If you suspect that you might be experiencing depression, or even if you're just going through a low period, there are steps you can take to help you find your way back from the ledge. (If you haven't read my earlier post about depression, you can read it here.) The following suggestions have been provided by England's National Health Service.
1. Talk to someone: It's best if you consult a professional. Depression is a medical condition and should be treated as such. If you're not sure who to call, ask your primary care physician for a referral. (For a more detailed discussion about choosing a medical professional, go to WebMD.) But even if you can't bring yourself to talk to a therapist or doctor yet, find someone. Go to trusted friends and family. Consult with a spiritual mentor. It's important that you don't try to go it alone.
2. Stay involved in life: Don't self-isolate. Though sitting on the couch might seem like as much as you can do, take action! Actively pursue your hobbies. Go to church or temple. Meet your friends for coffee. You may not feel like going out, but you know the saying, "Fake it till you make it." Isolation will only drive you deeper into depression.
3. Get active: I know how impossible this sounds! Let's face it. Most of us don't want to exercise when we're feeling fine. Why would we want to hit the gym when under the cloud of depression? Remember, you are fighting for your wellness. Walk around the block. Ride your bike. Lift some weights. Take a yoga class. It doesn't matter what you choose to do. All experts agree that physical activity is a powerful weapon against depression. Not only does it move our focus from our thoughts to our bodies, it actually changes our brain chemistry. (For more information about this topic, check out this article from Harvard Medical School.)
4. Face your fears: Depression often walks hand-in-hand with fear. Many people experience the fear of social interactions and the fear of leaving the house, but fear and anxiety can be attached to almost anything. It doesn't matter what's causing your feelings, the longer you avoid whatever it is you're dreading, the bigger the monster gets. Addressing the fear head-on is the best way to keep it from growing. Remember, the beast lives mostly in our minds. Bringing it into the light of day, either by talking to someone or by pushing yourself through the experience you're wary of, will help to weaken its power.
5. Limit alcohol: In my opinion, there is really no such thing as a happy drunk. In fact, research shows that alcohol depletes serotonin, the feel-good chemical. Some people are happy when they drink small amounts of alcohol in social settings, true. But beyond an occasional drink...self-medicating with alcohol makes people miserable. Let's face it. Adding another problem to your depression is just not a good step to take.
6. Eat healthy: According to an article in Psychology Today by Mitchell Gaynor, MD, there is a clear connection between our diets and our brains. Makes sense, right? Though many of us think of our brains as something other and more than just another body part, that is in fact, what they are. The food that nourishes your organs and muscles, feeds our brains and our brain chemistry as well. The biggest no-nos for brain health? Caffeine, alcohol, and high calorie/low nutrient foods, says Dr. Gaynor. What do we need instead? Nutrient rich foods, healthy fats, and...Wait for it...Dark chocolate! Yup, chocolate really is what the doctor ordered!
7. Stick to a routine: Depression can be unpredictable and even life-stopping. It often removes the desire to perform the most basic self-care routines. This can make us feel purposeless and lethargic, and these feelings only make the depression worse. It's a vicious cycle. According to Tiffanie Verbeke in her article "Create a Depression Routine So You Cope and Live Well," a daily schedule "creates stability for an unstable mind." Find an app or a piece of paper and a pencil, and make a daily "To Do" list. Seeing manageable items concretely in front of you can help propel you forward when the couch is calling.
If you are experiencing depression, it is important to remember that you are not alone and there are things you can do to find your way out of the cave of darkness. It might not be easy, but you can win and reclaim yourself.
Now go get some chocolate and talk to someone!
This site is not intended to give individual advice for people currently experiencing depression. But please feel free to comment and share your ideas below. And as always, thank you in advance for sharing this article.