[Feel free to skip down to the 10-point list if you like.] Depression destroys lives, robs strength and spirit. It’s considered to be the fourth most important cause of disability worldwide, and expected to grow to second place by 2020. That’s very frightening. In the past, it was “wrong” to talk about it and an admission of weakness. But with numbers like this, talking about it is important in coping.
For those of us who try to keep depression under control and manage to live functional lives, it still sometimes sneaks up and destroys the hard-fought productivity we’ve gained. I make no bones about it; this is a very frank and open weblog. I suffer from the screaming blue meanies (seasonal affected disorder aka SAD aka seasonal depression) from about October to March. If you don’t want to read more, stop now and go elsewhere.
Usually, January isn’t as bad as December or February, but I’m going through a particular bad winter and a particular bad day today as I write this. However, I have a freelance writing business to run and I haven’t been able to do much of my contract work all day. So I’ve been going through my partially written personal blog posts (as opposed to doing paid work), finishing them up and publishing a few. Even though I wrote twelve posts for one client over the weekend, I can’t seem to bring myself to actually posting them to the weblog, partially out of guilt from not progressing on larger projects for the same client. It’s not rational, this unseen barrier stopping me.
So I’m trying to utilize my time to the best of my ability and to get at least partial productivity today. And that’s really one of the most fundamental ways to cope with depression, especially if you’re like me and refuse to take allopathic pharmaceuticals (I take homeopathic and naturopathic medicines, apply ayurvedic principles, and take vitamins for my SAD and hypothyroid problem. The latter already affects my concentration and productivity; depression worsens it.)
10 Tips For Fighting Depression
I’ve done a bit of research into fighting depression recently and I’ve put together ten brief tips for fighting depression, leaving medication out of the list (excepting vitamins), as it doesn’t work for everyone. Most of these tips are probably common sense but it’s sometimes hard to think rationally when you’re depressed, and thus easy to forget.
- Get sufficient sleep.
I’ve always burned the candle at both ends. It’s a flaw of being a type-A, driven, workaholic personality. Lack of sleep multiplies the effects of depression. If you can’t get a full 6-8 hours each night, try 15-30 minute catnaps through out the day. I’ve tried implementing Steve Pavlina’s attempt at polyphasic rhythm-based sleep, but I can’t quite pull it off yet. I have however been very successful in using Pzizz‘s two free 15-minute energizer audio MP3 recordings for power naps several times a day. It’s unbelievable how much these help. I’ve also successfully been using binaural beats to positively affect alpha, beta, theta, etc., brainwaves. (More on that in the future.)
- Reduce stress.
Stress can be invisible and subconscious, and it can come from guilt about a variety of things, personal and professional. For example, as I write this article, I’m suffering from guilt for not working on client projects, which I’ve been unable to do for most of the day. That means I have to make up for this lack tomorrow, which in turn induces anxiety. It’s tough, stressful cycle. If you don’t keep stress under control, it can induce productivity-grinding panic and anxiety attacks. Naps, a walk around the neighbourhood, and exercise can help alleviate the effects immensely. Remember: you cannot learn effectively with stress weighing you down. Sometimes, practicing detachment from your worries will solve your stress.
- Get sufficient exercise.
It’s not just a matter of getting blood flowing, though that’s part of it. But getting outside and getting sunlight and fresh air is important because it rejuvenates you. If you work at home like I do, this is especially important. I find that despite being a hermit thinker type, physical activity makes me feel great during times of depression. Blood flow and adrenaline seem to stave off the worst effects. Though it’s sometimes hard to remember that exercise or keeping busy helps.
Meditation can be an effective means to reducing stress and thus depression. It can also help you to become aware of what is causing your guilt, your stress, and often help you achieve some detachment from those “problems” you cannot do anything about. In short, it helps you achieve perspective, to see where to focus your attention. I’ve been meditating on and off for about 20 years. (I’ve done over 10,000 hours of meditation, part of the requirement of becoming a Buddhist monk, though not all under a “master”, which disqualifies me.)
- Add some colour to your wardrobe.
Tough for me, an ex-goth who still wears mostly all-black, but all dark clothes all the time increases the effects of depression. Colour stimulates positive feelings. I find blood red or a hunter green shirt helps me. Some people prefer yellow, orange or peach, or prints or paisleys. You can also add colour to your life through art therapy.
- Eat properly.
You know eating properly applies all the time but it’s even more crucial for those suffering from depression. I find grains, nuts, and fruit help me, and staying away from fried foods and refined carbs. I have a friend, a gifted classical guitarist, who ends up in the hospital every three or four years because of the massive amount of fast food he eats nearly every single day, and without vegetables at that. (He’s had around three meltdowns in the decade or so I’ve known him, and hasn’t worked in that time.) Even a fresh submarine/ hoagy/ rocket with lots of free toppings (i.e., veggies) is better than fries, gravy, burgers and pizzas several times a week like he has. (I’m not knocking them, as I eat them, but not every day.) Seek out healthy snacks or make your own, eat nutritious foods and add colourful vegetables and leafy items.
- Take your vitamins.
Learn your E, B, Cs. And Zinc, Folic acid, iron supplements, etc. Poor diet robs us of many absolutely essential nutrients. If you are not going to change your diet, whatever your reason, at least replenish those nutrients.
- Drink water.
The proper amount of fluids helps keep your skin from getting dry in the winter time – the “season” in seasonal depression. It also helps clear out some of the toxins in your body. And by the way, it’s NOT 8 glasses per day for everyone. The proper amount is based on your body weight, age, activity level, and other factors.
- Add extra lighting.
Research shows that adding some warm, bright lights helps fight the effects of depression. You don’t have to spend $150+ on special lamps; just increase the wattage in some of your light bulbs. Also, fluorescent lights are less bright than they appear. Try to replace them if possible.
It’s not a guaranteed nor permanent cure, but it does help sometimes, if you can maintain a smile for a few minutes. I watch The Comedy Network (Canada) sometimes, as laughing helps – at least temporarily, like chicken soup sort of helps a cold. Remembering to do so is key, so you may need to tape some visual reminders to your mirrors or computer, etc.
Disclaimer: I am by no means a doctor and don’t pretend to be. There’s more than one way to fight depression. If you have insidious, persistent depression, consider seeing a doctor, pyschiatrist or a therapist. (For some people, drugs may be the only answer.) Thus, the information provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be considered as medical advice – only the findings of someone who suffers from seasonal depression. You use the information found here at your own risk only.