Thursday, November 11, 2010

Depression Hurts: 6 Tips to start your process of healing.

We all go through periods in our life when we feel overwhelmed and low. We all feel blue at times, and we all go through our ups and downs. So is life. No one can feel happy all the time; to say so is a fallacy. While we may remain optimistic, happiness cannot occur without sadness to illustrate the difference. Inevitably, most of us pick ourselves up, forget the event that caused the feeling, and move on with our lives. But what if we experience on-going, chronic feelings of despair, frustration, anxiety, sadness, loss of excitement, energy, and fall in to depression? What do we do then? What if we have lost our sense of self, our purpose, self worth, identity, and zest for life? When the prospect of waking up the next day leads to ambivalence, or anxiety follower by despair and detachment? What if we can't just "pick ourselves up" and move on? Each day creeps into the next in a numb void, with no hope for a better life, and our lives and us, as ourselves no longer hold any purpose.

I want to offer a different view on health today: Mental Health, and Depression specifically. I believe that Depression is one of the most stigmatized and misunderstood illness (along with other Mental Illnesses such as Schizophrenia, Eating Disorders, Anxiety Disorder, and other conditions such as Autism). Depression isn't simply feeling sad about something or because of something: It is the actual STATE of Being Sad. As in you embody the word, and become one with it. It is like an endless black whole, with no chance out, and you have lost your will to try.

As described by the Depression Helps Website:
"Depression isn’t just a temporary mood swing or a sign of personal weakness. It’s a serious medical condition with many emotional, cognitive, physical and behavioural symptoms.1-4

Many people feel ashamed or afraid to seek help, others make light of their symptoms leading them to suffer in silence. It’s important to remember that depression isn’t a character defect or something that you have brought on yourself."

As anyone who has suffered from it, or knows somebody who has, they can attest to this:

I wanted to offer a few "Tips" to helping you get started on the road to healing.  Obviously, going to see a Dr. is vital, as is ruling out other causes and working through them.

People who suffer from it are either afraid to ask for help of think it is unnecessary, and that they'll "just get over it", or are so far into a spiral that they can't ask for help. Which is why my first "Tip" to helping people with depression  is (or if you know someone who is):

1. Reach Out! The worst thing you can do is isolate yourself. This causes you to withdraw further and further into yourself, and you will fall deeper and deeper into a dark hole. You also won't be able to get out of your own head and negative thoughts: this further reinforces the hopelessness you feel because you have no other filter/perspective from which to view life.

This is one of the hardest steps, because people fear judgement, incrimination, and rejection. When you are depressed, any reactions that don't go how you want them to (because you are so desperate for something hopeful, promising, positive and good to cling to), will cause immediate reinforcement of the negative thoughts (if someone turns you down for lunch- don't immediately think it is because of you. They are most likely just busy. This has nothing to do with your self worth and belonging/acceptance). Being overly sensitive is common, and recognizing that, might help buffer some of the pain accompanying it.
Even if it is little things like going grocery shopping and making eye contact; anything that establishes a human connection is good! Smile at someone, ask for advice when buying something or start a conversation. Little gestures really add up and help you get through the day.

2. This is a continuation of the first tip. Get Moving! Don't shut yourself away physically. You already feel imprisoned mentally, so this leads to a total breakdown. I don't mean hitting the gym for hours. I mean going for walk through the mall (where you are not alone and there is some semblance of life around you). This takes a lot of effort and energy, but it pays back in spades. Not only does doing something physical increase your endorphins, but it also gets your blood (and life) circulating and flowing again. Sometimes getting out of your head-space requires you to literally get out of your place physically to be able to think clearly. Moving around or accomplishing little tasks such as cleaning your kitchen get you focused and productive.

3. Nourish yourself properly. When we are in the depths of depression, eating well isn't even an after thought. We either lose all appetite, or mindless eat to numb the pain. Pick up some good foods and stock your cupboards  with them. This reinforces that you  are worth it and that you are doing something proactive.
I highly recommend taking a proper multivitamin (at least a twice a day, or liquid with no fillers/sugars/binders). Look for products with a high B complex (we secrete more of it when we are stressed), and high levels magnesium, calcium, Vitamin D. Magnesium has a fantastic calming effect, as well as helping headaches, muscle and back aches, nervousness, depression and necessary for muscle contraction and relaxation, proper bone density and electrolyte balance.
Take Omega 3's with high dosages of EPA and DHA. Omega 3's have shown to help those who suffer from depression, and alleviate some of their symptoms. It also helps with brain function, attention, hormone development, joint pain, heart health just to name a few.
Try taking Holy Basil. This is one of the most miraculous, natural 'herbs' that mother nature has bestowed on us. Many tests prove that if helps alleviate anxiety and stress, while offer a host of cell protective benefits. Read more about HOLY BASIL HERE.
Many people have found some relief with 5HTP (synthetic form of Tryptophan) with acts as a precursor to Serotonin (a Neurotransmitter that is often deficient in those with depression). It helps regulate mood, and helps with carb cravings, migraines and sleep.  St. John's Wort is another product that has been used for depression. Get in enough protein (amino acids), and healthy carbs which give you lots of B Vitamins (whole grains), as well as providing a 'feel' good effect. Theobromine from Cocoa (chocolate) is often used to help, as it provides a "feel good" effect as well.
Some people find taking a Greens supplement really help, as it is alkalizing (stress causes an acidic environment) and helps regulate out body and natural detoxification, as well as provides all the phytonutrients we are missing from our diets. I personally love Amazing Grass Chocolate Super Food (see Brownie Batter Recipe HERE) Rhodiola is an excellent adaptogen, which helps us cope with any physiological stresses. Read about RHODIOLA HERE. It helps support our Adrenal Glands, increases our energy (without caffeine), and helps us withstand any stressors (physical, mental, emotional) that we may encounter.

4.Treat yourself well and take your time! People suffering from depression often feel like they should just "snap" out of it, and fear what others may think of them. Depression is an illness, and one of the most debilitating and crippling ones around. It reduces us to nothing, and kills the soul. Don't mistaken depression for just 'feeling sad' and sorry for yourself. The sooner you recognize you need help, the sooner you can start living again!

5.Gratitude Lists: This alone can make such a difference. It really challenges your thinking and negative thoughts. Try writing 1-3 things that you are truly grateful for each day. This is in no way implying that people with depression are ungrateful- the opposite really, they feel unworthy or undeserving. Focusing on what you have, or what you are grateful for takes your focus off of what you hate about life at that moment. You need to shift the paradigm/filter through which you view life. Stay focused on the positive.

6.Afformations! I discovered this through Noah St. John and I love this idea. Instead of saying pointless affirmations and chanting like a self-help group member to dictations you do not feel nor believe, try afformations instead. This includes asking a question, instead of saying a meaningless statement, and thus it personalizes it. For instance, instead of saying "I am worthy", you say "Why am I worthy?". As soon as you say that, your brain automatically shifts into thinking gear to try to come up with an answer/response. This has helped many people and has gotten them to a point that they are strong enough to ask for help.

These tips may seem small, and like not much. But realize that life isn't made up of a few big events. Rather it is the sum total of our life experiences, and life is made up of the small things.Little changes, marginal and incremental in nature, add up to the big things that define us.

Feeling stuck and like there is no way out is the worst feeling. Please go to a doctor, or consult with someone you trust. There is no shame in asking for help; this requires strength and courage. Your doctor may prescribe Anti-Depression Medication, or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Outpatient, Life Skills or a mixture. If you or someone you love is suffering from depression, or you suspect you are, please call your local Mental Health chapter, reach out, or try clicking on this link for other options, questionnaires and resources:

1 comment:

  1. I wonder if eating disorders are tied to depression? I've never been clinically diagnosed, but I certainly had those absolute times of despair and self-abandonment and unhappiness during my deepest days of eating disorders.

    I like #1, #5, and #6 the most. I think #3 is important too, but in a much smaller context...depression is more than a physical malfunction or depletion, though it can certainly help during the process of recovery. :-)