Ten Ways to better Cope with Depression
The challenges of depression can be extremely isolating and overwhelming, please keep in mind that some of the advice here is for PREVENTING depression, and some is for TREATING depression. Implement that which works for you, and don’t worry about anything else.
1. Have an emergency plan in place for when severe depression strikes, and be sure that you can easily activate your support group if necessary. A support group should include your physician, crisis/suicide hotline numbers, and friends and family that are familiar with your condition.
2. Eliminate Alcohol. As often as possible eliminate or drastically reduce the use of alcohol and other simple sugars such as what is found in refined and processed foods. Alcohol is a depressant, and although it may temporarily “help” someone with depressed mood, the long term consequences of overuse are dangerous and it thus should be avoided whenever possible.
3. Get outside!!!Sunlight increases our bodies stores of Serotonin the neurotransmitter known to make us happy.On a blue sky sunny day we need 15 minutes of exposure outside in order to achieve the estimated 10,000 lux of light equivalent most people need in order to feel happy.On an overcast day one must spend an entire hour outside in order to achieve the same light exposure. If you live in a low light area and experience worsening depression in the winter months you may want to consider purchasing a light box. Light boxes should be used in the morning and never after 4pm.
4. Get in to your body! Spend less time in your head and more time in your body. Energetically most patients with depression and anxiety are “all up in their heads”, and having body work done such as massage or craniosacral therapy, as well as exercise can be fundamental for getting out of your head and more in to your body. Meditation as well is important for stopping redundant thoughts. I ask all my patients struggling with this energetic imbalance to massage their feet for 5 minutes at night with a lavender oil to pull the energy down to their feet and help them feel more rooted and grounded overall. You can also imagine that you have two “brains” one in your head, and one in your legs. The two brains are mutually dependant on each other. When the brain in your head is overwhelmed you need to give it a break by spending some time with the brain in your legs. Giving the brain in your legs a solid work out will give you a break from the brain in your head for a while.
5. Shift your thinking. Realize that depressive symptoms are typically just dark clouds floating through. Move to a place of observation and curiosity about your depression. Consider how much of your time each day you want to spend with your depressive thinking. Keep a gratitude journal. A study recently demonstrated that people that listed the Three Positives of each day had improvement in mood. I think focusing on the positive, regardless of how incidental it may seem really helps improve the overall attitude.
6. Sleep 8 hours each night. Be sure to sleep at least 8 hours each night. Some people actually need 9 hours of sleep at night. Although oversleeping has it’s detriments especially in the severely depressed, most people error on the side of averaging about 6 hours of sleep per night which lowers serotonin and growth hormone levels which then increases carbohydrate cravings which then in turn feeds back in to the overuse of refined carbohydrates and simple sugars which increase anxiety and lower mood in the big picture.
7. Find the right adjective. In all reality does the word “depression” most accurately describe how you feel? Instead are you sad, lonely, angry, irritated, overwhelmed, or stressed? The key to awakening from depression is to understand what the root cause of your depressed feelings actually are. Working with a counselor is fundamental for this process. If you have tried counseling before and did not have good results, or have stopped making progress with a counselor you are currently working with you may want to consider experimenting with a different style of counseling.
8. Manage stress. Learn to manage your stress more appropriately. Many patients with depression also struggle with anxiety, and in my opinion the anxiety is actually the root cause of the depression. Our society promotes stressful living and attitudes, my goal as a doctor is to help make modern day living more enjoyable by teaching my patients helpful stress management techniques. A simple breathing exercise called “Square Breathing” can be done by sitting quietly breathing in slowly to the count of five, hold for five, breath out to the count of five, and hold again to the count of five. Repeat this five times, or for as long as needed to check in with yourself, remove stress, and feel more grounded and centered. Focusing your attention on your breath will not only relax you but will take your attention away from unhealthy negative repetitive thoughts.
9. Get a second opinion. Consider seeing an alternative medicine practitioner such as a Naturopathic Physician, Acupuncurist, or Craniosacral Therapist if traditional modalities have failed you, if you are looking for a fresh perspective to your depression, if you are interested in weaning off your medication, if you cannot withstand the side effects of anti-depressants, or if medications simply are not helpful to you. Naturopathic Physicians can prescribe nutriceuticals and herbal medicines that may improve your mood, while investigating the root cause of your depression.
You can find a reputable Naturopathic Physician in your area at the AANP website.
10. Volunteer. Last but not least, get out and volunteer. Focusing on people with much worse problems than your own may help you have a better attitude about life in general. I also think that our lack of community promotes depression as everyone is so disconnected these days. We have babies in day-cares, and old folks in nursing homes, and young people that need guidance and advice stashed away in apartments feeling alone and confused. Find people in your community to reach out to, listen to old people talk, play with some young children, depression is an extremely isolating condition and keeping yourself connected to others is an important long term goal to prevent devastating episodic reoccurrences. Helping someone else out is a great way to temporarily take the focus off your own problems.
~Dr. Nicole Sundene