In light of Megan’s recent post about stress and the potential for harm, I thought I would post about the Do’s to manage depression. In talking to a friend today, she shared that she had gone to the gym today to get her exercise routine in check. She said that it is about this time of year, that she gets down, depressed, and tends to hibernate in her house. I know that for many people, especially here in the Pacific NW, fall tends to open the gate to SAD or seasonal affective disorder. Or, for those with chronic depression, this is the time of year that things feel worse. To top it off, many begin having increasing anxiety with the coming holiday season whether you celebrate or don’t.
In no way is this post a replacement for quality treatment, however, perhaps it will give you some food for thought about your own patterns and how you might be able to focus more on what is missing to have a more pleasant Fall and Winter this year. If you do find you need additional assistance working on managing your depression, know that our Fundamentals for the Good Life group will begin October 11th. This is a group with excellent curriculum to help you understand your symptoms and help you to live a good life even while managing these symptoms.
Now for the good stuff:
I cannot say enough about good sleep. Our bodies are wired to get a certain amount of sleep each night. For some, that’s 7 hours. For others, that is 9. When your sleep is off, everything is off. Many adults don’t take care of our sleep and utilize night time for getting extra work done, cleaning, ruminating, playing facebook games, etc. Some go to bed too late, dreading the events of the next day. Some have been in bed all day making it difficult for the brain to know when it is actually time for sleeping. When you take care to get restorative sleep consistently, your body and brain can function successfully.
You are what you eat. You’ve heard this before but it is true. Think of all the processes that your body is engaged in at any given time: blood circulating, neurotransmitters firing, heart pounding, stomach digesting. In order for these to work, the body needs adequate fuel. What would happen to your car if you decided to fill up your gas tank with water? Or, what if you decided to just let it run on empty for too long? Or you over filled it? Our bodies break down our food to create the very building blocks to actually keep our bodies functioning. Depression could be a sign that the body is starving for nutrients and thus, cannot regulate mood. This is not always the case, but I have worked with people who change their diet and have successfully changed their mood state.
Notice that I didn’t say exercise. Yes, exercise alone has been studied and can serve as a highly-effective anti-depressant. But, if I tell a person with depression to exercise, most often they climb back into bed. I like the word “movement” better. The hallmark behavior perpetuating depression is actually being inactive in all forms. Movement causes your brain to engage in other thinking processes, get’s your heart working even a little, helps you use your muscles. If you think about our bodies, we are meant to move. We have joints and ligaments and can move in all different directions. When we sit for too long, we get more depressed.
I don’t just mean relationships, I mean GOOD ones! I always tell people that there are 6 billion (I think there is 7 now) on the planet for a reason. Human beings need human beings to survive. Good relationships are a natural anti-depressant as engaging with someone can force thinking to be focused outwardly instead of inwardly. Good relationships also cause us to feel connected or bonded which cause chemicals to flow that make us feels good.
5- A Variety of Activities
What did you like when you were 17? Are you still doing that? For many, adulthood brings us away from activities that we enjoy. We find that life is too busy to enjoy anything. I once had a psychologist friend who said “4 good activities a day keeps the doctor away.” Good activities are something we can control when we most often can’t control life stressors. Good activities help us to balance our mood causing us to shift from frustration and sadness to enjoyment and pleasure. This wide range of emotions keeps us from practicing or getting stuck in depression.
So, take a little inventory and see where maybe you might be out of balance. And, perhaps you can keep yourself in check enough to enjoy what this season has to offer.