“Nature has established firm rules about what sustains life.”
– Dr. Barry Commoner
DEALING WITH THE REALITY OF BIOLOGY
AVOID TOXIC SUBSTANCES
It’s not uncommon for people who are dealing with challenges to “self-medicate” by using mood altering substances – legal or otherwise. These can provide temporary relief from a persistent problem – but when the effects wear off, the problem will still be there. It’s not hard to see how addictions develop when a person is trying to solve a problem in this way!
- If you think you might have developed an addiction, there are many qualified professionals in the area that can help you to become free of the habit you’ve developed.
Beyond addictions though, many of us “feed” ourselves things that don’t really resemble food! The way we eat today has changed dramatically from 100 years ago… and our bodies are showing it. While it’s not likely that each of us will be able to have a garden and a couple of chickens in our backyards, we should aim to eat a bit more like our ancestors did.
EAT GOOD FOOD
- Eat more vegetables. Almost all of us could eat more vegetables than we currently do. If we each took out half of the bread and meat in our diets and replaced it with vegetables, we’d be much closer to the kind of diet that will lead to greater health and wellness.
- Balance is important – protein is good for you, as well as the right kinds of fats (typically found in fish, nuts, avocados). Most of us have an excess of wheat in our diets – something that could potentially be a problem – and not enough whole grains.
- Eating food that isn’t processed is the ideal – this can be challenging to many of us with our busy lifestyles.
If you know your diet is way off from what is healthy, pick a principle or two from this list and work on making small changes over time.
It can be a challenge to get the amount of sleep we need on a regular basis. Sleep deprivation can lead to depression, but can also be a symptom of depression. (And sometimes people who experience depression sleep a lot more than usual.) Try using these tips to help you get to sleep at night:
- Pay attention to the feel of gravity as you lay in bed. When your mind wanders (as it will) just bring your attention back to the feel of gravity.
- Slow down your breath intentionally, moving your abdomen more than your chest. To help you be aware of the movement in your abdomen, place a hand on your belly and one on your chest.
SUPPLEMENTS OR MEDICATION
Choosing supplements or medication is a personal decision – but you’ll want to talk with your doctor about what you are wanting to do and make sure that you are getting his or her advice regarding medication, or getting an “all clear” for taking supplements (especially if you are already on medication).
- Supplements that have found to be helpful with depression include Omega 3, St. John’s Wort, 5 HTP, Magnesium, Vitamin B12, and Vitamin D.
- If you have tried many things on this list and have not found relief, if you are unable to function due to depressive symptoms, or if you find you are having suicidal thoughts, you may consider talking with your doctor about medication to treat your depressive symptoms. Having someone help you monitor your symptoms can be helpful as sometimes it is hard to see subtle changes over time.
Observing a situation or thing changes the thing.
– Observer effect in quantum mechanics
UTILIZING OUTSIDE SUPPORT
Sometimes depressive symptoms are mild, and we’re able to function at home, work, or school… But sometimes depressive symptoms become severe, and suicidal thoughts start to turn into plans.
- If you are having suicidal thoughts, please contact the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255. And after the crisis is over, follow through with getting help from a qualified professional in your area.
Getting ongoing support from a therapist even if you’re on medication can be helpful as you adjust to medication and also learn skills that can help you prevent or lessen future depressive symptoms.
USING YOUR SUPPORT SYSTEM
It can be helpful to let those who care about you know that you are struggling with depressive symptoms. However, even those who love us best might not understand or know how best to help us. Communicate your needs to those you trust, and be patient with them in their imperfect efforts. If you can enlist the help of more than one individual, you decrease the risk of turning to someone in need… and finding them unavailable.
Getting out and socializing can be difficult when you’re depressed. It may be only a temporary relief from symptoms, or you might go out and bring your depression with you. Push your comfort zone, but don’t overdo it! Be kind to yourself in the process.
Learning how to be aware of your own thoughts can lead to better control over those thoughts. Negative thoughts are a symptom of depression… but can also be a cause of depression. Be aware of what is going through your mind, and try to shift your thinking just a bit. If the thought “I’m never going to feel better,” comes up, then remind yourself “But I haven’t always felt this way. Remember the time ____?”
Another way to deal with unkind thoughts is to 1) validate how it feels, then 2) remind yourself that others have felt this way before, and 3) give yourself permission to be kind to yourself while you go through this – just like you would be if it were someone else you cared about who was dealing with this!
An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion…
– Newton’s first law of motion
GET MOVING – EXERCISE!
It’s always a challenge to turn something new into a habit. Pick a type of exercise that would be the easiest for you to start – preferably something that a friend will do with you, and get started. If it’s something you’ve done before this will be easiest. Begin where your ability is and gradually increase the time or intensity of your exercise plan. If you skip a day or two (or longer!) don’t beat yourself up, but get back into it – allowing yourself some time to work back up to where you were physically before.
There are real benefits to working – whether you get paid for it or not. Some types of work are more naturally happy-feeling-generators, but any type of work can help you feel better… As long as you don’t complain the whole time you’re doing it! Having a good attitude about what you’re doing will change your experience, so be aware of what’s going on in your mind as you work.
DOING IT ANYWAY
When you’re depressed, you don’t feel like _____. Working, playing, going to lunch with a friend, doing laundry… This can be more severe for some people than others. The point is, just because you know in your head something has the potential to help you feel better, you still might not care. Do it anyway.
While you’re depressed, you will need to repeatedly do things that you don’t feel like doing. It’s okay to acknowledge this, and move on. Don’t dwell on it the whole time you’re doing it though. Whether it’s spending time with a friend, doing housework, or exercising – plan on doing something every day that you don’t feel like doing. Remember, you’re trying to shift yourself from “at rest” to “in motion.”
“Neurons that fire together wire together.”
– Dr. Donald Hebb
We know that artists and athletes and other accomplished professionals have developed very specific skills with repeated action over time. This can also be true for our mental abilities.
Thinking errors describe patterns of thought that we all have occasionally. When a person is dealing with a mental health issue, they will have more thinking errors than when they don’t. This is true of depression. Another name for a thinking error is a cognitive distortion. When we are stuck in one of these patterns, our reality is distorted. Examples of these include all or nothing thinking, blaming, should statements, minimization/magnification, catastrophizing, and emotional reasoning.
Emotional reasoning can be a stinker during depression. An example of this is “There is no hope in my future as an employee here.” That whole “no hope” thing is a symptom of depression. This person might want to quit their job because their future at the company seems hopeless… when it’s really the depression that makes them feel that way.
- When you notice negative thinking, challenge it, and try to gradually shift it. For the example above, you might shift from “There is no hope in my future as an employee here” to adding on the statement “but I’ll stick it out one more day before I make any decision.” If you are still experiencing depression the next day, put off your decision another day.
Sometimes we really are in a bad situation that needs to be changed. It can be helpful to sort this out with the help of a professional or another trusted friend or family member.
GRATITUDE AND TIME
With all of the natural negativity that comes with depression, you won’t likely make a dramatic shift to being grateful for everything. However, over time and with purposeful action, focusing on the positive can make a difference in your thought patterns… which can lead to a change in how you feel.
Sorry, I know that was more than 12. Just pick a place to start. Hang in there! Be kind to yourself! If you are feeling overwhelmed, seek help from a qualified professional.
Christine Erickson, MA, CMHC, has been working with clients in Saint George since 2006, helping them learn how to manage anger, cope with anxiety and depression, and overcome past issues.
Christine has a Certificate in Mindfulness in Psychotherapy from the Institute for Meditation in Psychotherapy. She uses cognitive behavioral strategies to provide clients with practical tools so they can be successful at work and at home. She currently runs a group Tuesdays at 6:00 for people dealing with depression.
She and her husband Jeff are parents to seven children.
You can set up an appointment with Christine by contacting her via email or phone (listed below), or by registering as a new client and scheduling an appointment on her website page “Set up an Appointment”.