As a Mental Health Practitioner, I have been experimenting with well-being exercises that support my writing, and I want to open up discussions about writer’s well-being.
Well-being is defined as “the state of feeling healthy and happy” by the Cambridge Dictionary. Thus, there are multiple facets to our health and happiness than just our mental health, which can impact each other.
Today I want to discuss Low Mood and Depression. As always, I am not a medical professional and please see your GP if you feel you require any form of support for your mental health. If you live in England, every county has access to a free IAPT psychological therapies service. Additionally, The Samaritans are a free, confidential listening charity, and you can contact them on 116 123 if you need to talk.
Mental Health :: Depression & Behaviours
The main role of my day-job, is to provide support to people experiencing mild to moderate depression and anxiety. There are plenty of other aspects, but that’s the main part of my job description.
For many people, depression doesn’t occur alone. It often follows other conditions like a shadow; from physical health problems and stressful life events to other mental health problems like anxiety (Avenevoli et al, 2015).
In terms of writer’s mental health, this is clearly a much-debated topic. From famous writers sharing their experiences to comments about why someone might write a horror novel. Again, drugs tend to be discussed alongside mental health, and these invisible illnesses are often stigmatised. Some writers who discuss mental health include J.K. Rowling, Stephen Fry, Stephen King, Emma Thompson, Elizabeth Wurtzel and Carrie Fisher.
If the word “depression” means “sad” (or doesn’t mean anything) to you, I’d recommend this video by the World Health Organisation, which explains common symptoms and the impact incredibly well. It’s impossible to encapsulate everything that someone may experience in depression, and symptoms will differ between people.
The most common treatments for managing depressive symptoms include medication, which commonly focuses on the brain’s serotonin levels; and talking therapies such as counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy.
If you feel you may be experiencing depression, please speak with a medical professional. There is a lot of support and a lot of different treatments to try which will help you to feel better. In this post, I’m going to briefly discuss one treatment idea which might be helpful to think about, if you’re feeling low in mood.
One of the key treatments we covered in my training is Activity Scheduling. Often, when people feel low in mood, they stop doing certain activities due to the lack of motivation, low energy or worries about doing things wrong. However, we know from research that without giving yourself joyful activities, or things to feel proud of, there’s nothing to spark that better mood.
We end up in a cycle: feeling low, but doing nothing to let ourselves feel better.
Therefore, a key method to beat back low mood is to focus on doing small, manageable activities which give you a sense of joy, achievement or remove a sense of dread (think the Car MOT or dentist appointment). These things will all add up to lighten a low mood in time.
What activities have you stopped doing? The washing up? Your own hobby time?
What things are you doing now, which you know isn’t helping?
Pick one small change, which will take 5 minutes.
If you’ve stopped doing housework, one task may be “Clean the bathroom sink taps.” – Something small, manageable, yet something you maybe haven’t been doing lately.
If you’re working full time, then doing housework and looking after kids or pets, then sleeping, switch out five minutes to do something you enjoy. Lock yourself in the bathroom with a cup of tea, if that’s what it takes!
Try to complete 2 or 3 of those across a week. Extra points if you can involve another person or physical activity, since these both boost mood too. This technique takes time to break that cycle and improve mood, but over time, it’s one of the most effective treatments for mild to moderate depression.
What activity do you pick to lift your mood when you’re feeling low?
Avenevoli S, Swendsen J, He J-P, Burstein M, Merikangas K. Major Depression in the National Comorbidity Survey- Adolescent Supplement: Prevalence, Correlates, and Treatment. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 2015;54(1):37-44. Accessed here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4408277/
Ekers, D., Webster, L., Van Straten, A., Cuijpers, P., Richards, D., & Gilbody, S. (2014). Behavioural activation for depression; an update of meta-analysis of effectiveness and sub group analysis. PloS one, 9(6), e100100. Accessed here: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0100100
The Samaritans: http://www.samaritans.org
World Health Organisation -Mental Health: http://www.who.int/topics/mental_health/en/
Youtube – I Had A Black Dog Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XiCrniLQGYc