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  • Writer's pictureRenee Melges

Depression – a reflective journey

11 ways to manage depression from a holistic psychologist's perspective, including extensive insights into the benefits of meditation.

by Renee Melges, Clinical Psychologist

We often put on a mask in life portraying happiness and contentment while concealing the turmoil within. Despite outward appearances of success and joy, many of us grapple with internal struggles. Sometimes it is hard to identify the root cause of our unhappiness. We find ourselves lacking motivation, struggling with energy, feeling flat unable to recapture the same level of happiness or fulfillment we may have once enjoyed.


Depression manifests for a myriad of reasons, often stemming from unresolved issues buried deep within our past, including past trauma. Reflecting on our journey, we may come to realise that our past decisions and actions have inadvertently led us to where we are today, perpetuating recurring patterns of discontent. On the other hand, the accumulation of negative or traumatic events over time may have led to the development of our current emotional state, characterised by depression.

What is Depression

Depression is a complex mental health condition that can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or background. It goes beyond mere feelings of sadness and can significantly impact one's thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. Symptoms of depression often include persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or emptiness, loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, significant changes in appetite or weight, difficulty sleeping or oversleeping, fatigue, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, difficulty concentrating, and even thoughts of self-harm or suicide.


How do you know if you are Depressed?

Recognising depression within oneself can be challenging, as it often manifests differently from person to person. However, if you find yourself experiencing several of the symptoms mentioned above consistently for an extended period, it may be indicative of depression. It's essential to pay attention to changes in your mood, behaviour, and overall well-being. Additionally, if loved ones express concern about your mental health or if you're struggling to cope with daily activities, seek professional help for further evaluation and support.


Where do you seek help if you are Depressed?

Seeking help for depression is a crucial step towards recovery. There are various resources available for individuals struggling with depression. Your GP can offer initial assessments and referrals to mental health professionals, including psychologists, psychiatrists, or therapists specialising in evidence-based treatments for depression. Additionally, helplines and online support groups can provide immediate assistance and connect you with local mental health services. Remember, reaching out for help is a sign of strength, and you're not alone in your struggle.


Depression Management Techniques

While professional intervention is often necessary for managing depression, there are several self-care strategies that can complement formal treatment and support your overall well-being:


1) Regular Exercise

Engaging in physical activity releases endorphins, neurotransmitters that can improve mood and reduce feelings of depression.


2) Healthy Eating Habits

Consuming a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can positively impact your mood and energy levels.


3) Mindfulness and Meditation

Practicing mindfulness and meditation can be grounding, support you to live in the present moment, help calm the mind, reduce stress, and cultivate a greater sense of inner peace.


4) Establishing a Routine

Creating a daily routine provides structure and stability, helping to alleviate feelings of aimlessness and disorganisation.


5) Aromatherapy

Essential oils can play a supportive role in uplifting mood during periods of depression. Essential oils contain various chemical constituents that can influence mood through their effects on the limbic system, which is in essence the ‘emotional control centre’ in the brain and involved in emotional regulation.


Inhalation or topical application of essential oils is a fast and effect way to stimulate the ‘emotional control centre’ and may offer temporary relief from symptoms of depression.


For example, the citrusy scent of essential oils like Bergamot, Wild Orange, Lemon, and Lime contains compounds such as limonene, which have been associated with mood enhancement and stress reduction.


6) Social Support

Building and maintaining relationships with friends, family, or support groups can provide emotional support and a sense of belonging, reducing feelings of isolation and loneliness.


7) Limit or abstain from Alcohol and Illicit Substance Use

Both excessive alcohol consumption and illicit drug use can exacerbate symptoms of depression by disrupting neurotransmitter balance and brain chemistry, impairing mood regulation, intensifying negative emotions, and ultimately hindering recovery, potentially leading to increased feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and lethargy.


8) Setting Realistic Goals

Break tasks into smaller, manageable steps and celebrate your accomplishments, no matter how small, to foster a sense of achievement and self-worth.


9) Change the Temperature

Changing your body temperature can be effective in managing stress levels. You may find it nurturing to have a hot shower or relaxing warm bath, drink warm tea, snuggle up in a blanket, or spend time outside in the sun on a hot day.


Alternatively, when you feel depressed, stimulating your suppressed physical body with cooler temperatures may be beneficial. Try splashing your face with cold water, taking a cool shower, or going for a walk on a chilly day.


10) Stayed connected

Have you ever noticed that when you feel depressed, you tend to withdraw from people and isolate yourself? Sometimes, taking a step back to regroup can be helpful. However, if you find yourself overwhelmed with negative thoughts, increased feelings of worthlessness, and hopelessness, it’s important to stay connected to those you trust.


Even if you feel like you can’t get out of bed and just want to be alone, reaching out to supportive people around you is important. If you live with trusted and supportive individuals, let them know how you’re feeling. If you live alone or in an unsupportive environment, reach out to your support network. Additionally, connect with your GP, psychologist, or other healthcare professionals to avoid carrying the burden alone and to gain support through your depressive episode. They may have options to assist you during this difficult time.


11) Embrace the Mantra ‘This Too Shall Pass'

You know what your best self feels like—grounded, calm, and positive. In this balanced state, you can solve problems more effectively and work through worries and concerns objectively. However, when depression sets in, our thoughts can become extremely negative, dark, and intrusive. It's crucial to recognise when we're entering a negative thought spiral, as our thinking often becomes irrational and limited.


During these times, it's important not to engage with these negative thoughts. Instead, allow yourself to engage in healthy, supportive activities that occupy your mind and ground you in your body, breaking the negative thought cycle. Consider exercising, listening to uplifting music, watching a comedy, playing games, or even doing domestic chores or running errands. Embrace the mantra “This too shall pass.” Emotions do shift, and while it's important to address your problems and not avoid your issues, it's best to do so when you're in a better frame of mind.


Benefits of Meditation for Depression

Meditation offers numerous benefits for depression. Research has shown that regular meditation practice can:

Reduce Stress

Meditation can help to reduce stress levels by promoting relaxation and fostering a sense of calmness.


Improve Emotional Regulation

By increasing self-awareness and promoting non-judgmental acceptance of one's thoughts and emotions, meditation can help you to better regulate your emotions, reducing the intensity of depressive symptoms.


Enhance Cognitive Functioning

Meditation has been found to improve cognitive functioning, including attention, memory, and executive function. This can be particularly beneficial for those of you who experience reduced cognitive functioning associated with depression, such as difficulty concentrating or making decisions.


Decrease Rumination

Rumination, or repetitive negative thinking patterns, is a common feature of depression. Meditation can support you to learn to observe your thoughts without becoming entangled in them, reducing rumination and promoting a more balanced perspective.


Increase Resilience 

Regular meditation practice has been shown to enhance resilience to stress and adversity, increasing one’s capacity to cope with life's challenges, reducing the sense of vulnerability.


Incorporating meditation into your daily routine can contribute to improving your overall well-being. Whether through guided meditation sessions, mindfulness exercises, or relaxation techniques, finding a meditation practice that resonates with you can be a valuable tool in your journey towards healing and recovery.


Remember, managing depression is a journey, and recovery may take time. Be patient with yourself and prioritise self-care as you navigate through this challenging time. With the right support and coping strategies, it's possible to overcome or manage depression and reclaim a more fulfilling life.


About the Author

Renee Melges Holistic Psychologist

Renee Melges is a holistic Psychologist based in Melbourne and a registered Clinical Psychologist Ashburton, who offers in person sessions and holistic counselling online and also Australia-wide. Read more about Renee here.


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