Depression is a serious psychological disorder which may impact negatively on an individual’s quality of life and relationships with others. There are, however, a lot of ways of dealing with depression and moving on again in life.
What is Depression?
Depression is a psychological disorder that comes with significant morbidity and mortality. It remains a major cause of suicide, substance abuse, and impaired quality of life. Depression is not the same as the occasional mood fluctuations and transient gloominess everyone has in response to challenges of everyday life. People living with depression experience a long-lasting depressed mood, loss of energy, reduced ability to think or concentrate, reduced interest in activities they once enjoyed, and sleep disturbance. Approximately 80% of adults with depression reported some difficulty with home, work, and social activities as a result of their symptoms.
The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) classifies depressive disorders into major depressive disorder, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, disruptive mood dysregulation disorder, persistent depressive disorder, and depressive disorder due to a medical condition. However, the hallmarks of all these classes of depression are the presence of irritable mood, difficulty thinking, poor concentration and attention span, difficulty carrying out daily tasks, and a reduced quality of life.
Stats about Depression
Depression is a common issue globally, with more than 300 million people affected worldwide. During 2013-2016, about 8.1% of American adults aged 20 years and more had depression in a given 2-week period and women were found to be twice (10.4%) as likely as men (5.5%) to have had it. From 2007-2008 to 2015-2016, the prevalence of depression among American adults did not change significantly. It was also revealed that the prevalence of depression was lower among non-Hispanic Asian adults than in Hispanic, non-Hispanic white, and non-Hispanic black adults.
7 Tips to Start Dealing with Depression Now
Dealing with depression requires a lot of commitment and action and this may seem exhausting for a depressed person. It’s not just medications that help treat depression, lifestyle changes, and dietary modifications can also contribute to the improvement of your symptoms and a better quality of life. The following practical tips may restore your mood and quality of life:
1. Practice Self Compassion
Depression could take a huge toll on your emotions and mental health. However, the journey to recovery begins by showing yourself some compassion. Developing love and kindness for yourself will, in time, make you feel less moody and irritable and more alive. Self-compassion involves being warm to yourself when you do not achieve the small goals you set for yourself. Instead of being overly critical of yourself in perceived inadequacies or failures, you can talk about your strengths, feel good about them, and accept your weaknesses.
Another way of showing self-compassion is forgiving yourself. Many people develop depression as a result of life events, such as the death of a loved one, divorce, broken relationships, which they perceive were caused by them. In these situations, the first great step to recovery is letting go of that hurt and guilt and forgiving yourself. Not forgiving oneself keeps the guilt in, which will form a focal point of the negative thoughts and emotions, and the depressive symptoms may linger despite treatment.
In addition, you have to do things that energize you in order to overcome depressive symptoms. Depression, on its own, leaves you with no interest or drive to do what you once loved. However, to develop those interests again, you need to push yourself into doing them: engage in a sport, pick up a new hobby, learn a new music, or take a trip to the ballpark or museum. Even if your symptoms do not improve immediately, you will feel slightly better and that feeling would improve as long as you are persistent.
2. Keep a Depression Journal
Journaling your experiences with depression helps to make your thoughts and emotions clearer to you. When your thoughts, fears, and insecurities swirl around, it helps to take control and manage these emotions if you pen them down. Journaling empowers you to take steps that will eliminate those worries and make you feel better.
Also, writing how you feel or what events happen during the day helps you to notice patterns: You can easily identify a potential stressor or trigger when you keep track of your emotions by writing them down. For instance, you may identify that your symptoms become worse during a certain time of the day or when you engage in a certain activity in a day. This helps you to identify the stressor so you can avoid them in the future.
Journaling also gives you insight into how your symptoms are improving over time. If you flip through the pages to look back at older entries, you may notice how better or worse your symptoms have gone over time. You can make your journal private or share it with your therapist. Whichever you do, it helps to keep your worries in the surface so you could take practical steps to resolve them.
3. Challenge Negative Thinking
Depression often comes with the feeling of worthlessness, the feeling of being powerless or weak. These result from negative thinking patterns stemming from past experiences or perceived failures. It is important to know that these feelings and negative attitudes are not realistic and are distortions caused by the disorder. Life is made of the good and the bad experiences, mistakes and successes, however, in depression, the mistakes and failures are exaggerated and the success or strengths of the individual are downplayed or forgotten, draining them of the energy to do or achieve something.
Challenging these negative thinking patterns is a major step in recovering from depression. Some of these patterns include thinking that one shortcoming means one is a total failure, generalizing a single negative event and expecting it to hold true to other aspects of one’s life, and making negative conclusions about a situation without having any evidence. These patterns of thinking foster depression and must be replaced by positive and more rational thought patterns. For example, instead of thinking that a stranger dislikes you without even having a conversation with you, ask yourself if there’s any way a stranger will not like you if they don’t know you and tell yourself that if a stranger does not like you without knowing you, it is no fault of yours.
4. Set up a Routine
Depression robs one of a stable life and one sure way of combatting it is by creating a stable pattern of living, even if you don’t feel like it. In setting up a routine, the following tips may help:
- Establish the same sleep and wake-up times every day. This ensures you get the right amount of sleep, creating time for other activities during the day. Getting good sleep also helps to improve your mood and brain functions.
- Set up meal times each day. This prevents excessive eating or poor eating which may be associated with depression.
- Set time for social activities every daytime to visit a friend, time to go to the cinema, time to read a book, time to hit the gym etc.
Having a stable pattern gradually keeps your mind focused on the day’s activities rather than engaging the depressive thoughts and feelings.
5. Practice Sleep Hygiene
Sleep is an important factor that helps your brain and mind restore itself and feel rejuvenated. Experts recommend that you get 7 -8 hours of sleep every day to keep your mind functioning properly. Having less or way over that may leave you feeling fatigued, tired, worn out, and not well rested. These may exacerbate the depressive symptoms. Sleep hygiene practices include:
- Limit your daytime nap to 30 minutes
- Establish a regular bedtime and wake-up schedule
- Ensure the sleep environment is comfortable – comfortable mattress and pillows, turn off the lights or adjust them at bedtime so you could fall asleep easily, and keep the temperature cool.
- Avoid stimulants such as nicotine and caffeine close to bedtime
- Avoid heavy, fatty, spicy, or fried foods at bedtime, as these foods could cause an uncomfortable heartburn which disrupts sleep.
- Ensure adequate exposure to natural light during the day.
6. Get Some Exercise
Exercise elevates your mood and keeps not just your body but your mind rejuvenated. Research has shown that exercise may be as effective in improving the symptoms of depression as medications. To get the most benefit, you should engage in regular exercises for at least 30 minutes every day. If you are new to exercises, you can start with mild ones for short durations, then gradually increase the intensity and duration.
Starting and sticking to an exercise routine may seem daunting at first, but regular exercise has been found to improve energy levels and mood. You can get the most benefits from rhythmic exercises such as walking, swimming, dancing, martial arts, and cycling in which your arms and legs are in constant motion.
7. Reach Out to Friends and Loved Ones
It helps to reach out and stay connected to other people when you have depression. Depression creates a tendency to isolate yourself and withdraw from other people, but this, in itself, may worsen your symptoms and allow the negative emotions and thoughts to fester.
You may feel exhausted or pessimistic about social activities, but engaging in them keeps you alive and connected to the world. Participating in positive social activities can help improve your mood and change your attitude about life.
In addition, staying connected to people helps you access the needed emotional support which will help reduce your symptoms. Talking to someone about your feelings help you feel better about them, and having someone listen to you will make you feel loved and cared for. In addition to receiving emotional support, staying connected to people provides you with avenues to support others. Providing care and sharing love to others have been found to give an even bigger boost to your mood and emotional wellbeing.
What are the Traditional Treatments for Depression?
There are a number of conventional methods for treating depression including medications and psychotherapy. However, a combination of both antidepressant medications and psychotherapy is effective in relieving the depressive symptoms. Treatment with only one of those methods may not be as effective.
Therapy for Depression
Therapy for persons with depression is centered on helping the individual deal better with their symptoms by promoting new thinking, emotional, and behavioral patterns. Examples of therapy for depression include interpersonal psychotherapy, emotion-focused therapy, problem-solving therapy, and cognitive behavior therapy. Nowadays, there are even online options to work with.
Medications for Depression
Medicines used for treating depression are called antidepressants and are of many classes. Some of these drugs include Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Fluoxetine, Sertraline, and Citalopram and tricyclic antidepressants such as imipramine and Nortriptyline. Your physician will prescribe these drugs, usually starting at the lowest tolerable dosage and adjust it as required.
What are Alternative Methods of Dealing with Depression?
There are other methods of treating depression. These measures may complement conventional methods or may be as applied if the individual does not respond to these methods.
ECT for Depression
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is highly effective for the treatment of depression. It is usually indicated for individuals who do not respond to medications, those who have become suicidal, or if a fast reduction of symptoms is required.
ECT has an onset of action that is more rapid than drug therapies, with improvement in symptoms seen within a few days of commencing therapy. However, ECT is associated with a number of risks including post-treatment confusion, short-term memory loss, and problems caused by the anesthesia.
Ketamine for Depression
Ketamine is a drug used for anesthesia to numb pain sensation during a surgical procedure, however, when misused for recreational purposes, it may cause severe effects such as hallucinations, mood distortions, and losing touch with reality.
New studies, however, has suggested that ketamine may be effective in the treatment of severe depression, especially in individuals who do not respond to other forms of treatment or those who are suicidal. Ketamine may be administered via intravenous routes or through inhalation. Ketamine acts quickly with improvement in symptoms observed within a short time after use.
CBD Oil for Depression
Cannabinoid (CBD) is a naturally occurring chemical substance found in the hemp plant, cannabis. It is one of the most common naturally-occurring compounds in hemp. CBD oil has been found to be effective in the treatment of depression by potentiating the effects of chemical substances in the body which help regulate mood, sleep, and appetite. CBD oil is considered safe for use with minimal risk of side effects and, contrary to popular belief, CBD is not addictive and does not cause the user to get high.
Bottom Line: Dealing with Depression
Depression is a disorder that takes a huge toll on a person’s quality of life and interpersonal relationships. However, it is possible to overcome the symptoms and lead a happier and healthier life. It may be difficult but persistence and commitment to practicing healthy lifestyle habits and professional care will see those symptoms lose their grip on you over time.