10 Powerful Ways To Fight Depression Outside The Doctor's Office

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Buzz, Self

You don't have to keep feeling this way.

Do you ever have one of those days ... the kind where you can't get yourself going? Nothing seems to work out the way you expected. You sit in front of your to-do list and nothing is making you feel inspired to take action. You know, a “blah” day.

Sometimes it's just a few hours or a single day. Other times, this can turn into longer periods of time when you can't seem to make yourself feel energized, interested, or motivated. A bad day turns into a prolonged period of depression.

Even a single day of feeling “down” or “blue” can cause disruptions in your life. You don't make progress on work tasks. You don't feel inspired or motivated to start a project, much less stick with it to the end. That date you had planned at the end of the day seems a million hours away, and even that is sounding less appealing.

But when symptoms like this persist over a longer period of time, it may feel impossible to turn things around. This is clinical depression and it can cause severe havoc and breakdown across every aspect of a person's life.

Observing yourself and noticing changes that may indicate you are suffering from depression is a challenge.

Often it's a comment from a loved one, a friend, or co-worker that ultimately holds up the mirror and brings your depression to light. While it may feel embarrassing to admit that you're experiencing depression, being brave enough to accept the feedback and seek help will ultimately get you feeling better sooner.

First, it's important to understand that you're truly not alone.  

The National Institute of Mental Health tells us that "Major depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States." The NIMH and other mental health organizations reveal that as many as two in 10 adults in America suffer from depression at some point in their life. Though diagnoses are increasing an alarming 20 percent per year, sadly, roughly 80 percent of people who suffer from symptoms of depression never seek treatment.     

Most people struggle silently with symptoms like:  

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood    
  • Feelings of hopelessness, or pessimism
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
  • Decreased energy or fatigue
  • Moving or talking more slowly
  • Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight changes
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear  physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment

No one deserves to feel that way. Including you. 

So, why are SO many people depressed? 

While stressful life events (i.e. divorce, death in the family, job loss) and a family history of depression can certainly put you at risk for a major depressive episode, it's important to know that there are many other common medical issues that can cause people to experience symptoms of depression, such as: hormone imbalance, adrenal fatigue, chronic fatigue syndrome, ADHD (inattentive type), anxiety, sleep disorder, chronic pain, hypothyroid, poor diet, prescription medications, diabetes, systemic candida, head injury, substance abuse, vitamin D deficiency, grief, and menopause (in women).

Getting a comprehensive screening to rule out lifestyle or health causes for your symptoms is so important. 

Of course, all emotional responses have a chemical consequence.

For example, when we laugh, a greater amount of chemical endorphins (natural painkillers) released into the bloodstream. Endorphins do not cause laughter however, they are a consequence of it.

Likewise, when we feel depressed a chemical consequence triggers an imbalance of neurochemicals, such as serotonin and norepinephrine. Historically, it was accepted that depression is caused by a neurochemical imbalance. However, in recent years it has been acknowledged that studies linking depression to chemical imbalances do not offer evidence of a causal effect. In other words, it is now coming to light, through scrutiny of the research, that depression causes the reduction in neurochemicals in our brain, rather than the other way around. (This may explain why antidepressant medications take so long to work, and why they're not effective for approximately 30 percent of patients suffering from symptoms of depression.)

While researchers continue to find clues to the cause (or causes) of depression, it is apparent from their findings — depression is complicated.

There are many areas of the brain, chemical components, associated health issues, genetic markers, and personality patterns that may be related – though it cannot yet be said that any of them cause depression.

So, what can you do to treat your depression and finally feel BETTER? 

The most commonly prescribed treatment for depression is a combination of antidepressant medications and cognitive behavioral therapy. Starting both of these as soon as you recognize the symptoms of depression can improve treatment outcomes and your long term prognosis. Medications that treat depression can take 4-8 weeks to have a noticeable effect. They work by increasing the neurochemicals in your brain that are affected by depression, such as serotonin and norepinephrine. But, it's important to note that research suggests that as much as one third of patients who take these medications alone will not show improvement.

It's interesting to note that depression itself does not cause the reduction in serotonin and norepinephrine. Rather, is it the lack of engaging in healthy and pleasurable activities when one is depressed that causes the dip in their levels.

In many cases making lifestyle changes to your sleep, diet, and exercise routines can have a significant impact on resolving current symptoms of depression and reducing your risk for future episodes of depression. Other times there may be more ingrained personality patterns or habits that contribute to your experiences of depression. Working with a therapist or coach to identify these patterns and replace them with alternative healthy behaviors can improve your long term well being.

In addition to the traditional treatment protocols for depression, there are new treatments showing promise for treatment resistant depression, such as transcranial direct current stimulation and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). TMS is a non-invasive treatment option for patients with severe depression that cannot be managed with medication. An electromagnetic coil is placed next to the patient’s head and sends small magnetic pulses, similar to those given off by an MRI, that stimulate nerve cells in the area of the patient’s brain that controls mood.

Once you have identified that you are suffering from symptoms of depression, it's important that you address it as soon as possible.

In the absence of an underlying medical cause, this traditionally means coaching or therapy and medications, as mentioned above. However, many people are starting to opt for “alternative” approaches to addressing symptoms of depression. For some this may mean naturopathic remedies, acupuncture, massage, exercise, good sleep habits, or eating a clean diet. For others it may include a concerted effort to be more social, get more sun, reduce stress in their life, or resolve problems with important people.

Ultimately, almost every strategy used to address symptoms of depression causes a neurochemical reaction in our brain that can improve our mood. Challenging yourself to break out of the behaviors caused by depression can reduce the production of harmful chemicals in your body, such as cortisol. Engaging in pleasurable activities releases dopamine (the feel good chemical). Connecting with other people in a positive way releases oxytocin (the love or cuddle hormone). Eating a healthy diet helps to regulate serotonin and norepinephrine.

To help you get started, here are 10 ways to chemically alter your mood without taking medication: 

1. Be active or exercise.
2. Spend time with other people.     
3. Educate yourself about depression.
4. Expose yourself to a little sunlight every day. Sunlight can help boost your mood.     
5. Take a short walk outdoors- being in nature can have a profound impact on your mood.     
6. Talk about your feelings to someone you trust, face-to-face.
7. Try to keep up with social activities even if you don’t feel like it.
8. Aim for 8 hours of sleep.
9. Practice meditation or relaxation techniques.
10. Eat a healthy diet- avoid processed foods and sugar.

Keep in mind that depression is not an indication that you are a failure, weak, or “sick.”

It is incredibly common, treatable and often a wake-up call that can put you on a better life path if you address it head on.

Bonus:  Increase the fun in your life     



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