Top 10 Tips to Fight Depression
By The Lifescript Editorial Staff
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Looking for a blue-mood pick-me-up? Don’t crawl back into bed with the sheets over your head. Check out our top 10 ways to beat the blues. Plus, could you be clinically depressed? Take our quiz to find out…
1. Unload Your Schedule: Between driving carpool, working, volunteering at the kids’ school and managing your packed to-do list, your life is a whirlwind. It's exhausting and makes even the fun stuff un-fun.
Work overload can cause depression, says Harold Levinson, M.D, a New York-based psychiatrist and neurologist.
So why do we say “yes” to extra responsibilities in the first place? Because we're human and enjoy togetherness.
“We’re inherently social” and like to be involved in group events, says Catherine Birndorf, M.D., founding director of the Payne Whitney Women’s Program at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. “The problem is that party or bake sale is part of a week that includes 20 other things."
So what’s the solution?
Prioritize. “Look at the bigger picture,” Birndorf says. Decide which activities you really want to do and assess whether they realistically fit into your schedule.
2. Laugh More: Laughter really is the best medicine. Studies show that simply smiling will send serotonin levels soaring, making you feel better physically.
So put some fun in your life, whether it's reading a good book or learning to parasail. Even simpler, learn some new jokes and share them with co-workers – just keep it clean so you don’t get in trouble!
3. Avoid Alcohol: A social calendar jam-packed with happy-hour drinks with the girls may keep your mood festive. But watch out: You may be belting out post-party pity tunes. Why?
“Alcohol is actually a central nervous system depressant,” Birndorf says.
Besides, you’ll pay the next day with a hangover.
“You’re not as functional as usual, which can make you feel even worse,” she says.
So pace yourself, experts say. If you have three get-togethers in one week, decide how many drinks you’ll have at each and alternate between cocktails and non-alcoholic beverages. Also, fill your tummy with food to cut alcohol’s impact.
4. Accentuate the Positive: Focus on the good things in your life, especially when you feel buried under stress and worry.
“You’re much more in control once you take a step back and look at what’s going on and what you might do to help yourself feel better,” says Donna Colabella, a clinician at the Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester in New Hampshire.
Is work getting to you? Take a time-out. Turn away from the task at hand, close your eyes for a minute and think about something that makes you happy.
It may be as small as a new pair of shoes or as big as having good health. Hold on to the thought and visualize something you’re looking forward to – maybe an evening out with friends or a date with a hot new guy.
5. Food, Glorious Food: Certain vitamins and nutrients, like omega-3 fatty acids, change the brain chemistry that affects your mood.
Studies have shown that eating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids can improve your mood, says Jill Weisenberger, Lifescript nutrition expert and a nutritionist at National Clinical Research – Norfolk, Va.
Fatty cold-water fish, such as salmon, anchovies, herring and mackerel, are one of the best sources of omega-3s. But “women of childbearing potential or nursing mothers shouldn’t eat mackerel because of its high mercury content,” she says.
B vitamins – especially B6, B12 and folic acid – may also help.
Eat foods such as sunflower seeds, oranges, beets and leafy green vegetables every day to avoid mood swings.
Vitamin D offers a double dose of nutritional goodness. It can cut the risk of osteoporosis and relieve symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a depression that typically occurs in winter, when there are fewer hours of sunshine.
6. Don’t Deny Grief or Loneliness: The death of a loved one – especially after the first year or two – can trigger depression and loneliness. The same holds true if your children are with the ex or a close friend or family member has moved away.
You can’t avoid the pain, says psychotherapist Richard O'Connor, Ph.D., Lifescript’s depression expert and author of Happy at Last (St. Martin’s Press). “What makes the difference is what you do with those feelings.”
Be honest with yourself. “If you try to deny the pain and put on a happy face, it’ll get to you, often as depression,” O’Connor says.
Instead, acknowledge that you’re missing someone and share your feelings with a trusted friend or family member.
Find a way to connect to your absent loved one, Birndorf says. Little reminders of them may help. For example, wear a piece of your grandmother’s jewelry or make your son’s favorite recipe - for yourself.
7. Try an Alternative Approach: Some natural treatments or approaches may help boost your spirits:
Aromatherapy: Breathe in and soothe your mood with aromatherapy using concentrated essential oils from plants. Those that may help include clary sage, bergamot, geranium, lavender, lemon and rose.
Dilute them with vegetable oil and massage into your skin, add a few drops to the bath or warm them over a diffuser (the heat will spread the scent throughout the room).
Acupuncture: Many acupuncture practitioners also encourage meditation and relaxation during the session, which can help clear the mind of stress and negative thoughts. Acupuncture may also give some patients a new appreciation of their body’s capabilities and strengths.
Make sure your acupuncturist is certified; many are also medical doctors.
8. Know Your Symptoms: If you're still having trouble beating the blahs, you may be clinically depressed. See a dr. if you have at least six of the following 10 symptoms:
Persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety or emptiness, decreased appetite and weight loss, insomnia, waking up early in the morning or oversleeping, restlessness, Fatigue or less energy, feelings of hopelessness and pessimism & worthlessness, helplessness or excessive guilt. Loss of interest or pleasure in once-enjoyable activities Difficulty concentrating, remembering and making decisions Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.
9. Talk to a Doctor. She can determine if medication is right for you, says Josh Klapow, Ph.D., associate professor of health care organization and policy at the University of Alabama in Birmingham and co-author of Living SMART: Five Essential Skills to Change Your Health Habits Forever (DiaMedica Publications).
Antidepressants relieve depression by working on brain chemicals called neurotransmitters – serotonin and norepinephrine. They give you that “happy feeling,” and raising their levels can boost your mood.
Here are 3 classes of antidepressants your doctor may prescribe:
Selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SSNRIs): These are among the newest class of antidepressants − they include Cymbalta, Effexor and Pristiq − that increase the activity of both serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain.
Unlike older antidepressants, SSNRIs can be prescribed at full dose immediately, so you may feel better faster. Common side effects include diminished appetite and sexual function and sleepiness or insomnia.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): These antidepressants, which include Lexapro, Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft, boost only serotonin levels. They have fewer side effects than other antidepressants, including dry mouth, nausea, nervousness, insomnia, headache and sexual dysfunction.
Tricyclics: Like SSNRIs, this older family of medications – including Elavil, Norpramin and Tofranil – affects both serotonin and norepinephrine levels. But tricyclics are dosed gradually and take longer to provide relief.
Side effects are also more severe, and include dry mouth, blurred vision, constipation, difficulty urinating, impaired thinking and fatigue.
10. Go for Psychological Counseling
Research shows that medication and therapy together are more effective than either by itself, says O’Connor.
“Medication can help more quickly than therapy alone and can help to prevent the out-of-control mood swings that come during recovery,” he says. Therapy helps "resolve the problems that led to the depression and teaches us how to prevent future episodes.”
When looking for a therapist, consider these questions:
Does gender matter to me? Does he or she accept my insurance? What is the attendance policy? Where is the office located?
For more information, check out our Depression Health Center.
Could You Be Depressed?
About 20 million people a year suffer from depression, a disorder that compromises one's ability to function normally day to day. Find out if you're just blue or clinically depressed with our quiz.
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