Surprisingly (or not), depression is
viewed by one too many persons as a “white man problem” and not our problem in
this part of the world. Some have even gone on to tag it “a figment of idle
imagination” or just a mere feeling of sadness that will pass away. This is NOT
TRUE. Depression is a real medical condition that, if left unchecked, can lead
to fatal consequences.
Depression may be described as feelings of sadness, loss, or anger that interfere with a person’s everyday activities. It should not be confused with grief over something, like the loss of a loved one. There are differences between the two, even though they may seem related. The symptoms of depression can range from mild (feeling sad) to severe (thoughts of death or suicide).
Just how common is depression in the
Nigerian space? Google “Depression”. This medical condition is labelled as
“Very Common” with about 1.5 million cases per year in Nigeria alone. Not sure
about the stats? How about this: A recent World
Bank study approximates about 22%
of Nigerians to be suffering from Chronic Depression. Not sold yet? An
article by some scholars from the
University of Nigeria, Nsukka and the Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakiliki
found out that about 20% of teenagers report a lifetime prevalence of
depression. I can go on and on, but you should have gotten the hint by this
point. Depression is a real thing and it plagues our society more than is given
attention by most.
Given its prevalence and the state of
affairs generally, it is not uncommon that we will, at one point or another,
feel depressed. Don’t feel like it’s as a result of a personality flaw or
weakness. There are a few things you can do to manage this condition.
On your own, it is extremely difficult
to overcome depression. At the same time, depression makes one withdraw from
others, making it difficult to ask for help. You might feel too tired to talk
or too ashamed of your situation to talk about it. This will do nothing to help
Reaching out should not be seen as a
sign of weakness. Don’t feel like an imposition, your friends and loved ones
don’t feel that way and they have your best interests at heart. Make sure to
have physical contact with these loved ones; don’t limit it to social media and
phone calls. Accept social invitations even when you don’t feel like it. Never overlook
the effect of healthy companionship on your mental health.
Things That Make You Happy
Engross yourself in activities that you enjoy doing, or used to enjoy doing. Do things that relax and energize you, things that help you relieve stress and have fun. It might seem like a chore at the time, but just get yourself out there. You’ll be surprised at how much better you feel after you’re done.
There are some healthy activities that you can do. Try some relaxation techniques for stress relief. Read a good book. Watch a good movie. Do something spontaneous. Try to make a list of possible activities you can engage in and follow through with it.
It might be hard getting out of bed when depressed. But you must make the effort to. Try to engage in regular exercise, it is a powerful depression fighter. Dr. Michael Craig Miller, as quoted in one Harvard Medical School article, explains: “In people who are depressed, neuroscientists have noticed that the hippocampus in the brain—the region that helps regulate mood—is smaller. Exercise supports nerve cell growth in the hippocampus, improving nerve cell connections, which helps relieve depression”. The intensity of the exercise depends on the individual, but as little as a 10-minute walk can help improve your mood for 2 hours.
Your diet directly affects your mood. So
you might want to avoid foods that affect your brain and mood. Some of these
include caffeine, alcohol, trans fats, and foods with high levels of chemical
preservatives or hormones. You’ll be better served eating more healthy foods
rich in selenium, antioxidants, Omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin D. Types of
these foods are explained here.
If you have tried to improve your lifestyle and you still feel the same way or even worse, it might be time to seek professional help. Speak to your doctor about the issue. But don’t ignore self-help tips; they might make the treatment work faster. Never take the short cut out. You will be back on track in no time!