Depression is more than just feeling down or sad.  It is common to feel lower in mood at times as we move throughout our lives, but with depression these feelings can last weeks or months and are much more persistent – often feeling permanent at the time.

Things to look for are a loss of interest in things which you would have previously found pleasure in.  You may find sleeping difficult or could be sleeping too much.  Your appetite could also be different to normal - you may be overeating or not eating much at all – or anywhere between the two.

Feelings range from sadness to feeling suicidal.  If you feel you are depressed it is important to seek out professional help and your GP would be a good place to start.  Treating depression as early as possible is always good practice.

Self-care for Depression

First Steps;

  • It’s ok not to be ok. Firstly admit to yourself that you are not feeling how you want to feel.
  • Set very basic goals for the day e.g. get up and get dressed.
  • Try and schedule your day so that it has some structure. This could be simply having 3 proper meals in the day at certain times.

Initial basic steps to look after yourself;

  • Try and include exercise in your schedule. Admittedly this may be the last thing you want to do but it’s a great way of feeling better.  This could simply be a short walk to start with.
  • Try to get enough sleep, aiming for between 7/8 hours is optimum. Adapt sleep hygiene - for example, don’t drink caffeine from the afternoon, avoid looking at screens shortly before bed and avoid napping in the day time – this is hard when you are depressed.
  • Make sure you eat healthy food and have a balanced diet, again being depressed encourages you to do the opposite but like exercise, a good diet can really improve your mood over time.
  • Look after your appearance – e.g. having a shower and brushing your hair - or shaving.
  • Avoid quick fixes which will make you feel better in the short term such as alcohol or nicotine. These are very addictive and will make you feel worse in the long turn.

Making connections with other people;

  • Try and open up to a friend or family member about how you are feeling. This may be incredibly hard if you are stationed somewhere new and have few connections.  If it’s hard to find someone, then consider opening up to someone on a helpline (Samaritans 116 123).
  • Just find a space where you can get some matters off of your chest.
  • Are there any groups you could join on the base? This is hard at the moment, but even some online groups may be of benefit.  Keeping Families in Mind offer two groups, a creative writing group and an arts and craft group.

Other useful self-care tips which may be useful;

  • Where you feel able to, try and have a positive outlook on life and ask yourself, is there anything I can be grateful for in my life? This can be very hard when you are not feeling great.
  • Try to visit new places and interact with different people. Admittedly this is very hard at the moment but are there any support networks you could reach out to, to expand your support system?
  • Give yourself time in your day where it’s just for you, where you can do something for you, guilt free. Do you have any interests, enjoy listening to music or like watching a certain TV programme?  Obviously doing this too much might be counterproductive but just giving yourself time might be very beneficial.
  • Spend time in nature. Research has found that being outside can help with the symptoms of depression.  Maybe combine the exercise elements mentioned above and socialising, with being in nature.
  • Try Mindfulness. Mindfulness is focusing on the here and now by either concentrating on your own body or your surroundings.  By noticing your thoughts and letting them go, you can realise over time that you are not defined by your thoughts.  Phone apps such as Calm or HeadSpace can be very useful if you need guidance to start with.

Finally, go easy on yourself.  This is a very difficult time and where you can, you need to be kind to yourself.  Good structure and guilt-free relaxation are some of the best things to do, as well as trying to feel gratitude for the small things that you may have.

Often transitions between deployments can be a very hard time for family members of service people and can bring about a lot of challenges.  Open lines of communication between you and your partner are vital and where possible try and complete some of these self-care tips with them, as hopefully you will feel a benefit in the relationship itself, as well as in you individually.