Depression and sadness are normal emotions experienced by all human beings at certain times in their lives. Some people have what we call episodic depression, which is a normal emotional response to increased stress, a loss, or major life change such as starting school, leaving a job, or moving. Most of the time, episodic depression goes away on its own with time. Other people may have chronic depression, meaning that genetically they are more likely to experience bouts of depression that may be related to stress or may arise at unexpected times or during certain times of the year.
For those with episodic depression, usually treatment or medication is not necessary unless the depression is a severe grief reaction, for instance, after the death of a loved one, serious accident, injury, or illness, or some other event that is ongoing or is still happening (for example, loss of job or disability). For people with chronic depression, usually a combination of therapy and medication is the best way to manage this type of depression. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one of the most popular and research-supported treatments for depression but there is also evidence to suggest that EMDR and other therapies are also helpful in reducing the severity of chronic depression symptoms.
Here are 5 Quick Tips for Managing Depression:
- Be active, stay active, get some sleep: Research suggests that regular exercise is the best and most natural way to manage both episodic and chronic depression, aim for 30 minutes per day if possible. Make sleep a priority, we are not robots and need rest, and we are all more cranky and irritable when we are not well rested. Aim for at least 7-8 hours per night if possible.
- Limit caffeine, processed foods, and alcohol: Caffeine, artificial ingredients, and alcohol alter the way your brain functions and processes information, especially alcohol, which can worsen depression. Instead of reaching for that second cup of coffee in the morning (or evening), take a walk instead and let your brain wake itself up. As we all know by now, “you are what you eat”, so try your best to eat whole, nutritious foods (organic when possible), especially fruits and vegetables, and plenty of water to keep your body (and brain) hydrated and fully functioning.
- Limit computer and social media time: While social media is awesome for staying informed about what everyone in your life is doing, it can also lead to creating an unrealistic comparison of our lives to others (for example, statements like “her life is awesome and mine isn’t”). Instead of starting or ending your day on social media, call a friend or family member to chat and catch up with them directly. Avoid any screen time (phones, tablets, laptops) within an hour of bedtime so your brain can wind down for the day and don’t bring screens to bed with you!
- Go outside and play: Being outdoors and in nature has a natural calming effect on the brain, take a walk after work or dinner, take your four-legged friend or kiddos with you, find a local park or playground to spend some time at. Take up a sport or outdoor hobby of some sort, even read a book outdoors for a change. Your brain will thank you.
- Connect with others: When we’re feeling down, sometimes the last thing we want to do is talk or spend time with others. Research suggests that social connection is not only essential to our survival as human beings but it can improve things like mood, motivation, and interest in things we enjoy doing.
**This blog post is not designed to be a replacement for mental health counseling. If you or a loved one are suffering from depression, please seek the assistance of a mental health professional. For a list of providers in your area visit www.psychologytoday.com or contact us here and we will be happy to assist you in finding someone to help.