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Is it a blue day or something more? 8 top tips to help you through tough times

"I had a bit of a blue moment towards the end of a good day, slightly emotional. I think it gets to you out here a lot more."

This was an entry in my diary from 2011 when we were following in the footsteps of Captain Scott and trekking to the South Pole. We can all be bombarded by stressors as we tackle our daily lives which can impact our mental health regardless of whether we are at the extremes of the planet. We can all have blue days but if these last for prolonged periods then it could be something more such as depression. The key thing is to know what is and isn't normal. A prolonged feeling of 'down' could signal you need to seek help. I have provided a useful acronym 'Festival' for what to look out for to help yourself or others:

Depression will affect 1 in 6 people in their lifetime (NICE, 2009). So, if you’re feeling down, how easy is it to determine whether it is as a result of depression or the normal ups and downs of life?

F - Feelings

How do you feel?

Sometimes you may feel low, sad or anxious without a specific reason. Often described as the ‘Black Dog’, a phrase coined by Winston Churchill who also lived with bouts of depression throughout his life.

TIP - Keep in touch with friends or family so that you have someone to talk to when you are feeling this way.

E - Energy

Are you constantly feeling tired or fatigued?

With low energy, everything will feel like an effort. Things that you would have normally tackled without a second thought can seem just ‘too much’.

TIP - Try and build some physical exercise into your daily routine, even if it is a walk around the block for 20 minutes. Exercise will boost your mood and proven to be good for your general health too.

S - Sleep

When sleep patterns go awry this can manifest itself as sleeping too much or too little. We all know that without the right amount or right quality of sleep, we can feel rubbish.

TIP - Get into a good bedtime routine. Stay away from screens before bed and find a way of relaxing before going to bed. This could be enjoying a soak in the bath or reading a book. Help your mind to wind down so that your quality of sleep increases.

T - Thinking

How are your thought patterns? How is your mind functioning?

When depressed, you may feel like you are ‘just not as quick as before’. Maybe your mind seems to be working at a slower pace? Or your concentration levels are poor?

TIP - There are many ways to improve your memory and concentration. Maybe you could try some memory games or tackle a crossword, or perhaps think about trying some meditation techniques.

I - Interest

Depression can cause us to lose interest in many things that we once enjoyed. This could be a hobby that you regularly pursued, loss of interest in your job that you used to love, or loss of interest in intimacy.

TIP - Think of the things that you once found interesting or that gave you pleasure: pick up a favourite book, cook your favourite meal, spend some time in your garden, or re-engage with a former hobby. This may help you to become interested in things again and from this you will find pleasure.

V - Value

Do you value yourself less? People who are feeling depressed often find themselves saying things like ‘I don’t feel good enough’, or ‘I don’t feel like I have anything to offer’.

TIP - Spend time with people who make you feel good about yourself. Think about something that you are good at as a way of challenging negative thoughts about yourself. Acknowledge the positive thoughts that start to return each day.

A - Aches

Poor mental health can affect our physical health. The two are not separate entities. Aches, headaches, and sometimes chest pains are common side effects of depression. And indeed if your anxiety levels increase, then these symptoms are likely to as well.

TIP - Regular exercise, a good sleep routine and a healthy diet will all start to make a positive impact on your general health. Drink plenty of water and try to stay away from or at least reduce your intake of alcohol which could also be a factor in things such as headaches.

L - Live

Perhaps one of the most serious effects of some people with depression is that they feel suicidal. They quite literally describe themselves as not wanting to live anymore. When feeling like this you will find yourself coming to a T-junction. This is the point where you will decide whether to seek help. If you or someone you know allude to or mentions suicide, then they should seek professional help.

The importance of looking after your own mental health or that of others must not be underestimated. Many employers now have a proactive approach to mental health and that of their employees. Providing regular Mental Health (MH) training is not the magic bullet but can be used effectively to support the organisations' MH policy and action plan strategy. MH training can raise awareness for employees to help themselves, in order that they can help their teammates.

The results have clear benefits to the organisation and the individual such as decreased staff turnover, improved productivity and performance, attract new talent which will ultimately improve the bottom line of any company; it could even save a life!

If you would like further details about mental health training or consultancy then please contact Paul via the enquiry form.

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