What is depression?

Sadness is a normal reaction to life’s struggles. We generally use the word “depression” to explain any kind of “blue” feelings, but depression is much more than just sadness. Just think of the fact that, in some cases, people with depression don’t even feel sad at all, they may feel lifeless, empty, and apathetic, or even angry, aggressive, and restless.

Depression is different from normal sadness, because it interferes with your ability to work, study, eat, sleep, and enjoy life. These feelings also tend to be intense, with little, if any, relief.

People suffering from a depressive mood are also subject to being unable to manage intense negative emotions with the result of feeling overwhelmed and incapable to regulate their emotional responses and behaviors. They experience a constant status of crisis and can’t look at the situation in a way that can help them to find an effective solution.

If you identify with several of the following symptoms, and they just won’t go away, you may be suffering from depression and may want to get in touch with a professional.

  • lack of sleep or sleeping too much
  • lack of concentration or find that previously easy tasks are now difficult
  • feeling hopeless and helpless
  • lack of control of negative thoughts, no matter how much you try
  • lost in appetite or you can’t stop eating
  • much more irritable, short-tempered, or aggressive than usual
  • consuming more alcohol than normal or engaging in other reckless behavior
  • have thoughts that life is not worth living (seek help immediately if this is the case)

What is a mood swing instead?

It is a change in one’s emotional state, that pretty much happens to everybody and it’s to be considered a natural response to what we experience both inside and outside, that is in our environment. We are happy and then become sad; we feel invincible and then powerless, we feel full of energies and then lethargic. Some people may experience small mood swings, but there are others who are more subject to extreme, rapid and serious ones, which interfere with all areas of their lives. One of the most extreme examples of this emotional rollercoaster is the bipolar disorder, which sees individuals going from maniac to depressed.

Mood swings can be annoying when interfering with our emotional states so much that we end up taking wrong decisions, keeping important people in our lives far away from us, getting physically sick and, in general, impact our joy in life and well-being.

If this state has been going on for weeks or months and your mood swings are starting to get in the way or are already severely impacting your life, it is advisable to get in touch with a professional and work on it together.

How can we work together to get through your depressive mood or your mood swings?

The first step is to analyze together which are the patterns behind your emotions and behaviors. We will investigate together what’s linking your present distress to past experiences and your personal history, to then identify more in depth the triggers of these depressive and/or mood swing states. Sometimes it can be something tangible, some other times more of a generic feeling that is difficult to link to anything in particular.

With a clear understanding of the situation, I can offer you an effective and personalized treatment to gain perspective and well-being. Some of the benefits of counseling are in fact improved ability of bouncing back from stressors in life, improving concentration and sense of direction, calmness, responding efficiently to situations, improving relationships and physical well-being.

What can you do to improve your state of mind if experiencing sadness and light mood swings?

The are also simple suggestions, like the ones listed below, that won’t eliminate your problems, however they might help you to break that negative thought pattern and get some relief in case you are not suffering from depression. Again, if you feel overwhelmed and you think you might have a serious mental health problem, you need to seek professional help.

Spend time with people you trust and make you feel good – People surrounding you can affect the way you think and help you seeing things from a different perspective, even being more objective than you are in that “blue Monday”.

Practice what is called “attention training” – purposely pay attention to positive aspects of yourself, others and the environment. This way you can re-wire pathways of your brain that, by nature, tend to focus more on the negative then on the positive aspects in life.

Gain awareness of your personal emotional process – Life is an emotional rollercoaster. Some days you feel empowered, other days totally hopeless. Most of the time you’re somewhere in between. Understanding the pattern of positive and negative emotions will help you put your feelings in perspective.

Be grateful – Researchers have proved that the feeling of gratitude can improve resilience by feeling more satisfied with life, optimistic and think more clearly when it comes to problem-solving strategies. It’s human nature, and extremely tricky, to compare ourselves with others who at our eyes have more success than us, the ones for whom life seems easier. On the other hand, when you consider everything good in your life and compare it to the problems of less fortunate people, the issue that’s making you depressed won’t seem as serious after all.

Do some physical activity – Moving, blowing off the steam, whether it’s while dancing or while running, makes people glowing. It actually makes your brain releasing serotonin, good mood’s best friend. While doing these activities in fact, your body releases endorphins, which improve your mood.

Change your habits – Going through the same routine, day after day, can be boring and depressing. It’s like life never changes and can never be changed, like it’s passing by without us even having the chance of seeing it. To turn off your automatic pilot you need to temporarily change your routine, which as much as it gives us some sense of control that makes us feeling save, is often also poisoning. Do something you don’t normally have time for or something you love doing.

Make up to-go staple– a to-go staple is somewhere you can turn to in order to re-focus your attention on what makes you feel good. Imagine being full of commitments, having pressures and deadlines and feeling overwhelmed by the day, your personal “to-go staple” it’s that break you take to focus your attention on a person that makes you feel good, on a holiday you can’t wait for, on an activity you like, etc. It will give you a better feeling and will impact your following behaviors.

Use more humor – Humor is a coping mechanism, it has been shown to be effective for increasing resilience in dealing with distress and also effective in undoing negative affects. Humor is also one of the most mature defense mechanisms, when not over-used.

Do something to help yourself – How can you alleviate your problem? Once you decide to stop feeling miserable, because yes, feeling miserable is a conscious decision we make, and start moving forward you won’t have time to feel depressed. Action will occupy your mind and give you something to look forward to.

If you think that it’s time for you to accept some help and guidance, you can contact me, I’ll be happy to hear from you.