Coping with Depression

Depression is more common than we think.  A study in 2014 revealed that one in eight middle-aged women in the United States is suffering from depression.

I myself go through a mild form of depression once in a while, particularly around my monthly menstrual period.  It’s something I haven’t discussed openly with anybody, even with my husband.

At first I struggled to give meaning to this strange black moods.  They weren’t there all the time, rather they seemed to just come and go.  I’d just feel lethargic and then would begin to think sad thoughts.  The slightest thing, perhaps an old memory or a particularly tragic news on TV, could get me into a crying spell even while I’m in the office.

I didn’t realize it yet then that it came with my monthly cycle.  But when I started to admit to myself that I may be going through depression, or at least getting in touch with deep-seated emotions, I began to observe it.   That’s when I knew.

The next thing I did was to allow the emotions to surface and not try to repress them as that seemed to exacerbate the problem.  I allowed memories to bubble up and talked to them, asking them what I should learn from them and how I could somehow ease their pain.  Yes, that means going through lot of crying, but I would also visualize myself as a grown up woman of wisdom consoling that younger person who experienced the pain, promising that younger version of myself that it’s okay and that everything turned up fine.  And then I let myself take lots of rest and sleep.  I might also indulge in chocolates sometimes (just a bit, though, since I’m really not a big fan of sweet foods).

I also noticed a vast improvement in my mood when I began a regular exercise routine when I’m not feeling depressed.  I’d take advantage of those moments when my energy is a up because I know that when depression sets in I wouldn’t have the motivation to move.

Getting a massage also seemed to help somewhat as (1) I’d feel pampered when somebody massages me, lifting up my mood immediately, and (2) it would ease some of the anxieties and stress I feel.

But, don’t take my word for it.  I’m just simply sharing with you my own ways of coping with depression.

Here is an article from helpguide.org that outlines some ways of dealing with this mood issue.  And the below summarizes the highlights of the article, which, by the way, also has a downloadable version.

COPING WITH DEPRESSION (Self-help Tips to Deal with and Overcome Depression)

Authors:  Melinda Smith, M.A., Robert Segal, M.A., And Jeanne Segal, Ph.D.

(The content of this article is for informational purposes only and NOT a substitute for professional medical or mental health advice, diagnosis, or treatment.)

  1. Reach out and stay connected.
    • Talk to one person about your feelings
    • Help someone else by volunteering
    • Have lunch or coffee with a friend
    • Ask a  loved one to check in with you regularly
    • Accompany someone to the movies, concert, or a small get-together
    • Call or email an old friend
    • Go for a walk with a workout buddy
    • Schedule a weekly dinner date
    • Meet new people by taking a class or joining a club
    • Confide in a clergy member, teacher, or sports coach
  2. Do things that make you feel good.
    • Pick up a former hobby or a sport you used to like
    • Express yourself creatively through music, art, or writing
    • Go out with friends
    • Take a day trip to a museum, the mountains, or the ballpark
    • Spend time in nature
    • Read a good book
    • Watch a funny movie or TV show
    • Take a long, hot bath
    • Take care of a few small tasks
    • Play with a pet
    • Listen to music
    • Do something spontaneous
  3. Move vigorously during the day
  4. Eat a healthy, mood-boosting diet
    • Don’t skip meals
    • Minimize sugar and refined carbs
    • Boost your B vitamins
    • Omega-3 fatty acids can also help stabilize your mood
  5. Get a daily dose of sunlight
    • Sunlight boosts serotonin levels and improve your mood.  Aim for at least 15 minutes of sunlight a day.  Remove sunglasses (but never stare directly at the sun) and use sunscreen as needed.
  6. Challenge negative thinking
    • When negative thoughts overwhelm you, it’s important to remind yourself that this is the depression talking.  These irrational, pessimistic attitudes — known as cognitive distortions — aren’t realistic.  When you really examine them they don’t hold up.  But even so, they can be touch to give up.  Just telling yourself to “think positive” won’t cut it.  Often, they’re part of a lifelong pattern of thinking that’s become so automatic you’re not even completely aware of it.
    • Once you identify the destructive thought patterns that you default to, you can start to challenge them with questions such as:  “What’s the evidence that this thought is true? Not true?”  “What would I tell a friend who had this thought?”  “Is there another way of looking at the situation or an alternate explanation?”

When to get professional help

If you’ve taken self-help steps and made positive lifestyle changes and still find your depression getting worse, seek professional help.  Needing additional help doesn’t mean your weak.

 

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