Loss of interest in pleasurable and everyday activities
People who suffer from depression usually do not gain as much pleasure as they used to from everyday activities. However, it has been shown that the more a person with depression engages in pleasurable activities, the more their depressive symptoms reduce. This can be done by:
- Making a list of some activities you enjoy doing and feel are meaningful to you.
- Planning to do an activity on the list every day. Choose one that is accomplishable, meaningful and intrinsically enjoyable to you.
- Think about why you are doing the activity – whether it is the sense of enjoyment, health benefits, feeling of accomplishment, or effect it will have on others (e.g. baking a cake for your family).
- Although with depression you will often feel less engaged or willing to participate in activities, remember to focus on the reason for doing the activities, rather than how you feel about it at the time. This means you are more likely to engage in the activity, which afterwards will generally enhance feelings of self-worth, enjoyment and wellbeing.
Worrying and negative thinking
Changing your attitude to your negative thoughts and feelings is not as easy to do alone as it is to do with a psychologist or some other mental health professional. Nevertheless, there are methods you can use to try to change your attitude towards your negative thoughts and feelings, which can in turn enhance your willingness to engage in the meaningful and functional activities that you are avoiding.
- Write down your thoughts and remember that they are just that – thoughts. Your thoughts are not you and they are not 100% true just because you are thinking them – this means that you have a choice about whether/how to respond.
- Listen to your values and desires rather than the negative thoughts you have. Often these thoughts will prevent you from engaging in meaningful and enjoyable activities because they tell you things about yourself such as ‘you are not capable’ and ‘nothing will make you feel better’. Listening to these thoughts often leads to avoidance of the activities that will likely help you to feel more positive about your situation, which will keep you in the depression cycle.
- Engage in mindfulness strategies in order to increase your ability to observe and defuse from your unhelpful thoughts and feelings – recognising that they are separate from you in the same way an object in the environment is separate from you.
- Do not make important decisions when you are feeling very depressed, for you may not be viewing the world very clearly at that time.
Irritability & Fatigue
A common part of depression is feeling irritable or experiencing fatigue. It is important to let others that are close to you know that you sometimes feel like this, so they can support you and be more patient and understanding at these times.
- Make sure to let people know why you may be irritable. Try and help them to understand that it may not necessarily be because you are upset with them, but it is because of what you are going through.
- Try to mindfully observe the sensations and thoughts that come along with being irritable and recognise that you do have a choice about how to react to them.
- Try to be as active as possible, schedule things to do in spare hours of the day, preferably enjoyable and fun activities.
Often when suffering from depression your sleep habits and normal sleep cycles can be affected, but there are things you can do to prevent this:
- Make sure to sleep and get up at the same time every day, despite how tired you are feeling.
- Try to avoid taking naps or sleeping during the day.
- Reduce how much caffeine and alcohol you have during the day, particularly before bedtime.
- If you wake up during the night, do not lie in bed for more than 30 minutes. If you do not fall asleep after 30 minutes, get up, go to another room and do something relaxing, such as listening to music or reading. When you feel tired, go back to bed.
Remember that feeling sad or down is a normal part of being human, but if suicidal thoughts or feelings occur it is essential to tell someone how you are feeling.
- Seek help from a professional such as a psychologist.
- Tell a close, supportive person, such as a friend or family member.
- Try to spend time around other people.
- If you have limited social support and you are not able to see a professional immediately, call Lifeline at any time on 13 11 14.