Being sad is a normal human emotion. It’s natural to feel despondent when someone you love dies or you’re dealing with life altering events such as an illness or divorce. While these challenges are never forgotten the subsequent emotional distress usually dissipates over a normal period of time. However, if your sadness is constant and intense and never seems to go away then you may be suffering from depression.
Depression affects over 7% of all Americans. It can cause you to have overwhelming feelings of sorrow and a loss of interest in most activities that were once enjoyable. It can affect your appetite and sleep. You may start abusing substances in order to self medicate in the hopes you’ll feel better and in the end become more depressed. You may experience a persistent feeling that life isn’t worth living. Fortunately, depression is treatable.
Here are the 5 most common solutions for depression:
1. Medication: The most common treatment for depression is the use of antidepressants. These drugs work by balancing chemicals in your brain called neurotransmitters that affect mood and emotions. There are several categories of antidepressants. The best way to find out which one could work for you is consulting your psychiatrist or physician and obtaining a prescription. These drugs normally take 2 to 4 weeks before you will notice a change in your mood. Most people with depression find that medication works.
2. Therapy: Therapy can be a very effective treatment for depression. Most therapists require you meet with them in person on a regular basis or over the Internet via telecommunication. Weekly sessions can help you deal with stressful situations, address your negative beliefs, cope with challenges, and increase your self-esteem—all of which help in treating depression. There are other types of therapy that have also proven helpful, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, and Group Therapy, the latter of which provides a safe environment to share your feelings with people who can relate to what you’re going through and it helps to not feel so alone.
3. Lifestyle Changes: In addition to medication and therapy changing some of your negative behaviors and habits can help with treating depression.
Some of these changes would be:
- Get a Routine: When you’re depressed your days become similar in their lack of enjoyment and hard to distinguish from one another. Setting a daily schedule can help you get active and become involved with your life. Your routine could include: getting up at the same time every day, scheduling an activity for each night of the week, and making one phone call a day to a supportive friend or relative.
- Set Goals: A major symptom of depression is the sense you can’t accomplish anything and because of that you feel bad about yourself. Setting small daily goals such as making the bed, taking a shower, or going for a walk can help. By completing small contrary acts you’ll feel better about your abilities and in turn feel better about yourself.
- Eat Healthy: When you’re depressed the last thing you probably want to do is eat healthy. Regrettably eating overly processed foods like fast foods and sugary sweets may be adding to your depression. Processed foods contain refined carbohydrates that have no nutritional value, and unhealthy levels of sugar and salt. Clinical studies have found that a diet high in refined foods impairs brain function and encourages depression. Eating healthy foods has been shown to reverse these issues. What you eat directly affects your brain and your mood.
- Avoid Drugs and Alcohol: People who suffer from depression desperately want to alter the way they feel. Many turn to drugs and alcohol as a solution. Unfortunately alcohol, tranquilizers, and opiates act as depressant to your nervous system and make your symptoms worse. Amphetamines can give the illusion they reduce depression, however the come down, the physical toll on your body, and the withdrawal, result in an even worse depression. Adding drugs to your already depressed system never helps.
- Exercise: Regular exercise boosts the naturally produced endorphins that your body uses to help you feel better and less depressed. Endorphins interact with your brain’s receptors and trigger positive feelings. Exercising, especially outdoors and in sunlight, invigorates your body. You don’t need to compete in a triathlon; something as simple as walking for an hour every other day can help get your endorphins flowing.
- Sleep: It’s recommended you get 6 to 8 hours of sleep a night. But depression can make it hard to sleep, and with too little sleep your depression can get worse. This is where setting a routine can help. Try going to bed and getting up at the same time every day. Do not take naps as they can alter your sleep schedule. Sometimes, getting rid of the distractions you engage in at night before sleep—watching TV, looking at your cell phone, or shopping on your computer—helps to calm your mind and it’s easier to get a good night’s sleep.
4. Meditation: Stress and anxiety are major triggers for depression, and meditation has been proven to alter your reaction to those feelings. When you’re stressed the body produces a hormone called cortisol, and meditation lowers cortisol. During meditation your brain is also producing theta waves that usually only occur when you’re asleep, and alpha waves like when you’re daydreaming. When your body gets as relaxed as when it’s sleeping or daydreaming it starts producing dopamine; a neurotransmitter that’s released into your body during pleasurable situations. If you add all those together meditation is probably the best natural treatment for reducing depression.
5. Challenging Negative Thoughts: A lot of the work in treating depression is changing how you think. When you’re depressed, you embrace worst-case scenarios and obsessively dwell on the negative. Challenging these negative thoughts is a common treatment for depression. You feel no one loves you, but what real evidence do you have? You think you’re a worthless horrible person, but is that really the truth? Try challenging these beliefs and ideas. When the thoughts come say, “no, we’re not doing this today.” When you’re telling yourself what a terrible person you are, think about how you would respond if a friend talked about themselves that way. You would probably tell them to stop being so negative. Apply the same logic to your own thoughts. It takes practice, but if you address the negative thoughts head on, don’t embrace them, or indulge, they’ll eventually become less persuasive.
The majority of people suffering from depression will not see a doctor or a therapist or ask anyone for help. Left untreated, depression can be detrimental to your mental and physical health. The over all consequences are not worth the risk. If you are depressed, feel that you may be depressed, or just can’t seem to find joy in anything—its probably time you talked with a professional.
Originally published by Cast Centers, June (2019)