Bouts of the blues | Sunday Observer

Bouts of the blues

21 May, 2023

Most of us experience mood swings. Sometimes we are happy even euphoric; at other times, we feel upset, saddened or depressed. Such changes in mood are a normal part of everyday life.

However, in some people, moods such as depression are so pronounced and lingering. They interfere with the ability to function effectively. Even well-known personalities such as the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln and Queen Victoria suffered from periodic attacks of depression.

It is a major problem because depression interferes with your concentration, decision making and sociability. Women are twice as likely to experience depression as men. Although no one knows why, the rate of depression is going up in many parts of the world.

Bouts of the blues or depression can keep you down unless you take remedial measures. There are clear symptoms of depression ranging from insomnia, lack of concentration, fatigue, emotional outbursts and even suicidal thoughts. Such symptoms were quite common to elderly people in the past.

However, there seems to be a surge in such cases among children and teenagers today. No one seems to know the exact cause, but Dr Robert Hirschfield at the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health says this may be due to social changes during the past two decades.

The social changes include emigration of people away from their families for employment in foreign countries. Although severe bouts of depression need medical attention, there are a few steps you can take to beat depression.

A man in his 80s recently complained that he has lost his zest for living after retirement. He was a robust and active worker, but today he says he has no work to do and no one to talk to. A psychiatrist has advised him to do something constructive. When you remain inactive for a long time, you become lazy.

There are certain ways to fight inertia. A man or woman of average education can plan the daily activities and get involved in them. When you are depressed, you do not feel like doing even little tasks such as having a bath or going for a walk. Even if you have people to work for you, do something on your own to break the monotony of life.

Community work

Helping others in their activities is a very good method of helping yourself. In villages, people help each other when they cultivate, gather harvest or put up a house. As such depression is something unheard of in most villages.

However, life in a city is quite different. City dwellers live in highly congested areas where they have no way of helping others. Unless there is an organised Shramadana campaign, they never get an opportunity to engage in community work.

Sometimes young people leave their elderly parents at home and go on trips. By doing so,they allow their parents to suffer in silence. Even when you go shopping, take your elderly parents along with you. They also like to meet people and buy various items. Never give the impression that elderly people are useless and they cannot do anything worthwhile. When they are isolated and do not come into contact with others, they feel depressed.

Even if you are living alone, do not give up your cherished hobbies such as reading, writing or walking. If you are involved in upbeat activities, you will turn life around.

You also need social interaction as you age. Talk to friends over the phone and keep in touch with those who are working or living in faraway places. If you can use a smartphone or a laptop, you will have easy access to a network of friends and well-wishers.

You will never suffer from depression if you meet your friends regularly. At the same time, take part in projects that make you feel competent. If possible, learn something new such as how to use a computer or a new language. Mastering a new skill will give you plenty of pleasure.

In crowded cities, people do not smile even when they meet their neighbours. By having a sullen look all the time can make you a stranger in your own environment. Always remember that simple activities such as smiling or saying “Hello” to people you meet will shape your emotions.

Psychologist James D. Laird of Clark University in Massachusetts says, “If you are feeling sad, don’t drag your feet, walk briskly; don’t slouch, sit upright; and don’t frown, smile. Such an attempt will put you in a better frame of mind.”

Regular exercise

Whether you are 18 or 80, you need regular exercise. It is not necessary go to the gym regularly. There are many exercises you can do on your own. The best exercise is brisk walking early in the morning or evening. If you are able to run, do so and enjoy the difference in feeling.

You will always feel better after doing some form of exercise. Scientists say that aerobatic exercises such as walking, swimming or cycling will improve your sense of well-being and increase your energy.

If you wish to get rid of depression, avoid living in dark or semi-dark houses and rooms. Open the windows and allow sunlight and a soft breeze enter your room. If possible, always try to live in bright places. If you sit or work in dark places, you will feel lethargic.

Some people suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) which is a light-sensitive depression in which mood slumps coincide with dark environments. The best way to get relief from such seasonal depression is to expose yourself to the sun or artificial light. However, natural light is always better than artificial light.

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