When you’re feeling down, it can be hard to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and cope with life and all the demands of daily living. When the things that cause us to feel down occur too frequently, and stress us so that we don’t feel in control of our lives anymore, this can lead to you becoming depressed.

When you are depressed you feel sad, or get irritable about even small things, and you can no longer enjoy the things that used to give you pleasure.

When we are all in our head – as depression often feels like – we can forget how much of a physical being we are, how much of us is a body, corpulent, animal, that needs movement, in order to feel well.

And I’m not even talking here about obvious things like going for a walk or a run. But when we have been down for a while, any movement can feel like progress, and once we are moving, it is easier to gain momentum and keep moving. So even something simple like getting out of bed and getting dressed can feel like an achievement, and once you are up you will be more likely to go on to do other things that need doing, and when once done will give you a sense of accomplishment and make you feel better.

That is why routine is so important. Because when we have a routine, it is easier to get going and keep going. Routine creates the momentum we need to keep going. Trevor Noah, our funny son of the soil, believe it or not, suffers from depression. He says what works best to help him is having a routine. A routine is habit forming. And when you have a habit, the thinking work is taken away from you and you just do it unconsciously, so it feels less like work. Routines help get us out of a state of inertia – staying in one position for too long.
Maintaining positivity can be hard if you are surrounded by negativity, and are feeling overwhelmed. And we don’t want to make light of the scale of your problem; of the scale of the challenges young people are facing in our country.

But it is not going to benefit us if we give up. As Nelson Mandela said, “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” Below we give you some tips on how you can get yourself to rise.

Practise gratitude. Few of us have absolutely nothing to be grateful for. While we know that South Africa, especially the youth of South Africa, and the young in many countries, are faced with sometimes seemingly insurmountable problems, we can still work to rise above our situation and practise gratitude for a sun that shines, a tree that shades, the hug from our grandmother, or our healthy strong limbs.

Help others. Sometimes we feel overwhelmed and not even able to help ourselves – so how can we even help others? Human beings are hardwired to help others. It is how we survived and thrived as a sociable species. Doing something good for others releases mood-enhancing endorphins and that is why we often get a lot of pleasure out of helping others. It also helps you take the focus off yourself, which can also be a positive thing if you are feeling weighed down with feelings of negativity and self-doubt. It takes us outside of ourselves and our circumstances and lets us focus on something else for a change. It allows us to DO; to move and not to be stuck in our helplessness.

Talk to somebody. Talking to somebody, sharing our thoughts and worries and situations with someone we trust often helps to unburden us. We could talk to a friend, a family member, a member of our church, a teacher, or to a health professional at our local medical facility.

Practise a hobby. Hobbies are great at improving our feel-good mood. They allow us to lose ourselves in our interests, but also, very importantly, they can take us out of our usual environments to more positive environments. It is even better if practising a hobby allows you to be social and meet others who share your interests. This will allow you access to people to talk to and do things with.

Spend time in nature. With urbanization being the fastest-growing geospatial trend in the world, we are often further and further away from the nourishment of green spaces. For the greatest part of our human evolution, we coexisted closely with the natural elements. And even today modern human beings derive great pleasure and peace from spending a few hours away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Find the closest, safe green space for you to spend time in. Even just sitting under a tree and watching the branches sway in the wind, and feeling the breeze on your face, can be uplifting.

We do not underestimate how challenging depression can be. But we do want to try to help. As Cleveland Clinic’s website says, “Coping is a process rather than an event.” You may alternate between different coping strategies, trying one or several at different times. If after trying some of this, you or someone close to you, are still not able to improve your mood, please try one of the telephone numbers we list at the bottom or make an appointment to see a health professional at your closest medical facility.

A medical professional may diagnose your depression by doing a physical exam, as well as by evaluating your mental health. According to the Mayo Clinic, “symptoms caused by major depression can vary from person to person” and your doctor will examine you to clarify the type of depression you have, based on, for example, whether you are anxious, distressed or melancholic. They will prescribe an appropriate intervention, such as seeing a psychologist and/ or taking medication.

Contact details for help in an emergency
For professional help and counselling call one of these numbers:
• SADAG (South African Depression and Anxiety Group): 0800 567 567 (toll-free counselling between 8 am and 8 pm)
• FAMSA (Families South Africa): 011 975 7106/7 or email national@famsa.org.za
• SADAG Suicide Crisis Line: 0800 567 567
• Befrienders Suicide Hotline: 051 444 5691
• Rape Crisis: 021 447 9762
• Childline: 116