Into the Light: Overcoming Depression and Embracing Life

Posted November 7, 2023 by Cristina Vrech

Cristina Vrech - Individual and couples therapist

Cristina Vrech

Founder and Director - Individual & Couple Therapist, Corporate Services

Co-founder and director of Leone Centre, Cristina Vrech, has 20+ years of experience in working and supporting people, 14+ years of extensive experience as a therapist and offers valuable knowledge to individuals and couples. Prior to being a therapist, she worked in the financial sector.

Cristina takes a down-to-earth and direct approach across the landscapes of relationships, communication, stress, infidelity, confidence, loneliness, addiction, separation and divorce, IVF, and anxiety.

Offering Online Counselling and in person counselling.

Cristina Vrech can help with...

Depression can be described as a profound disconnect between one’s inner self and the external world, a soulful dissonance where the inner world yearns for meaning, connection, and authenticity, but the external reality often falls short. 

What is Depression?

Depression, often characterised by overwhelming feelings of sadness, numbness and hopelessness, is a state of consciousness that can significantly impact our lives. It is frequently associated with the suppression of negative emotions and attachments to specific outcomes, leading to a sense of suffering and feeling emotionally disoriented.

Depression can be debilitating and should be taken seriously. Seeking professional help, counselling, and support is essential for those who are struggling with depression, as it can lead to better outcomes and a more sustainable path to well-being.

Positively, depression can also be seen as the psyche’s way of signalling that something is amiss, urging us to embark on a journey of self-discovery and transformation. It’s an invitation to delve deep within ourselves and address the emotional and psychological wounds, which may have been previously suppressed or ignored, in pursuit of a more profound reconnection with our authentic selves and the world around us.

What does depression look like?

Depression is a complex emotional state that affects how a person feels and thinks. It also impacts how daily activities like sleeping, eating, working and interacting with others are managed. It can last a long time or can be short-term. For some, it may be caused by an event or experience, but it can also occur seemingly without cause. Experiencing depression can be distressing and even alarming – but understanding the nature of depression is the critical first step to overcoming it. 

Woman walking through green space, holding hand out

Depression can affect anyone, regardless of their race, age, gender,or ethnicity. Although certain groups are diagnosed with depression more than others, there are many factors which may impact this, and this may not be an accurate representation. For example, women are diagnosed with depression more than men, but this may be because men are less likely to seek support due to social stigma.

If you are depressed, you might experience the following:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood (i.e. not feeling anything)
  • Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, guilt, pessimism, or worthlessness.
  • No longer feeling interest or gaining pleasure from hobbies and activities you once enjoyed
  • Decreased energy
  • Becoming withdrawn, negative, isolated or detached
  • Increased engagement in high-risk activities or use of alcohol and drugs
  • Inability to meet responsibilities in work and family life, or ignoring other important roles.
  • Problems with sexual desire and performance
  • Finding it difficult to remember things, make decisions or concentrate.
  • Changes to sleep pattern, difficulty falling asleep or waking up, or waking up in the night or very early.
  • Changes in appetite or unplanned weight changes
  • Unexplained physical aches, problems with digestion, or pains.
  • Thinking about death or suicide, or suicide attempts.

Not everyone who experiences depression will experience all of these symptoms, or even most of them. Depression is defined medically as experiencing one or more of these symptoms for two weeks or more. If you are concerned about your symptoms, particularly if they are impacting your ability to function day-to-day, or you are having thoughts of suicide, contact a health professional, such as a GP or a mental health professional, such as a counsellor, urgently. Leone Centre offers fast-track therapy services; please feel free to get in touch if you feel you require help.

There are also anonymous, 24-hour helplines available:
  • NHS Urgent Mental Health Helplines: Find your local NHS urgent mental health helpline.
  • Call 111: If you are not able to speak to your local NHS urgent mental health helpline, you need help urgently for your mental health, but it’s not an emergency, or if you’re not sure what to do.
  • Call 999: if someone’s life is at risk – for example, they have seriously injured themselves or taken an overdose, or you do not feel you can keep yourself or someone else safe. A mental health emergency should be taken as seriously as a physical one. You will not be wasting anyone’s time.
  • Samaritans. Call 116 123 to talk to Samaritans, or email: jo@samaritans.org for a reply within 24 hours.
  • Childline. If you are under 19 year old, you can call 0800 1111 to talk to Childline. The number will not appear on your phone bill.
  • SANEline. If you’re experiencing a mental health problem or supporting someone else, you can call SANEline on 0300 304 7000(4.30pm-10.30pm every day).
  • National Suicide Prevention Helpline UK. Offers a supportive listening service to anyone with thoughts of suicide. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Helpline UK on 0800 689 5652 (6pm to midnight every day).
  • Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM). You can call CALM on 0800 58 58 58 (5pm-midnight every day) if you are struggling and need to talk. Or if you prefer not to speak on the phone, you could try the CALM webchat service.
  • SHOUT. If you would prefer not to talk but want some mental health support, you could text SHOUT to 85258. Shout offers a confidential 24/7 text service providing support if you are in crisis and need immediate help.
  • The Mix. If you’re under 25, you can call The Mix on 0808 808 4994(3pm-midnight every day), request support by email using this form on The Mix website or use their crisis text messenger service.
  • Papyrus HOPELINEUK. If you’re under 35 and struggling with suicidal feelings, or concerned about a young person who might be struggling, you can call Papyrus HOPELINEUK on 0800 068 4141 (24 hours, 7 days a week), email pat@papyrus-uk.org or text 07786 209 697.
  • Nightline. If you’re a student, you can look on the Nightline website to see if your university or college offers a night-time listening service. Nightline phone operators are all students too.
  • Switchboard. If you identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, you can call Switchboard on 0300 330 0630 (10am-10pm every day), email chris@switchboard.lgbt or use their webchat service. Phone operators all identify as LGBT+.
  • Community Advice and Listening Line (C.A.L.L.)  If you live in Wales, you can call C.A.L.L. on 0800 132 737 (open 24/7) or you can text ‘help’ followed by a question to 81066.
  • Helplines Partnership. For more options, visit the Helplines Partnership website for a directory of UK helplines.
  • Mind’s Infoline can also help you find services that can support you: 0300 123 3393.
  • Befrienders Worldwide. If you’re outside the UK, the Befrienders Worldwide website has a tool to search by country for emotional support helplines around the world.

The holistic approach to overcoming depression 

The term “holistic” is derived from the Greek word “holos,” which means “whole” or “entire”.

You can work towards healing by taking a holistic (well-rounded) approach to tackling it, looking at your physical health, quality of life, hobbies, and social life. If this feels overwhelming, start small. Choose one area where you can realistically make sustainable positive changes and work from there.

Changes in perspective 

  • Treat yourself well and kindly. One way to do this could be to think about your love language and treat yourself accordingly. For example, if your love language is quality time, schedule some time to intentionally do something you enjoy for the sole sake of your own happiness. Cultivating self-love is crucial to overcoming depression.
  • Identify unhelpful thoughts and patterns. You may wish to write these down and think about where they might come from and how realistic they seem on closer examination. CBT exercises and therapists can also support reframing these.
  • Keep a gratitude journal – write down all the things you are grateful for and re-read it often. Even if they seem like small or insignificant things, this can help your brain to readjust to focus on the positive aspects of your life. Depression partly works through the brain’s ability to rewire itself based on what you are focusing on, called neuroplasticity.
  • Talking therapies can be incredibly useful for tackling depression. A qualified, empathetic counsellor can support you to process your depression healthily, as well as to understand the root cause, which can help you to move forward.

Lifestyle changes

  • Reduce electronic use and social media. The overuse of devices like smartphones, laptops and electronic tablets, as well as frequent social media use, have been linked to higher rates of mental health illness and poor sleep.
  • Art and hobbies have been proven to increase dopamine levels, a hormone which makes us feel good, satisfied and happy.
  • Spending time outside in nature has been proven to improve mental health. You could also bring plants and greenery into your space. Even watching nature documentaries and looking at photos and videos of nature has been proven to support good mental health.
  • Peer support can be very helpful for people struggling with depression. You could try joining an online or in-person community or reaching out to supportive friends and family. You may be surprised by how many people in your life have experienced depression. By learning that others share your experiences, you may feel less overwhelmed and isolated. You also may find tips to help you.

Young caucasian man sitting in a support group, talking to others.

  • Physical health is crucial to mental health. You may be familiar with the term “the gut is the second brain” – and it’s true! Our gut bacteria produce and respond to the same mood-regulating hormones our brains use. Furthermore, the endorphins produced by exercise are incredible mood boosters.
  • Although exercise may feel very difficult, start with something manageable like a short (5-10 minute) daily walk or activity. Exercise helps us manage stress, connect with the environment and each other, and improve our sleep, confidence and mood. Be careful not to over-exercise or force yourself to do activities you don’t enjoy or want to do. Moreover, remember your right to rest – if you are genuinely too tired or sick, give yourself grace and don’t punish yourself for it.
  • Consciously eating a balanced diet and drinking water may also help your symptoms because the brain needs energy and hydration to function. Hydration also helps with concentration and thinking – be aware of how much you drink but also what you drink – try to avoid lots of fruit juices and caffeinated or flavoured drinks containing high sugar levels.
  • Sleep is also crucial to mental health. Poor sleep can significantly affect mental health and energy levels. It can impact your ability to relate to and get along with others, your ability to regulate your emotions and concentrate, and your physical health. To improve your sleep, try practising good sleep hygiene: Make your sleep space as relaxing and comfortable as possible. Think about light levels, temperature and bedding. Establish a bedtime routine which is enjoyable and relaxing – and screen-free. The human brain likes routine, so after a few weeks, you may find yourself sticking to it automatically. For some, this may not work, and you may want to establish a similar waking routine instead.
  • Avoiding substances like alcohol and drugs can make a tremendous difference to your mental health. Although the instinct to distract or suppress difficult emotions can be tempting, this often makes depression symptoms much worse. Alcohol is a depressant which disrupts your brain’s ability to regulate the hormone levels which are responsible for mood and can also lower inhibitions, leading to riskier decisions which can make you feel much worse. And, although alcohol and drugs can help you to feel temporarily more relaxed and confident, the long-term effects on your brain’s hormone regulation via neurotransmitters can make you feel much more anxious (leading to comedowns and “hangxiety”)

people holding hands in comfort, on a wooden table closeup

Be Kind to Yourself

Although overcoming depression can feel like an impossible mountain to climb, addressing your needs and learning to process your emotions healthily can make a huge difference. And remember, you don’t need to climb the whole mountain at once. Take it one step at a time.