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Depression Management Tactics: How to Manage it Before it Manages You!

Depression Management Tactics:  How to Manage it Before it Manages You!

Whatever you do, don’t decide to write a blog post about depression.  Whenever I teach about a topic, it seems I get a fresh experience with it to share.  For seven years, I taught chronic illness to my student nurses.  And every semester I felt like I had developed a new disease.  So, when you decide to share how you have overcome depression, you just might end up slightly depressed.  It takes me awhile to open up about my battle with depression.  But each time I do, it touches someone life in a special way.  So, that makes it worthwhile and it just may be that this post was meant for you to read today.  There is hope!

depressionNaseer Haider Siddiqui/ Freeimages.com

How to Overcome Depression

As a new mom, I struggled with the lack of sleep, the noise, adjusting to new responsibilities and feelings of always being “on duty”.   Being an overachiever, I was unable to cut myself any slack and became very unbalanced.  My life had become all work and no play and my measures of success were how many spills I cleaned up and how many dirty diapers I changed.  While I certainly know these things are important and joy can be found in the routine things of life, I never woke up excited to clean up another mess.

When I wasn’t at home, I was busy working at a local hospital as both a critical care nurse and a house supervisor.  To me, working in a high-stress, acute care environment was my enjoyable escape.  Funny as it may sound, I felt more alive and relaxed helping with medical emergencies than I did being a homemaker.  My husband knew I was experiencing depression and desperately wanted me to get the help I needed.  Another funny thing about depressed people is that they often lack the energy needed to reach out for help.  So, I suffered in silence for several years before I finally decided it was time for a real solution.

Treating the Physical

One of the first things to realize about depression is that there are often physical aspects to the problem that can be treated.  In some cases, medication can help, but there are several other types of physical treatment too.  When I was finally ready to deal with my issue, I took every approach I could find.  Here is a list of physical problems and possible solutions that are worth exploring if you are depressed.

  1. Chemical Imbalances.

    Your medical provider is best qualified to determine if and when taking medications is a good idea for you.  I do want to emphasize that there can be imbalances, such as low serotonin levels, that can be treated with medication.  So, don’t assume you’re stuck with your problem for life.  There are many medication options and one of them could be right for you.

  2. Untreated Diseases.

    Sometimes depression is actually a symptom of the real problem, not the primary issue.  So, you may actually have an untreated or undiagnosed medical problem that needs to be managed first.  A common disease that can be associated with depression is hypothyroidism.  A simple blood test ordered by your medical provider can often detect diseases that may be the cause and can be easily treated.

  3. Lack of Sleep.

    I already mentioned that the lack of sleep related to having young children was detrimental to me.  People handle lack of sleep differently and some people function better on less.  However, the research has shown for years that there is a link between inadequate sleep and depression (O’Leary, Bylsma, & Rottenberg, 2016).  If you’re not getting enough sleep every night, this is definitely an area worth exploring.

  4. Lack of Regular Exercise.

    There are many benefits of exercise, one of which is to improve your mood.  Regular physical exercise makes people feel better, decreases stress, and provides you a better sense of well-being.  I know it almost sounds counter-intuitive that working your body harder would make you feel better, but it’s true!  Some people find it help to exercise to relieve stress.  But to get the most benefit from exercise, it should be regular and you should make it a daily priority.  You can read more about these benefits in this Exercise and Depression post from Harvard Health.

  5. Poor Dietary Choices

    There is no magic diet to prevent depression.  But depression can be impacted by what you eat.  Just like how we need to give our cars the right type of gasoline to work optimally, we need to give our bodies the right kind of food too!  The best way to look at food choices is to follow the MyPlate guidelines for well-balanced eating (unless your medical provider has you on a special diet).  I also recommend choosing naturally grown foods and avoiding highly processed foods whenever possible!  A fresh salad is going to benefit you much more than a bag of chips.

Treating the Emotional

A second area to focus on regarding treatment for depression is our emotional response and coping skills.  A common treatment option in dealing with this aspect is psychotherapy.  According to the American Psychological Association, in psychotherapy, psychologists apply scientifically validated procedures to help people develop healthier, more effective habits.

Approaches may include cognitive-behavioral, interpersonal, and other kinds of talk therapy that helps individuals work through their problems.  Psychotherapy provides a supportive environment that allows you to talk openly with someone who’s objective, and nonjudgmental.  By the time you’re done, you will likely have solved the problem and have learned new coping skills for the future.

Treating the Spiritual

A third important area that many people leave out is spiritual treatment.  Of course, how you handle this depends on what your spiritual beliefs are but I believe this is an important part of treatment for everyone with the exception of true atheists.

As a Christian, I found that God spoke to me personally through the Scriptures.  I found words of comfort, love, support, guidance, and even conviction at times while reading the Bible.  Other times I would hear a song (both secular and Christian) on the radio that emphasized the same thing I read in the Bible.  And I’ll never forget the time I heard an important message repeated in an exercise video from someone who was just speaking her mind.

To anyone who is tempted to leave the spiritual treatment out of the picture, I highly caution you against doing that.  It would be like trying to play tennis with both arms tied behind your back.  Your legs might still work, and the balls keep bouncing your way, but it’s much harder to hit a tennis ball with your torso than a tennis racket.  Instead, bring all your extremities into the game and you stand a better chance of success.

Reflection Questions

  1. Have you felt depression symptoms becoming a bigger part of your life lately?  Perhaps it is time to allow someone to help you sort through it all.
  2. Have you considered all 3 aspects of treatment including physical, emotional, and spiritual care?
  3. Have you figured out the meaning of your life?  If not, take heart, seek and you shall find 🙂

References

Exercise and depression.  Harvard Health Publication.

Hypothyroidism.American Thyroid Association.

MyPlate Guidelines.  USDA.

O’Leary, K., Bylsma, L. M., & Rottenberg, J. (2016). Why might poor sleep quality lead to depression? A role for emotion regulation. Cognition and Emotion, , 1-9. doi:10.1080/02699931.2016.1247035

Serotonin: Facts, What Does Serotonin Do? Medical News Today.

Understanding psychotherapy and how it works.  American Psychological Association.

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