At Alba Psychology we regularly meet individuals who have difficulties with low mood or depression following a brain injury. People with depression or a related problem often feel as though they are the only person in the world suffering like this. This in itself can be very distressing. In fact, depression is very common and it can affect anyone.
Feeling fed up and a bit down is a normal part of life. If something upsetting has happened to you then it is not unusual to feel this way and to not enjoy what is happening in your life.
Sometimes, a person’s mood may seem to drop for little or no obvious reason. In some cases, low mood can worsen and begin to dominate someone’s life completely. When someone feels very low for more than two weeks and feels like this day after day, week after week, this is called a depressive illness. It affects the person’s mood and their thinking. Their behaviour may start to change and they may experience a range of physical symptoms in their body. Practical problems may start to build up in that person’s life.
There are various ways of tackling your depression using psychological methods. The first step is to think about your activities and routine.
When people are depressed, they usually do less. Activities seem less enjoyable and take more effort. Sometimes people worry that if they do something they will make a mistake or do it badly. Unfortunately the less you do, the less you feel like doing. When you are not doing things you used to enjoy, you miss out on the pleasure they gave you. Also, doing less can make you feel less confident about things you used to be able to do without a second thought. Worries about being incapable of doing things creep in. This is likely to make you feel worse. There is now a vicious circle.
Breaking the vicious circle
Part of overcoming your depression is breaking this cycle of inactivity. This means gradually getting back to doing things you used to. At first this will seem very difficult, and you may predict that you will fail. If you find yourself thinking in this way, tell yourself that you can change your habits, but it will take time.
Becoming more active
The key to changing habits of inactivity is to work gradually You may have been less active for quite a while, so it is unrealistic to expect this to change overnight.
Set yourself daily targets for activity. At first you could try to do something for 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the afternoon.
Choose an activity that used to give you a sense of enjoyment or achievement, but don’t worry if you don’t find it enjoyable to begin with.
If you do manage some activity – congratulate yourself. Keep up the habit! Doing something is better than doing nothing.
Once you become more used to more activity, you can gradually increase the amount you are doing. Notice that being more active makes you feel more motivated to do things.
If you find your targets too difficult, think about what is holding you back.
Perhaps negative thoughts have crept in. You may have tried to do too much. Set yourself an easier target and try again.
Next week – how to manage negative thoughts in depression
Please do not hesitate to contact Alba Psychology if you feel you would like to discuss your own difficulties with low mood.