Situational depression. I mulled those words over. I knew I had been unhappy for a long time and felt little joy, but was it really depression?
Looking at the paper that the counselor had given me, I quickly realized that I checked off almost everything on the symptoms list. A few years ago, I lost my mother, became a caregiver for a spouse with significant medical issues on top of being a dad, and was now facing an unexpected divorce, so my stress levels were off the charts.
That was over a decade ago, and today I'm happy to say that I have recovered. I wanted to share a few things that helped me in case this is something you or someone you know struggles with. Please note that I am not a doctor, so this is not a substitute for medical advice. I'm merely a person who has been through this, done a lot of research on the subject, and came out on the other side.
First of all, what is situational depression? According to Healthline.com, situational depression is a short-term, stress-related type of depression that can develop after you experience a traumatic event or series of events. Situational depression can magnify the intensity of stressful life events and may cause severe disruption to your daily life.
Symptoms of situational depression vary from person to person, but here are the more common ones.
Common Symptoms of Situational Depression:
- lack of enjoyment in normal activities
- regular crying
- constant worrying or feeling anxious or stressed out
- sleeping difficulties
- disinterest in food
- trouble focusing
- trouble carrying out daily activities
- feeling overwhelmed
- avoiding social situations and interaction
- not taking care of important matters like paying your bills or going to work
- thoughts or attempts at suicide
It is important to note that situational depression is a little different than clinical depression, where there is no readily identifiable cause; however, the treatment and symptoms can be very similar.
What Helped Me Recover From Situational Depression
I was in counseling for some time, and while talking about the issue helped, here are the key activities that I believe helped me the most.
- Journaling highs and lows – writing down the highs and lows each day allowed me to analyze them. This allowed me to change my situation by doing more things that led to my highs and fewer activities that led to my lows. The following are some activities that consistently led to more highs.
- Daily exercise – forcing myself to get outside and move
- Eating better – focusing on my diet and losing weight
- Socializing – joining local community groups and getting involved in my local church
- Sunlight – seems silly, but I consistently felt better after being outside in the sun
- Time – it sometimes just takes time to recover
A Note from a Clinical Psychologist Specialized in Treating Depression
Here is a note that I wrote down later from a clinical psychologist who specializes in treating depression. Much of this advice mirrored what helped me.
“Studies have shown that each of the items below will help treat depression. I have found that in combination, they are more effective than any anti-depressant medication.”
- Sunlight or a 10,000 lux lightbox (15 minutes daily, preferably in the early morning)
- Putting away flat-screened electronic devices four hrs before bedtime (or use apps or settings that dim your screen AND red-shift your display during that time)
- Good sleep hygiene
- B Vitamins
- Vitamin D
- >1500 of Omega-3 fatty acids daily
- Cut WAY back on sugar
- 90 minutes of aerobic exercise weekly
- If you drink, stop. Alcohol is a known depressant and can increase anxiety.
- Doing anything to reduce stress without just isolating yourself
Best of Luck on Your Journey, It's Not Easy
I hope these tips help you, it's not an easy thing to go through, and I feel for those who suffer this on a long-term basis. Using this combination, along with the points I made earlier, allowed me to escape depression without taking anti-depressants. Your situation may be a little different, though; mine was situational depression more than a long-term thing, so please check with your doctor. If you're looking to reclaim your passion for life, be sure to ask yourself these three questions.
You may also want to check out the happiness journal I used to keep myself on track, which you can use to get into the habit of focusing on the positive each day. Best of luck on your journey, it's not an easy one, but there have been plenty who made it through this!