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You are not Alone

The NHS have designated the week of 22nd – 28th April as DEPRESSION AWARENESS week.

Depression is more common than you may think - 1 in 5 people in the UK suffer from depression. Any one of us could potentially suffer from depression at some point in our lives. When we feel as if everything is getting on top of us, that we are out of control, we worry about what might happen, we worry about what we might have done to prevent something happening, we sleep badly. It is no accident that sleep deprivation has been used as a form of torture. Sleep plays an extremely important role in alleviating the stresses and strains of the day; it is also responsible for physical regeneration and recuperation. When we suffer in this way we may well be susceptible to spiral into depression, and if this occurs it is probable that we will experience at least four of the following symptoms at least half of the time:

Have little interest or pleasure in doing things

Feel down or hopeless

Have trouble falling or staying asleep, or sleep too much

Feel tired or have little energy

Have a poor appetite or overeat

Feel bad about ourselves, or that we’re a failure and have let ourselves or family down

Have trouble concentrating on things

Move or speak so slowly that others notice, or the opposite being fidgety or restless

Experience morbid thoughts

So, now we’ve entered a bit of a vicious circle. We feel lethargic, pessimistic, things are either: black or white, good or bad, safe or dangerous, we can’t come up with the answers, we worry more, we do less, we sleep badly and we feel worse and worse… In turn we may very well be affected physically as the overload of stress hormones in the body lowers our immune system.

The part of the brain (primitive emotional) that is responsible for our survival is essentially negative - always on the look out for potential danger, real or imagined. Yes, I did say imagined. Just think for a moment, how many times have you worried about something in the future that never actually happened or something in the past that you cannot change, and this has caused you a certain amount of stress or anxiety? When we experience an overload of stress this primitive area of the brain comes into play in varying degrees, responding in one of three ways, with anxiety, depression or anger – or a combination of these.

There is good news – IT DOESN’T HAVE TO STAY THIS WAY! There is a way out of this vicious circle. An area of the brain (the higher cortex), the rational part, is the area responsible for seeing the bigger picture, the greys and not just the black and white. When we begin to access this part of the brain more frequently we can start to change things. With some help we can start to look at things differently. When we begin to see things more positively, then we find ourselves behaving and interacting more positively. A new cycle is then formed. We see solutions to our problems, different or better ways to change things/live our lives. We start to cope better, we feel more motivated, we feel happier … and our sleep pattern improves too. We feel refreshed and able to get on with our lives the way that we choose to. As a client of mine said recently, “I was able to sleep well and this gave me the energy to take on the world!”

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