Overcoming Depression – Self Recovery Advice
Depression is a condition which can sneak up on you suddenly, or develop over time until you reach a point when it becomes almost a way of life. Some people who suffer from depression can reach a stage when the thought of not feeling depressed becomes almost frightening, as depression becomes like a familiar blanket and a reason not to engage with life.
Depression is sometimes a case of better the devil you know – but most people with depression long to return to a time when they did not have to endure the symptoms and the feelings of hopelessness and pointlessness depression brings with it. To break the cycle of depression, it can often be necessary to get help, either from a GP or a support group.
Sometimes admitting to your doctor that you have been coping with depression can help relieve some of the burden, as admitting you need some help can be the first step to improving the situation. Taking good care of yourself and being aware of your own needs when tackling depression can also help – often daily life and caring for others does not leave people with depression much time for themselves.
On the other hand, if you have been made redundant or do not work, too much time to fill can make you feel depressed, especially if you are coping with money issues. Bereavement or the breakdown of a relationship, as well as illness, injury, or surgery can also bring on depression – any interruption to the normal course of your life can make you feel vulnerable and that is when depression can strike you.
Once you have admitted to yourself and your GP that you need some help, here are a few ways you can take your depression in hand and take small steps towards overcoming it.
- The brain needs to make new connections in its “wiring” to remain healthy and fully functioning; so try and vary your routine, learn something new, read more, do word or logic puzzles, or try an activity like creative writing, start an eBay shop or learn a new skill, like motor mechanics or carpentry – whatever takes your fancy.
- Motivation can slump when you are depressed – schedule in a short walk every day (build up to longer walks) and a domestic chore or some gardening. Sticking to a routine will help make you feel you are still on top of things. Exercise boosts blood flow to the brain and brains need the oxygen carried by red blood cells to function properly.
- Reward yourself – a small treat, a trip to the cinema or a museum or motor show (whatever your interests) can get your brain working and get you out of a rut.
- Shutting yourself off from friends and family is common with depression, but conversation can help boost brain function – and is recommended for older people to stave off Alzheimer’s disease, as the brain’s wiring needs stimulation. Talk to friends, talk to family, and talk to strangers also – even if you just chat at the checkout or at the hairdresser, it will make you feel more connected with life.
- Listen to what your body is telling you – low energy and wanting to sleep, or not sleeping at all, are common with depression; but if you suddenly feel like a trip out, don’t ignore the signs and let depression hold you back – make the effort and go out, paint that wall, chat on Facebook, or play a video game for half-an-hour, rather than sit in front of the TV or lie in bed and do nothing.
- Eat well – certain foods can boost brain function and health and help beat depression, as they contain compounds which help the brain stay healthy. Eat iron-rich foods, like liver or steak, to boost red blood cells, and complex carbohydrates like whole meal bread, wholegrain cereals, and brown rice. Turkey and bananas contain tryptophan, which converts to serotonin in the brain. Avoid sugar, white flour, and pasta or biscuits and cakes, as these can give you a quick burst of energy followed by a slump. Fatty fish like salmon and tuna contains Omega-3 fatty acids to boost brain health, improve sleep patterns and reduce anxiety and depression. Take flaxseed (linseed oil) if you are allergic to fish.
- Enjoy a glass of red wine and a few squares of 70% cocoa dark chocolate daily to boost brain health. Red wine keeps arteries healthy and boosts blood flow to the brain – dark chocolate does the same and also helps trigger serotonin production, which is the happiness chemical in the brain.
- Avoid reading bad news – serotonin is produced whenever we are happy and depression can mean fall in its levels. Serotonin is sometimes called the “love chemical” because of the feelings of elation it creates when we fall in love, so do and read things which make you happy – whether this a walk by the sea or reading a holiday brochure – to boost serotonin levels naturally.
- Avoid addictive behavior – if you find yourself drinking more, eating more, gambling, comfort spending, or taking recreational or over-the-counter medications to try and cope with depression, see your GP. If you are beginning to rely on food or comfort spending to feel better, you will need to break the “boom and bust” mood cycle of addictive behavior.
The organization Depression Alliance (http://www.depressionalliance.org/) offers support to people with depression – and depression is not something you have to hide away from others, as one-in-five of us will suffer an episode of depression at some time in our lives.
Be kind to yourself, talk to your GP – and get the help and support you need to beat depression.
About the Author
Leo Wyatt is a freelance writer & journalist who graduated from Birmingham University. Leo has worked for several newspapers in the midlands but now spends most of his time writing articles for companies, websites and businesses on a freelance basis, primarily the brain injury experts. Leo also has particular interests in politics, law and health.