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Ten ways to Combat Depression
BY: T. Franklin Murphy | March 2015
We get down, pulled into the darkness of helplessness. We can assist recovery through action, even though action is the last thing on our mind. Here is ten things you can do.
1. Social Withdrawal: During episodes of depression social contact is demanding. We shouldn't push for too much but we can conscientiously reach out to a few friends or family members, a place we are safe. There are also on-line and off-line support groups that are helpful.
2. Avoid Alcohol: Alcoholic beverages provide an escape route, especially for men, during an episode of depression. Alcohol relieves anxiety momentarily. This immediate relief is deceptive. Alcohol depresses the central nervous system. Too much alcohol interferes with sleep, exercise and relationships. While alcohol may help in the short run over time it creates more triggering factors, and more depression.
3. Exercise : When we are depressed exercise is one of the first casualties. Lack of motivation for exercise signals mild depression. Exercise can be therapeutic. Exercise has an anti-depressant effect; it boosts natural levels of serotonin and dopamine. These two chemicals feel good. When we respond to mild depression, whether we know we are depressed or not, by abandoning workouts, we further deplete feel good chemicals. (See Exercise and Mental Health).
4. Improve Eating Habits: Vitamin and mineral deficiencies contribute to low moods. Elevated amounts of sugar and other simple carbohydrates destabilize blood sugar levels. Because higher sugar levels increase serotonin production, we crave sugar when we are down. The sugar high is short lived. The body tries to balance the high sugar levels through releasing other chemicals into the blood stream. The fast burning carbohydrates quickly burn out creating a dip in blood sugar levels. This roller coaster ride creates anxiety. The sugar binging also prompts guilt further depressing the system. Eat food rich in vitamins and nutrients. Add a few servings of fish to increase Omega-3 consumption. Also add a multivitamin to your morning routine.
5. Work on Unfinished Business: Unfinished business weighs on our mind, creating anxiety and draining mental resources. The most difficult step of is the first step. We put projects aside for a variety of reasons. These projects linger in the back of our minds, interfering and robbing mental resources. We don't have to finish everything but we do need a detailed plan in place for when and how we are going to start working on them. Once the plan is in place the weight of the unfinished business is lifted. For example, if house work has been postponed and the thought of cleaning the entire house is overwhelming, we tend not to start. In our mind, the unfinished job of house cleaning continually drains our resources. Instead of committing to clean the entire house, make a plan to clean three days a week for thirty minutes. With the plan in place, the mind let's go of the unfinished business.
6. Open the Curtains and Blinds: Light deprivation is associated with depression. Light has positive effects on the brain. Simply open up those curtains and blinds to give yourself a little mood boosting light.
7. Depressing Ruminations: A depressed mind is drawn to depressing thoughts. The thoughts further depress the mind. It's a powerful cycle difficult to break. Mindfully working on implementing the other suggestions (finishing up business, exercise, social encounters) can busy the mind with constructive thoughts, disrupting the rumination-depression cycle.
8. Avoid Behavior Addictions: Alcohol and sugar are not the only addictions drawing us when moods are low. Television, internet, and relationship addictions are also common escapes. It's important to keep our lives in balance. Too much television, too much facebook, and too much clinging to another person disrupts healing.
9. Engaging Activities: Psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi has written several books on flow. Flow is activities requiring concentration to perform but not too complicated, discouraging us. Hobbies, exercise, cooking can all require flow when sufficiently demanding. (See Flow and Well-being)
10. Seek Professional Help: Depression is caused by chemical imbalances. When the balances deviate too far from normal we need professional help to get back to a functioning range. There is no shame in depression. Get the help you need and get back to living.
“Affliction comes to us, not to make us sad but sober; not to make us sorry but wise.” ~H. G. Wells