This is part 2 in a series on depression. You can read the first part, Depression: Symptoms & Biblical Hope, here. In this article, Christian Counselor Aliuwa Abali continues exploring the nature of depression, how it relates to sadness, and advice on how to function in the midst of depression.
In this Article:
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Depression: A Continued Look
Depression should be viewed as being on a spectrum. Symptoms can range from mild and temporary to chronic (persistent) and severe. In this article we will explore how to identify depression and where you may be on the depression spectrum, helpful and practical ways of functioning in day to day life and when to seek medical and counseling help, but first I want to address sadness versus depression.
Sadness vs. Depression
Sadness is a normal response to some type of loss, difficult problems, hurts or disappointments. We all feel sad on occasion because “it is hardwired in the middle part of our brain” according to author Hilary Jacobs Hendel who wrote “It’s Not Always Depression.” Sadness is a natural emotion that signals to us something has impacted our world. Typically relief can be found from crying, talking about it, getting family/church/friends support or doing any activity we enjoy etc. Sadness is linked to a specific situation and can resolve itself. If however sadness worsens and other symptoms/behaviors develop and you are unable to resume normal functioning, it could be an indication that depression is starting. This is where tracking your symptoms becomes crucial in order to determine if indeed this is depression.
Since depression could possibly be caused by a combination of biological, medical, psychological or social issues, it is important to track the beginning, intensity, frequency, specific symptoms and what is currently happening in your life and how it is impacting life. It is also important to write down what helps and doesn’t help when you are experiencing your symptoms. I suggest using a tracking method (journaling, notes application on phone etc.) that will be easy to use and you could easily access it anytime. Tracking will help you begin to notice any patterns and triggers.
Writing things down helps to bring concreteness about what is happening, as to decrease the sense of “this is all in my head.” It is also great to have a record to show a counselor, medical doctor, psychiatrist and psychologist should you need additional help. It will help in creating an individualized plan for treating your depression.Tracking will help determine where you are on the spectrum.
Part of tracking is also connecting with the emotions that are triggering the depression. Depression is the body’s way of communicating that there are emotions that need attention, whether you are conscious of those emotions or not. Those underlying emotions can be fear, anger, confusion, feeling lost etc. Even the sense of numbness can indicate that the pain is too overwhelming that a disconnection occurs whereby a person is no longer aware of their emotional state. One way of connecting to those underlying emotions is giving yourself permission to be still and simply focus on your body and become familiar with what physical sensations you are experiencing internally in the moment. Do you feel tightness in your head, lump in your throat, general sense of heaviness—these can indicate the emotion(s) that are happening within you. Our bodies talk and we simply need to learn to listen and interpret what is being said and what it needs. This is one of the techniques I teach my clients.
Advice on how to function in the midst of depression:
- Do not minimize your symptoms
- Create a supportive system for you. As human beings we are not designed to go through difficult situations alone, as it makes the experience even more unbearable. Have people in your corner who are hope dealers to provide encouragement.
- Make self-care your number one priority and make the investment.
- Get treatment when you notice or perhaps those around you notice your symptoms are prolonged, intensifying, you begin to experience Suicidal Ideation/plan or your daily functioning, relationships and health are being greatly hindered.
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