I’m personally familiar with the emotional cloud of depression. It has been triggered by:
. grief (losing my parents and other loved ones)
. menopause hormonal changes
. being self-employed brings it’s own set of financial challenges in this recession climate
.working through personal struggles, ups and downs that marriage and parenting brings,
. regrets and disappointments when opportunities did not come through,
. self-esteem issues from comparing one’s life from media pressure and society’s
standards of what success, beauty and achievement should be.
I have conquered some of those inner demons and yet it is an on-going process to keep my mind, focus, gratitude and faith in check. I’m very passionate about helping others win the battle of depression and low self-esteem because I know the painful cost and despair that can consume your life if you can’t cope with life’s inevitable shifts, seasons, loss and disappointments. Below are 12 steps I have found to be helpful to cope with depression. Of course, if you or someone you know has chronic depression, it’s important to seek medical attention. It’s also important to do your own research on the health supplements I suggest, because everything is not for everyone.
1. Watching the news can easily trigger feelings of stress and depression. We have an overload of exposure and information. Some of it is informative but a continuous diet of the news increases anger, worry, anxiety or fear which releases excessive levels of stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenalin, throughout your body. You can become depressed and overwhelmed unless you learn to balance it out with some humor and entertainment.
2. Practice Self-Compassion by understanding and forgiving yourself for failing to pass a test or interview, an angry outburst, overeating, etc. Do you find it easy to forgive others, but you can’t forgive yourself from your past blunders or choices? Beating yourself up, punishing yourself, denying yourself, criticizing yourself or hurting yourself with addictions is so self-destructive! The past has passed. Get busy setting new goals for yourself. Discover joy and hope for your future. Give thanks for the present and let go of the past. If a relationship has ended and depression is consuming your energy and self-worth, read my book “Love Smart With Your Heart: Desperation is a Terrible Perfume to Wear.”
3. Talk it out. Don’t isolate and disconnect from your family, friends, church or any source of comfort and wisdom. Answer your phone when others are checking in on you. Find a good church to feed your faith. Be accountable to someone so you won’t slip into darkness. I see too often how pride, depression, shame and fear cause people to hide and disconnect. The more you isolate, the more the enemy of depression plays tricks on your mind. Feeling invisible, hopeless, lonely, confused and overwhelmed will only escalate if you disconnect from the important people in your life. Connect with people who can inspire, encourage, support and mentor you. Their positive energy can be a healthy influence. Guard your heart and mind from the complainers, critics and negative thinkers. Connect with those whose faith can lift your faith. One of the most important things you can do is to communicate your feelings to someone, or to a group of people, going through similar experiences. Then engage in caring about them and offering emotional support. This especially helps to reopen the heart, which increases your fortitude and emotional balance. Whether you laugh together or cry together, there is often tremendous beneficial release. You will discover that you are not alone. Let go of pride and come out of any cave of isolation, sleep, addiction, pity-party or stinkin’ thinkin’. Communicate and negotiate with your bill collectors. Avoidance, denial and resentment about your finances only increases your stress and depression. Taking positive action to resolve your financial issues will be a boost to your self-esteem, faith and courage. Whether your depression is caused by unemployment or weight/image issues, take proactive steps, one step at a time…one day at a time to break the stronghold of depression.
4. Walk it out. Move your body. Exercise releases happy-making endorphins, which act like natural anti-depressants. Take a 15- to 30-minute brisk walk every day — or dance, jog, or bike if you prefer. People who are depressed may not feel much like being active. But make yourself do it anyway (ask a friend to exercise with you if you need to be motivated). Once you get in the exercise habit, it won’t take long to notice a difference in your mood. Go dancing, try zumba classes, yoga, swimming, etc. Play some upbeat or soothing music. Listen to gospel inspirational music to activate your faith! The right music can be therapuetic for your soul. Just don’t play any sad music or love songs that open up your heart wounds. If you are in need of job, get moving. Don’t allow depression to keep you paralyzed in fear.Start walking by faith, not be sight. Pray with your feet, not just your hands. If you’re depressed about your weight, walk it out. Burn up those calories. Depression slows down your metabolism. Being active will help you emotionally and physically.
5. Never skip a meal – Keeping your blood sugar stable reduces mood swings. Consume carbohydrates from fruits and whole grains, as these types of carbohydrates are less likely to cause blood sugar (and energy and mood levels) to rapidly spike and drop. Incorporating these “good carbs” into every meal will keep energy and serotonin levels going throughout the day and help you avoid a mood “crash” after meals.
6. Avoid caffeine, which reduces serotonin levels. If you need an energy boost, supplement with L-Tyrosine (500 – 1000 mg).
7. Detox your mind from comparing, complaining and criticism. Do you feel relaxed, burnout, happy, rushed, thirsty, starving, exhausted or in need of a good stretch? Ignoring your bodily needs keeps your energy and awareness trapped inside your head. Long slow gentle breaths brings oxygen into your lungs, blood stream and brain relaxing the body and mind. Notice when you are obsessing on negative thoughts…forgive yourself…you are a creature of habit. A big source of depression comes from not getting what we want and expect in life. Comparing yourself to others will trigger depression. Criticizing yourself will trigger depression. Complaining about your circumstances or about what you don’t have will trigger depression. Monitor your habitual thinking, notice what triggers them and realize comparing, criticizing and complaining are unhealthy for you..then you are on your way to lifting the cloud of depression. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2)
8. Life is more enjoyable when you live in the moment. Depression comes from either dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. Take a deep breath. Look around you. Bring your attention to the present moment. By learning to live in the present moment we are able to release any longing or wistfulness for the past, or worry or anticipation about the future.
9. Accept that life brings suffering, loss. Just like the happy times in life come to an end, so do the bad times, which is why we need to accept the impermanence of life. Work through the pain, because the reward is waiting for you further down the road. Life is made of seasons, cycles and dips. Every new project (or job, or hobby, relationship or business, idea) starts out exciting and fun. Dips, ups, downs and shift happens in life. If you resist or resist change, it will trigger depression. Life is magical,mysterious, crazy, unpredictable, sweet, sour, wonderful and scary. Read my book Shift Happens
10. Help others – volunteer– this takes your attention off your situation and stress. Helping the hurting, the homeless, the hugless and the hungry will put your life into perspective. Instead of seeking comfort and relief for yourself…comfort others with acts of kindness. Volunteering keeps you in regular contact with others and helps you develop a solid support system, which in turn protects you against stress and depression when you’re going through challenging times. Volunteering helps you stay physically healthy. Volunteering is good for your health at any age, but it’s especially beneficial in older adults. Studies have found that those who volunteer have a lower mortality rate than those who do not, even when considering factors like the health of the participants. Volunteering has also been shown to lessen symptoms of chronic pain or heart disease.
11. Gratitude – count your blessings. Depression is a set up to make you give up. Depression is a dark enemy that kills and destroys your health, peace, relationships, faith, purpose and joy. Be grateful to God. Focus on the people who have helped you, not the ones who have hurt you. Give thanks for the small things in life. Don’t overlook the ordinary blessings by seeking the extraordinary temporary buzzes of happiness. Show appreciation, expression and kindness to those around you.
“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” — Albert Schweitzer
“Real life isn’t always going to be perfect or go our way, but the recurring acknowledgement of what is working in our lives can help us not only to survive but surmount our difficulties.” — Sarah Ban Breathnach
12. The following are supplements I take to reduce depression and increase my wellness.
a.) St. John’s Wort has long been used in folk medicine for sadness, worry, nervousness, and poor sleep. Today, the results of over 20 clinical trials suggest that St. John’s wort works better than a placebo and is as effective as antidepressants for mild to moderate depression, with fewer side effects. Studies suggest that St. John’s wort is not effective for major depression. St. John’s wort is not recommended for pregnant or nursing women, children, or people with bipolar disorder, liver or kidney disease.
b) Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of good fat needed for normal brain function. Our bodies can’t make omega-3s on their own, so we must obtain them through our diet. Cold water fish such as salmon, sardines, and anchovies are the richest food source of omega-3 fatty acids. But instead of eating more fish which contain mercury, PCBs, and other chemicals, fish oil capsules are considered a cleaner source of omega-3 fatty acids. Many companies filter their fish oil so that these chemicals are removed.
c) SAM-e pronounced “sammy”, is short for S-adenosyl-L-methionine. It’s a chemical that’s found naturally in the human body and is believed to increase levels of neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine. Several studies have found SAM-e is more effective than placebo.
d) Folic Acid is a B vitamin that is often deficient in people who are depressed. Folate is found in green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, fruit, beans, and fortified grains. It’s one of the most common vitamin deficiencies because of poor diet but also because chronic conditions and various medications such as aspirin and birth control pills can also lead to deficiency. Besides food, folic acid is also available as a supplement or as part of a B-complex vitamin.