6 Steps to Beating Depression

Sad woman looking through the window

Depression is more than simply feeling unhappy. It is a debilitating disorder that drains your energy, your motivation, and your self-worth. The major difference between depression and unhappiness is that depression is a persistent feeling. 

It can be as frustrating dealing with someone who has depression as it is dealing with depression yourself. But know that one of the worst things you can do is tell someone who is depressed to “just snap out of it” or something similar. Just like any disorder, it takes time to work through it, so it’s important to be patient. 

However, part of having depression means losing sight of how much control you actually have. While feeling better does take time, and it’s a gradual process, being persistent about your healing process is what will get you through. 

The following are six steps to taking control of your emotions and overcoming your depression.

1. Practice Mindfulness

Someone in a depressed state of mind tends to hyperfocus on the negative. This can breed anxiety and further support the miserable cycle of worthlessness that comes with depression. It’s not a helpful habit to fall into when trying to overcome your depression. 

The first and most simple thing you can do is breathe. Mindful breathing is scientifically proven to reduce anxiety, as it helps your nervous system shift from the animalistic “fight or flight” response to the parasympathetic nervous system which is far more relaxed.  

Zen moment

Bringing your mind into the present moment takes your mind off of the negative thoughts. This can be accomplished through meditation. Try using your senses– sight, smell, touch, sound –to anchor yourself in the present. Practicing this helps you regulate your negative thoughts, and it gets easier to shift into the present moment. 

Another mindful practice you can use is gratitude. By recognizing the good in your life– the people, things, and experiences you’re grateful for –you reinforce positivity. If you practice this enough, it becomes easier to focus on the positives in your life rather than the negatives. 

Writing in a journal is also mindfulness practice. It can help move your negative thoughts out of your brain, and it also helps you gain some perspective when you’re able to read back your thoughts from a piece of paper.

2. Get More Active

It can be incredibly difficult to even roll yourself out of bed when you’re depressed, much less exercising. But exercise is highly combative of depression. It’s proven that working out on a regular basis can serve as effectively as medication for relieving symptoms of depression. 

Finding peace

Because your body releases endorphins when you exercise, working out naturally boosts your mood. It can be hard to get started when you’re drained of energy, and all you want to do is lay in bed. But if you can just manage to begin and stick with it, that feeling of fatigue will dissipate, and your energy levels will rise. 

This consistent practice of exercising also improves your immune system. It’s recommended to exercise for at least 30 minutes each day. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be 30 consecutive minutes. If you can manage a 10-minute walk, three times a day, you will be doing your mental health a huge favor.

3. Reach Out and Connect with People You Trust

This seems like a simple act, but it is often one of the hardest things to do when you’re depressed. The nature of depression keeps you feeling isolated and uninterested in connecting with others, even your closest friends and family members. But social support is vital to overcoming depression, and anxiety too. 

Connecting with others when you’re depressed can help you with your perspective, and even if it’s just for a little while, it can help you feel better. There’s even research that shows people with close friends are more likely to survive traumatic life events. If you feel like you don’t have anyone to reach out to, it’s never too late to build that support network– yes, even if you’re depressed. 

Here are some suggestions for how you can reach out and connect with people when you’re down:

  • Talk to someone trustworthy and good at listening about your feelings
  • Ask a loved one to check in with you on a regular basis
  • Meet new people by taking a class or joining a club
  • Call or message an old friend
  • Volunteer and support somebody else
  • Love on a pet 

If you’re worried someone you know may have depression, they may not reach out to you. Remember that this is characteristic of depressed individuals and that you don’t have to wait for them to connect with you. In many cases, you can help someone by reaching out to them first.

4. Eat a Healthy Diet

Surely you’ve heard the phrase “you are what you eat.” In a way, that’s true. What you eat has a direct effect on how you feel. That’s why it’s so important to be mindful of what you eat, especially if you’re depressed. 

Fruits and vegetables overhead assortment on colorful background

According to research on depression, many sufferers of depression are frequently lack in a fatty acid called EPA. Omega-3 fatty acids have proven to decrease symptoms of anxiety and depression like sleep disorders, suicidal thoughts, and lacking sex drive. You can find these healthy fats in foods like salmon, tuna, sardines, herring, walnuts, and flaxseed. Shoot for two servings of Omega-3 per week. 

Another good idea for eating healthy is to cut down own sugar and carbs. Comfort foods like pasta or baked goods will make you feel good in the moment, but give you drops in your energy later on. 

If you lack in B vitamins, this can also make your depression worse. Make sure you either take a B vitamin supplement or eat more leafy greens, citrus fruits, beans, or eggs.

5. Seek Treatment

If you’ve taken all the steps you can to try to overcome depression and find it’s getting worse rather than better, it may be a good idea to seek professional help. There is no shame in pursuing treatment through therapy or medication.  

Couple with a psychiatrist.

A therapist can help you find healthy coping skills and to understand thought patterns and beliefs that may be hurting you. 

A psychiatrist can prescribe medication that will help relieve your symptoms. If you’re not comfortable taking medication, a visit to a psychiatrist may still be helpful in understanding other treatment options out there.

6. Don’t Give Up

If you start all of these steps today, it’s highly unlikely you will feel completely better tomorrow. Overcoming depression takes time. But by building better habits, such as eating better, exercising, practicing mindfulness, and connecting with others when you’re sad, you can gradually recover from this disorder. 

If you are prescribed medication, it’s important that you are committed to taking it every day. The same goes for therapy. If you’re investing in it, commit to going and working through your issues, however painful it may be. It will take time before you start seeing the effects of professional treatment. 

Many people experience depression; you are not alone. The key to overcoming it is not to get rid of it but to learn how to manage it. Hang in there and keep persevering. 

References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3998282

http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/15-ways-to-overcome-depression-and-sadness.html

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/coping-with-depression.htm#help

http://www.businessinsider.com/tricks-to-overcome-anxiety-and-fear-2016-2/#talk-to-yourself-to-perform-better-in-stressful-situations-14

What Happens After You Overcome Depression?

Cheerful woman playing in bed with daughter

Overcoming depression is a gradual process, and in most cases, you’re able to get back to a healthy headspace. But life after depression isn’t without its challenges. After you’ve experienced a depressive episode, life’s not as it was before. 

And because you’ve experienced this mental illness, you’re more at risk for relapsing later on in life. While this may sound discouraging and plays right into the thought patterns that depression perpetuates so well, there are practices you can implement in your life to prevent relapse. 

Ultimately, you want to maintain your mental health, and that means accepting that while you have had depression, you aren’t defined by depression.  

The Road to Recovery

It’s important to recognize depression for what it is: an illness. It’s a mental illness that lies to you through your thoughts. Accepting that you cannot trust all of your thoughts because they are not an accurate representation of reality is a hard thing to do. 

But it’s absolutely necessary. 

Reconnecting with reality and regaining your mental health means teaching yourself how to recognize which of your thoughts are true and which aren’t. This is no easy feat, but it’s an important practice. Prioritizing this practice just a little each day will improve this discernment.

Removing Toxic People

Coming back to reality can also mean making painful decisions about who you keep in your life. If you’ve experienced a depressive episode and there’s a toxic person in your life, this puts you at a higher risk of feeling the symptoms again. 

It’s crucial to identify who, if anyone, makes your symptoms worse and to separate from this person. This can end up being one of the hardest choices you’ll ever make, but the well-being of your mind is not worth keeping a toxic individual around.

Taking Care of Your Body

Your mind and your body are inextricably connected. So ultimately, caring for your mental health means also caring for your physical health. An unhealthy body just cannot sustain a healthy mind. 

So don’t dump that exercise routine after you’ve overcome depression. Don’t start eating loads of junk food after you’ve begun to feel better. What you put in your body today will affect your health tomorrow. 

Don’t be afraid to try different workouts or diets to find what works best for you and your health. Recovering from depression is a process, and most of that process is trial and error. There is no right way to recover. As long as you’re on a path to be healthier, you’re doing it right.

Staying Mindful 

freedom feelings

Mindfulness is a practice you should carry with you for the rest of your life, regardless of if you ever experience a depressive episode again. This is an exercise for everybody. 

Mindfulness meditation and mindfulness in daily activities help people to witness their thoughts rather than to be wholly absorbed by them. This practice teaches you to give less power to your thoughts, and instead to watch them come and go just as bodily sensations do. 

Remember– those negative thought patterns are what give depression its power. If you can detach yourself from these thoughts, depression is far less likely to return.

Staying Connected 

Group therapy session with therapist and client hugging

The real catch-22 of depression is the fact that relief is found in reaching out for support, yet the cyclical negative thoughts and social isolation can make that feel impossible. 

Research has shown that “formerly depressed adults who had emotionally supportive and close relationships were four times more likely to report complete mental health than those without such relationships. Having at least one trusted friend was critical to cultivating complete mental health” (Mercedes Bern-Klug, Associate Professor, University of Iowa). 

The genuine relief and healing lie in social connection. Even after your depressive episode is over, it’s crucial to maintain at least one good relationship with somebody. Your mental health is largely dependent on the human connections in your life.

Risk of Relapse 

Pensive teenage girl

As mentioned, those who have experienced depression previously are more prone to experiencing it again. The risk of relapse is highest during the first six months of recovery.

For some people, depression can potentially be a long-term or even a lifelong illness. 

Though some people very well may experience recurring depression throughout their lives, this does not mean they will never be happy. In due course of treatment, there is hope for even people with lifelong depression to manage their illness and live happy lives.

Continuation Treatment vs. Maintenance Treatment

There is a treatment for individuals who are coming off of a depressive episode, and for people who have experienced depression in the past and continue to deal with depressive episodes. 

Continuation treatment is a combination of therapy and prescription medicine that is administered to an individual for up to six months after a depressive episode. This type of treatment is important to consider if you’ve experienced a single major depressive episode. 

Maintenance treatment, on the other hand, is only provided to certain individuals who have shown signs of recurring depressive symptoms. Only people who have experienced two or three major depressive episodes in their lives are considered candidates for maintenance treatment. 

This treatment is long term and used to prevent relapse into depression. It typically includes psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy, with medication doses remaining the same throughout. There are hope and relief for even those with lifelong depression. 

If you feel that your depression is lasting for a long time, or that it keeps recurring, it may be time to consult a doctor about your treatment options.

Conclusion

The healing from depression is gradual and can only be achieved through deliberate, everyday practice. While it may seem disconcerting that there’s a possibility of lifelong depression, you should not worry. Many people have experienced lifelong depression before, and because of this, doctors have been able to gather valuable information on how to best treat longer lasting depression. 

There is always hope. If you are in need of help with recurring depression, reach out for help. The Lighthouse Health Group in Jupiter, Florida is here to help you and answer any questions you need. 

References

https://psychcentral.com/lib/how-mindfulness-can-mitigate-the-cognitive-symptoms-of-depression/

http://www.heysigmund.com/life-after-depression/

https://tinybuddha.com/blog/getting-back-up-after-you-fall-healing-from-depression/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1911177/

 

10 Signs of Depression and Anxiety

Woman sitting alone and depressed

There’s a false belief some have that depression and anxiety are two mutually exclusive disorders. In other words, some people think that if you have depression, you can’t have anxiety and vice versa. 

But the truth is that these two mental health problems have a common, albeit complicated relationship. People with anxiety disorders tend to live in a state of turbulence, and after living like that for some time, it can take a significant emotional toll on a person. That’s typically when depression sets in. 

According to Sally Connolly, a therapist at Couples Counseling of Louisville in Kentucky, nearly half of all people with major depression also suffer from severe and persistent anxiety. It becomes a vicious cycle, with anxious thoughts triggering a feeling of failure which leads to depression. 

That being said, there are signs to look out for that indicate a person may be suffering from both an anxiety disorder and depression.

1. Constant Fear and Irrational Worry 

Depressed woman with head in hands

This is a classic symptom of all anxiety disorders and can significantly wear a person down over time. General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is caused by dysfunction in the amygdala, the part of the brain that helps process emotion. Because the amygdala handles emotion and fear, depression can also stem from issues with this section of the brain.

2. Difficulty with Concentration, Memory, and Decision-Making

The amygdala also deals with memory. When connections are scrambled in your amygdala, it can make remembering things very difficult. This often leads to feelings of confusion and an inability to effectively make decisions. 

Sometimes it can even lead to having hallucinations. This is an important symptom to look out for because it drastically affects the everyday functionality of a person. After dealing with this symptom for some time, a person paralyzed by their inability to remember or make decisions can feel stuck, and this will trigger depressive episodes.

3. Insomnia

Sad woman having problems in bed with her boyfriend.

Insomnia is defined as difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up too early. The official classification for someone suffering from insomnia is if it takes you 30 minutes or more to fall asleep, or you’re awake for 30 minutes or more during the night, at least three times a week for a month or more. 

Depression is both a primary cause of insomnia, but also a symptom of it. Anxiety can also cause insomnia when a person is kept up at night with worry. This kind of intense restlessness can have serious effects on the body and quickly trigger more symptoms of both anxiety and depression.

4. Changes in Diet

These disorders often have an enormous impact on our bodies of which we may not immediately be aware. Many people with depression and anxiety tend to have a loss of appetite. However, sometimes feelings of sadness and worry can lead to overeating. 

When someone is experiencing an emotional emptiness, they may try to fill this void with food. This act can trigger chemicals in the brain to produce feelings of emotional fullness, or improved mood. When a person with depression or anxiety learns they can feel better by eating, they may try to frequently sooth themselves with food. 

Whether a person has a loss of appetite or overeating, the change in diet should be taken as a sign that there could be underlying issues of depression and (or) anxiety.

5. Physical Symptoms

Both anxiety and depression can have a major effect on the signals our brain sends to our body. Here are some of those physical symptoms to watch out for:

  • Fatigue
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Hot flashes
  • Sweating not brought on by heat
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Rapid breathing
  • Difficulty breathing/a choking feeling
  • Shaking or muscle twitching
  • Cramps or digestive problems

6. Always Feeling Worthless and Sad 

Sad young man in empty room

It’s common for people with depression to feel constantly sad and have a decreased sense of self-worth. What heightens these symptoms for people with anxiety and depression is the cycle of anxious feelings leading to a feeling like they don’t matter. 

Here are what some of the thoughts might sound like of someone going through a cycle of anxious and depressive feelings:

  • “I’m so worried… But what does it matter? I’m worthless anyway.”
  • “I’m afraid _______ will happen, but even if it does, I guess it won’t matter since I fail at everything in life.”
  • “I’m worried about what ______ thinks of me, but then again I’m not important enough to have a right to worry about that.”
  • “If _______ happens, I’m going to feel horrible. But what does it matter? I already feel horrible anyway.” 

It’s important to listen out for these thoughts because a person can get quickly swept up into this vicious cycle of being unhealthily worried or afraid then feeling like they aren’t even entitled to that worry because of how lacking in self-worth they are, only to again feel anxious and afraid of those feelings of worthlessness. 

This cycle can lead to suicidal ideation or talk of death.

7. Loss of Interest

Depression and anxiety can both take the pleasure or joy out of the hobbies or activities you like to do. It can also cause you to withdraw interest in spending time with people you love. Attempting to push through the loss of interest does not help in overcoming the feeling, as it just continues to emphasize how the experienced negative symptoms are consuming a person. 

One of the biggest telltale sign of depression and anxiety is a lost interest in sex. These disorders can completely remove a person’s sex drive and even cause impotence.

8. Lack of Self-Care

When a person is experiencing the crushing cycle of anxiety and depression, basic hygiene and self-care become low priority. The interchanging feelings of worry and worthlessness make it difficult to find the motivation to take care of one’s self. Things as simple as getting out of bed, eating, taking a shower, and brushing your teeth become tasks that seem impossible when you’re caught up in this cycle.

9. Panic Attacks 

panic attack

Panic attacks are a dangerous sign of an anxiety disorder. They feel like a sudden feeling of terror that strike without warning. Some people describe feeling like they’re going insane or having a heart attack. 

Here are a few notable signs of someone going through a panic attack:

  • Racing heart
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sense of impending doom and terror, or even death
  • Tingly feeling in hands or feet
  • Sweating or chills
  • Pain in the chest
  • Feeling out of control
  • Feeling weak, faint, or dizzy
  • Involuntary muscle tightening 

If you witness someone having a panic attack, it can be terrifying. But try to keep the person calm by talking them through the panic attack.

10. Sudden or Extreme Changes in Mood

Depression and anxiety can result in uncontrollable, shifting moods. You could be very angry one moment and incredibly sad the next. These mood swings can manifest as violent and aggressive behavior, particularly in men. It can also result in substance abuse.

Conclusion

Recognizing the signs of depression and anxiety early on can help treat the issues before they get worse. If you suspect you or someone you know is exhibiting symptoms of depression or anxiety, it’s important to talk to a psychiatrist. Sometimes these symptoms can also be an indicator of bipolar disorder which is treated very differently than anxiety with depression. 

Speaking with a healthcare professional about an assessment of symptoms is imperative to know what treatment is necessary. 

References

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/get-hardy/201208/are-you-living-chronic-worry-and-fear

https://www.everydayhealth.com/hs/major-depression/depressions-effect-on-appetite/

http://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/guide/panic-attack-symptoms

http://www.webmd.com/depression/features/anxiety-depression-mix#2

http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/detecting-depression#1

https://www.everydayhealth.com/anxiety/anxiety-and-depression.aspx

http://www.healthline.com/health/depression/recognizing-symptoms#emotions8

A Guide to Overcoming Depression

Unhappy girl in a bedroom

Depression is a serious mental illness caused by a combination of biological, psychological, and social distress. It’s not just a prolonged feeling of sadness, as it can change a person’s neural brain circuits. 

The range of symptoms that come with depression can drastically change a person’s behavior. It can decrease energy levels, self-esteem levels, change sleep patterns, appetite, ability to concentrate, and even daily behavior. The symptoms of depression can deteriorate a person’s personal life, including relationships, as well as their professional career, so it’s critical to counteract these symptoms by recognizing them and treating them as soon as possible. 

The following are some tips to recognizing, overcoming, and recovering from depression.

How Anxiety Can Play a Role in Depression

Sad woman looking at the sea

A common misconception about depression is that you cannot have both depression and anxiety at the same time. Many people believe you can’t have a mental disorder that causes fear of the future (anxiety) while also having a mental disorder that shuts you down and prevents you from being able to cope (depression). 

But in all reality, anxiety, and depression can go hand in hand. Research has shown that 60-70% of people with depression suffer from anxiety, and 50% of those with chronic anxiety suffer from clinical symptoms of depression. There’s a term for the existence of both of these disorders in one person in the psych world, and it’s called comorbidity. 

Researchers are beginning to conclude that depression and anxiety are actually two sides of the same disorder. These illnesses are so similar, in fact, that mental health professionals have difficulty distinguishing between the two. Depression and anxiety have a lot in common: both can be predicted by genetics, the neurobiology of the two are similar, and the psychological and biological natures are the same. 

Anxiety is a reaction to life stressors, and depression is almost a step beyond that. It’s as if all of the anxiety builds up to a point where a person feels they can’t cope anymore, resulting in depression. This is why in most cases anxiety precedes depression. 

One major similarity these two disorders share is that people who suffer from them tend to avoid coping with the things that scare or worry them. As a result, these sufferers are unable to develop the skills they need to cope, and the cycle of misery continues. 

The onset of anxiety can be an indicator for looming symptoms of depression. Here are just a few signs of the presence of both anxiety and depression:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sudden or extreme changes in mood
  • Sleep troubles
  • Changes in appetite
  • Constant fear or worry 

For more information on the symptoms of both anxiety and depression, check out this guide. 

How to Defeat Depression

Being able to recognize the symptoms of depression at the onset is an incredibly important first step to overcoming it. Believe it or not, it’s easy for a person to be caught up in depression and isolate themselves without realizing they’re suffering from a depressive episode. 

Here are some red flags to look out for when trying to determine whether or not you or someone you care about is experiencing depression:

  • Withdrawal from social life
  • Persistent aches and pains such as headaches, cramps, or digestive problems
  • Persistent anxious, sad, or feelings of emptiness
  • Irritability
  • Thoughts or talk of suicide
  • Loss of interest in activities that bring pleasure, including sex
  • Fatigue and lacking in energy 

Recognizing these signs are the first step to overcoming a depressive episode. Once depression is identified, it’s important to begin treating it right away to prevent the condition from getting worse. 

Many people can treat their depression without seeking help from a mental health professional. Here are a few suggestions to ease those symptoms on your own:

  • Distract yourself – One of the simplest ways to overcome depression is just by keeping busy and thereby distracting your mind from depressing thoughts.
  • Challenge negative self-talk – The ideas that crop up as a result of depression are usually fear-based and not representative of reality. By acknowledging these thoughts as ones being produced by an unhealthy mind and reminding yourself not to take them so seriously, you can regain some critical perspective.
  • Connect with others – Depression is in its nature an illness that isolates people from others. So it can often be difficult for a depressed person to reach out. But one of the all-around best ways to overcome depression is by feeling the support of others who care. 

mercy, two hands silhouette, help concept

These are only a few tips for overcoming depression. For more suggestions, read 6 Steps to Beating Depression. 

Keep in mind that there will be many cases when a depressed individual needs more treatment than what they can provide to themselves. A mental health professional will be able to determine what specific treatment is necessary, but the standard prescription is a combination of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and medication.

Recovering from Depression

When you’re coming out of a depressive episode, you may not even realize it at first. The healing from depression is a very gradual process so you can’t expect to feel better right away. In many cases, you can get back to a healthy mind as long as you’re patient with your recovery. 

That being said, life after depression does not come without its challenges. In fact, if you’ve had a depressive episode you’re statistically more likely to experience another one. This is why it’s so important to instill practices in your life to prevent relapse later on.

Man crying during psychological therapy

Here are some tips for preventing the onset of depression in the future:

  • Practice mindfulness – Depression is a mental illness that produces thoughts that mostly lie to you. These thoughts are negative and fear-based by nature, and they are often not set in reality. Mindfulness helps you center yourself so you can get the mental distance you need to recognize that these thoughts are not you.
  • Self-care – Depression makes you neglectful of yourself. By stepping up to care for your body by eating healthily and exercising, you make a healthy mind. This makes it more difficult for depression to come back. Practice listening to what your body needs.
  • Support, support, support – Don’t stop reaching out for help when the worst of your depression is over. Human connection is the best source of healing and also the best preventative medicine for depression. Isolating yourself is likely to cause a relapse.

Sometimes to fully recover from depression, it takes more effort than just mindfulness, self-care, and support. And in some cases, people live with depression for the rest of their lives. For more information on recovering from longer lasting depression, this article provides the information you need.

Remember that if you’ve been prescribed medication or therapy by a mental health professional, it’s important to continue your treatment until they recommend to ease back. Just like with prescribed antibiotics when you’re sick, you can begin to feel better before you’ve finished your full prescription, but if you quit right after you feel better, the illness can come back. Keep with your treatment until you’re explicitly told you can stop.

Conclusion

While depression can be a crippling mental illness and affects millions of people every year, it is possible to defeat it. If you are experiencing depression, it’s imperative for you to remember that you are not alone and that many of the thoughts you’re experiencing are lies from your depression. 

For more resources, you can check out the linked articles in this guide. If you’re in need of immediate help or feel that you are in danger, call the US Suicide Hotline (1-800-784-2433) or NDMDA Depression Hotline (800-826-3632). 

References

https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200310/anxiety-and-depression-together

http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/detecting-depression#1

http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/15-ways-to-overcome-depression-and-sadness.html

https://psychcentral.com/lib/telephone-hotlines-and-help-lines/