take on too much so its essential to be realistic about what your loved one needs and what you can provide. Support groups for caregivers can also provide a safe place to talk about your frustrations and grief.
Loss: Losing a loved one is never easy. Some people may be able to get past the loss after a certain amount of grieving time. Others may spiral into a deep depression.
Mood-Boosting Solution: Join a support group! It’s important to realize that you do not have to go through this stress and sadness alone, as there is always someone else out there who can relate with how you may be feeling Individual or group counselling can also help you come to terms with your loss.
Marriage Complications/ Divorce: It can be stressful and upsetting to be in a toxic relationship, but change and starting over can be scary and unsettling, even if you know its the best option.
Mood-Boosting Solution: Some couples can benefit from marriage counselling, and it may also help save their relationship. If you are divorced or separated, support groups and individual therapy can help you get through the adjustment period and remember who you were before the split. Remember, this is a normal and very real part of life, and although we don’t anticipate going through this loss, it’s important to be aware that grieving the loss of a relationship is a part of the healing process and seeking support is both beneficial and healthy to overcoming any potential fallout from occurring.
Hormonal Ups and Downs: Throughout life, our bodies endure periods of change and shift in the natural presence of hormones. In women predominantly, our bodies endure changes when approaching fertility in adolescence, throughout the pregnancy and after-birth process, and as an individual approaches menopause. Thus, the declines in estrogen levels can cause issues such as “baby blues,” or more severe postpartum depression.
Mood-Boosting Solution: Keep a journal to see if you can identify any patterns. If your mood changes and symptoms are impacting your life, treatments can help. This may include therapy, self-talk, and deep breathing. If you are feeling sad, hopeless, and or having trouble caring for and bonding with your baby, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional right away.
Family Strife: While some people may enjoy spending time with their family, others may find it less than enjoyable if the interaction has resulted in relationship tumult, which can significantly affect one’s mood.
Mood-Boosting Solution: Just say no! Sometimes putting yourself and your needs first may be daunting, but it can result in you putting your feelings and well-being ahead of others. Putting yourself in a stressful and unwanted situation can only work to increase your triggers and cause more uneasinesses than intended.
Anniversaries of Loss: Many people face depression on or around the anniversary of a loss, almost as if they are reliving the pain they had initially experienced. These are almost always triggered.
Mood-Boosting Solution: When you know that anniversary is coming and you will most likely be feeling the downward effects, try to increase your connectivity with the people you surround yourself with for support and guidance and honour the anniversary instead of isolating yourself. Being upfront and open about how you feel on that particular day can help you overcome the absence and be proactive in overcoming the sadness.
SELF-REFLECTION & SELF-AWARENESS ACTIVITY
As I complete my M.A. in Counselling Psychology, I have learned the importance of being self-aware and self-reflective, both as you deal with mental health and as you analyze and reflect on your personal life. Some of us have experienced trauma, either in childhood or adulthood, which acts as a trigger for a depressive episode to occur. I can’t stress this enough…THIS IS NORMAL! Although you may be feeling small, alone, and entirely isolated from everyday society, what you are or have been experiencing is a part of human life and is simply an over-activation of normal brain function. Being self-aware allows you to take a moment and reflect:
What is making me sad?
What is causing me anger?
What has happened today/this week/this year to make me feel so down on myself?
Can I be doing more to change my situation?
These are great questions to begin the process of self-reflection and self-awareness to identify what areas of life have caused you pain and whether you can do anything to change it yourself. Many times, outside stressors can influence depressive tendencies, but without reflecting on how they may have caused this to occur, you wouldn’t otherwise be aware that this is a trigger. For example, if an individual experienced a recent separation from their significant other and then watched a movie to TV show depicting a couple enjoying each other’s company and basking in new love, this individual may be triggered by happy emotions which have now turned sad and unhappy. Although a simple and everyday occurrence, this can act as a trigger to this individual and cause depressive episodes to begin spiralling. In this case, take a moment and ask: how does this movie/TV show influence my emotions? Why is it making me feel sad? What emotions am I able to connect with while watching this? Practicing self-reflection takes time, but in the long run, it can help identify your triggers and help you to avoid them in the future.
DEVELOPING A SELF-CARE STRATEGY
No matter what your triggers may be, help is always readily available. Mental health professionals continually advocate for the use and practice of self-care as a part of one’s everyday routine. Especially in cases of depression, developing a self-care plan can ensure that you are taking care of your needs and putting yourself first, at least once throughout the day. Getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, and getting the appropriate amount of sleep are always good ways to start your self-care routine. Perhaps setting a particular sleep and wake up time each day can get your body into a routine and promote better sleep habits. Also, setting a regular exercise routine gets you active and increases your motivation to get moving and breathe some fresh air. Daily activity promotes endorphins which are our natural pain regulators, thus the more active you are, the more ready your body is to regulate daily stressors and suppression of triggers. Lastly, eating a healthy diet allows your body to remain in a healthy and robust condition to confront any obstacles that lie in wait.
I hope identifying your triggers and identifying some potential coping mechanisms has helped you to identify with your depression and can help you point in the right direction moving forward. If you or someone you know is experiencing depression or any related symptoms, be sure to seek help and/or support immediately. For any further questions, inquiries, or comments on this post, please be sure to contact me directly though email or through my Facebook group.