Dealing with Depression
Everyone feels “blue” or “down in the dumps” from time to time. But these feelings usually pass within a couple days. When you have depression, you’re just not yourself. Your thoughts, feelings and behaviors change. Depression interferes with your daily life, and causes pain for you and those who care about you.
Did you know that depression is a common, treatable illness that affects more than 25 million Americans each year? It can affect anyone, at any age. It can also affect anyone of any race, ethnicity or gender.
More than just a bout of the blues, depression isn’t a weakness. It’s also not something you can easily snap out of. But with the right treatment and support, more than 70 percent of people who suffer from depression have a full remission of the illness.
Not everyone who struggles with depression experiences it in the same way. The severity, frequency and duration of symptoms vary, depending on the person.
Common symptoms include:
- Persistent thoughts of hopelessness and/or helplessness
- Noticeable personality changes or extreme mood swings
- Extreme feelings of anger and irritability
- Loss of interest in once-loved activities or hobbies
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details and making decisions
- Significant changes in eating and sleep patterns
- Aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems that do not ease with treatment
Expert mental health professionals don’t know what causes depression. As with many mental illnesses, there may be a variety of factors, including:
- Biological differences. People who suffer from depression have changes in their brains. The meaning of these changes is still unknown in many cases.
- Hormones. Changes in the body’s balance of hormones can cause depression. Hormone changes can result from thyroid problems, menopause or a number of other health conditions.
- Inherited traits. Depression is more common is people whose biological relatives also have this condition.
- Pre-existing health conditions. Depression is more likely to occur with certain illnesses like heart disease, cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.
- Difficult life changes. Difficult life changes like financial struggles, divorce or the loss of a loved one can cause, or worsen, depression.
Coping with Depression
Coping with, and recovering from, depression requires action. But taking action when you’re depressed can be difficult. Just thinking about the things you can do to feel better can often seem overwhelming.
The key to recovery is to start with a few small goals – and to reward yourself for each accomplishment. You may not have much energy, but you likely have enough for a short walk around the block. This may seem small, but your efforts quickly add up. And for all the energy you put into your recovery, you’ll get so much more in return.
Start with these tips:
- Reach out to trusted friends and family members. The thought of reaching out to loved ones can seem exhausting or overwhelming. You might feel ashamed or too exhausted to talk. But reaching out isn’t a sign of weakness, and it doesn’t mean you’re a burden to others. Your loved ones care about you and want to help. So, ask for the support you need. Remember that although you may have retreated from your most treasured relationships, your loved ones can help get you through this tough time.
- Challenge your negative thinking. Depression affects your perspective, including the way you see yourself, the situations you encounter and your expectations for the future. Challenging your negative thinking is more than just “thinking positive.” It’s replacing your negative thoughts with well-balanced thoughts. Would you say what you’re thinking about yourself to someone else? If not, don’t be so hard on yourself. Allow yourself to be less than perfect, and think about statements that offer a more realistic description of who you are.
- Take care of yourself. Overcoming depression means taking care of yourself. Depression typically causes changes in sleeping and eating patterns, so aim for eight hours of sleep each night, and adopt healthy eating habits. Also, stress often triggers, or worsens, depression. Make a list of stressors in your life, then ask a loved one to help you develop a plan to avoid them. You can also practice relaxation techniques like meditation, Yoga or Qi Gong.
- Get regular exercise. You may constantly feel tired, but exercising for just 20 minutes each day can help reduce stress, improve your mood and boost your energy for up to 12 hours. It’s OK to start small. Even short 10-minute bursts of activity like talking a walk can have positive effects on your mood.
- Eat well. What you eat has a direct impact on the way you feel. Refined carbohydrates, like starches and sugars, can create dramatic swings in your blood sugar. This can make you feel fatigued, headachy and irritable. Instead, go for complex, fiber-rich carbohydrates such as whole grains, starchy beans, veggies and fruits – they do your body and brain good.
You should also consume enough omega 3 fatty acids. It is known that foods rich in omega 3s can help maintain healthy serotonin and dopamine levels, which affect your mood. Try to eat more oily fish like wild salmon, mackerel and sardines. Plant sources such as flax, canola and walnuts are also good.
Knowing when to ask for help can be difficult. If you find these tips aren’t helpful in coping with, and recovering from, depression – or if you have thoughts of suicide – it might be time to seek professional help. Remember that depression isn’t a weakness. Millions of Americans suffer from depression, and Parkview Behavioral Health can help in time of need if you or your loved one is depressed.
Call the Parkview Behavioral Health HelpLine at (260) 373-7500 or (800) 284-8439, anytime 24 hours a day. Our dedicated assessment specialists are available to guide you to the appropriate level of care – or resources – for your situation.