Mental health issues are among the most debilitating that an individual can suffer. Unlike physical
illness, it’s not visible to the naked eye, but mental illness has a knock-on effect in every part of a
person’s life. From not sleeping, to being unable to work, to the more serious issues of eating
disorders and alcohol misuse, mental health can affect all areas of life. In the workplace alone, 70%
of line managers report managing an employee with mental health issues.
What IS depression?
Depression tends to mean different things to different people. Some claim that they are ‘depressed’
when they are just feeling a bit low or sad. Clinical depression is more than this; it is a very real
illness with very real symptoms.
Feeling sad or hopeless
Unable to feel positive
Difficulty sleeping or waking very early
Reduced appetite or sexual drive
Loss of enjoyment in things
With clinical depression these symptoms last for weeks or months. True depression is down to a
chemical imbalance in the brain – chronically low serotonin levels. Medications are available to
combat this, but many people don’t like the idea of relying on artificial means of support for
depression. So is there another option?
Mind over matter?
Antidepressants can have all sorts of side effects, some of them unpleasant and some less so. This is
just one reason why some patients prefer talking therapies and positive thinking to beat depression,
but how effective is this?
The problem with depression is that any positive feelings tend to get occluded because depression
magnifies negative thoughts. These negative thoughts then take on far more significance and
become overwhelming, leading to a downward spiral of illness. It can be very difficult to break free
from this. However, with milder symptoms, sometimes lifestyle changes can be enough to lift the
It sounds trite, but the first thing to focus on is prioritising positive thought. Concentrate on
banishing any negative elements and bringing positive ones to the fore. And then:
– Surround yourself with supportive friends and family. It’s important that you spend time
with those who will be gentle on you.
– Eat well. A good diet does wonders for the body and mind. Avoid too much sugar, processed
foods and fast foods with empty calories.
– Sleep properly. The hours of sleep that you get before midnight are more beneficial than
those afterwards. Make an effort to go to bed at a sensible time and give yourself space to
wind own and relax completely before you go to sleep. Lavender can have a wonderfully
soothing effect; try sprinkling a few lavender drops on your pillow to help you sleep.
– Avoid alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant and though you may feel that it helps in the short
term, in the long term it will do more damage than good.
– Exercise. This may be the most important element of all. Exercise allows the brain to release
endorphins – things which make us feel good. An endorphin rush is a powerful thing and lifts
our mood very effectively.