After years of counseling people in a variety of life cycles, ages, and life situations, a large number of people experience depression. Some episodes last a couple of hours, some a couple of days, weeks, months or even years. Depression can be a very debilitating dis-ease and often people find it difficult or even embarrassing to talk about depression.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, (https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db303.htm) “During 2013–2016, 8.1% of American adults aged 20 and over had depression in a given 2-week period.” The World Health Organization reports about one million people die per year due to suicide. “CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics reports that the suicide rate is, in fact, the lowest in December.2 The rate peaks in the spring and the fall.” (https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/suicide/holiday.html)
Depression is also a factor in medical conditions. There is a high correlation with depression and diabetes, heart disease, chronic conditions, and pain management. So, it is really important to address depression and know what symptoms to look for in order to get the most appropriate level of help needed.
Here are some symptoms of depression:
Lack of pleasure or interest in doing things
Feeling down, hopeless or helpless
Sleeping too much or too little
Increase or decrease in appetite
Inability to concentrate or focus
Low energy level
Thoughts that you would be better off dead or hurting yourself in some way
There are some effective interventions you can build into your day to help ease or overcome the symptoms, and outshine depression:
Exercising: It only takes 5 minutes of physical activity to activate the ‘good mood’ chemicals in your brain. These endorphins are our natural anti-depressant, and a bonus is that they also reduce the intensity of pain.
According to a 2018 Harvard University article https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/exercise-is-an-all-natural-treatment-to-fight-depression), “In people who are depressed, neuroscientists have noticed that the hippocampus in the brain—the region that helps regulate mood—is smaller. Exercise supports nerve cell growth in the hippocampus, improving nerve cell connections, which helps relieve depression,” explains Dr. Miller.
There are all levels of physical activity that will help with outshining depression, so even stretching or walking can relieve feelings of depression. Sometimes when you feel depressed, you don’t have the energy or desire to exercise, so be gentle with yourself and try to push yourself a little past your comfort zone with this. You will see that exercise will actually increase your energy and improve your mood.
Being around others: Considering we are ‘social beings’, we have a natural need to be around other people. Often times, people isolate and withdraw from others when feeling depressed. This can actually intensify the depression. It’s important to surround yourself with positive and supportive people and avoid negative and hurtful people in your life. Developing a support system is essential in promoting mental health for everyone.
Eating healthy: You really are what you eat. When you regularly eat unhealthy foods, it affects your mood and can also lead to guilt and shame for making poor choices. The guilt and shame can trigger feelings of depression, and when you are depressed your brain craves foods high in fat, sugar, and carbs. It becomes a cycle that’s hard to break. Healthy foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains give you energy and boost your immune system, both of which affect your emotional well-being.
According to an article on webmd (https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/diet-recovery#1), “Carbohydrates are linked to the mood-boosting brain chemical, serotonin.” “A 2010 national study found that the likelihood of having depression is higher in people with low levels of vitamin D.
In another study, researchers from the University of Toronto noticed that people who had symptoms of depression, particularly those with seasonal affective disorder, tended to get better when the amount of vitamin D in their bodies went up as you’d expect it to during the spring and summer.”
“Recently, scientists found that societies that don’t eat enough omega-3s may have higher rates of major depressive disorder. Other studies show that people who don’t often eat fish, a rich source of these fatty acids, are more likely to have depression.”
Thinking positive: Our thoughts can often become our experiences. So when you think positive thoughts, you have a better chance of experiencing positive things around you, reducing the risk of feeling depressed.
Having daily positive affirmations or mantras such as “I am healthy and confident” and “Today is going to be a great day”, or “I am grateful and accepting of all good things coming into my life” can help set the tone for the rest of the day.
Negative thoughts can bring down our spirits, so it is important to avoid them as much as possible and to focus on the positive things around us that are happening. Research has shown that regular doses of positive thoughts can change the brain structure.
Avoiding alcohol: Since alcohol is a depressant and can impair your judgment, it is risky to drink in excess if you are feeling depressed. Alcohol is sometimes used as a coping mechanism and can actually be a poor coping skill for those who are drinking just as an escape or to numb the pain. There are a lot of other better ways to manage symptoms of depression as I’ve described earlier.
Depression can be a chronic condition and should be treated as any other medical condition. Counseling services, psychiatric treatment and medications are also good resources for assisting in helping those with symptoms of depression. People of all ages and any socioeconomic status can be affected by depression, and there is a variety of help available to assist those in need of services.
Hospitals and community mental health centers can provide information on services available, some at no cost. A lot of companies offer free counseling sessions through their EAP (Employee Assistance Program). The earlier the intervention, the better it is for the person needing help.