Do you find yourself not enjoying life’s activities like you used to?
Do you feel a lack of interest in social events?
Are you experiencing increase in anxiety?
Are you frequently tired?
These are pretty standard questions to which, when the answers are “yes,” the follow-up statement may very well be, “you may have depression.”
Needless to say, depression isn’t fun. With depression, your mind isn’t thinking the way it necessarily used to before. Often, the things that you want to do the least are the things that could possibly help you.
That’s the “bad news.” The “good news” is that if it is in fact depression you’re going through, what you have is probably normal and actually pretty common. You are not alone, and there are a multitude of treatments.
I must forewarn you that I am not a scientist or a doctor. I am merely a man who has seen a significant amount of depression in his life and has spent a lot of time thinking about it. That being said, I have broken down depression management into five categories from my own personal experience: Therapy, Self-Discovery, Physical Conditioning, Volunteerism, and Medicinal.
First of all, “therapy” isn’t a bad word. There is no reason to feel stigmatized because you receive it or are thinking about it. It doesn’t make you weaker for going.
Therapy comes in different forms. First, there is psychotherapy. This has been a successful practice for over a hundred years and can be extremely helpful. Psychotherapy is a great way of talking to someone who has studied the human mind. A psychotherapist generally has a stronger understanding of how the mind works, and how details that may seem insignificant or unremembered to you actually carry some serious emotional weight. They can assist you with identifying these details and with confronting them in a manner that is at your personalized pace and abilities.
Finding a therapist shouldn’t be too hard, as it has become a rather pertinent profession. There is also now an app for therapy now, called Talkspace. I personally haven’t used it, so I can’t evaluate it, but it is a resource that’s out there that may be worth looking into.
Then there’s group therapy, which is my personal favorite. This is where people from various walks of life get together and discuss their lives and challenges together. Each member of the group offers their own advice or thoughts where they feel comfortable offering them. If this is something you are interested in, you can either search Google for a group therapy session, or even start one yourself. I started my own group just for men as a means of therapy, and it hasproven effective and helpful. If you are interested, you can read more about my men’s group here.
If you are suffering from depression, it may be a good time for you to explore yourself. Meditation is a technique that serves well to many people. In my experience, if you find someone who practices meditation on a regular basis, and you will likely find someone who is very satisfied with their life.
But, perhaps meditation isn’t your thing. If that’s the case, I would recommend long walks in a scenery that you enjoy. If that isn’t easy to achieve, then try any sort of down time where you are “unplugged” and away from any distractions. Even if it is only for five minutes a day, that mental break can help to relax your brain from the distractions of life and help you zone in on what you need to focus on.
Other means of self-discovery might easily be found from things like self-help books, podcasts, and religious practices (and not necessarily just the one you are currently practicing). These resources are seemingly endless and can provide a plethora of new perspectives which may help you discover the source of, or solution to your depression.
One of the commonly recognized causes of depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain. A commonly recognized, natural way of creating the chemicals that a depressed person is lacking is through exercise. When you push your body by running fast, lifting weights, dancing your heart out, or doing any of the gajillion exercise routines out there, your body releases endorphins which makes your brain all WHOO HOO! (insert gif of Homer Simpson here).
Seriously though, exercise can jumpstart your brain to produce the chemicals it needs to battle depression. Not to mention, if you become a regular practitioner of an exercise, you may be more likely to find others who are into it, too, which can in turn increase your social activity, which can also be fulfilling.
If this seems like an interest to you, I recommend going out and finding a program you think you’ll enjoy. In my experience, Beachbody has some exhilarating exercise programs (they cost money but personally, I like them and I’ve seen results). If you don’t like one program, find another. There are so many types of exercise out there, there is bound to be a few that you will find yourself enjoying. Of course, it’s recommended to consider your physical limitations and consult your doctor before starting any particular exercise program.
Believe it or not, by helping others you can indirectly bring yourself happiness. It’s been said that humans are a social species (although you wouldn’t notice if you look at the herds of humans with their eyes glued to their mobile devices), that our brains are hardwired for social interaction.
Now, I understand if your depression causes you to NOT want to interact with others. I get it. That is a normal thing to experience and feel. However, it could also be the very thing you need. I liken it to the hero of any story facing the villain at the climax of any story: the hero doesn’t WANT to go through the mental and physical gauntlet to defeat the enemy, but it must be done.
Where was I? Oh yes, our brains being hardwired for social interaction.
Volunteering is a great way of engaging the social part of the brain. Not only that, but your can find satisfaction in knowing that you are spending your time and/or money on a cause that is bigger than yourself and are in turn, helping other people. To me, people helping people is one of the greatest forms of social activity and can make you feel good, like your brain is throwing a party. You may not be able to hear the music or enjoy any of the punch or cake, but you can certainly feel the positivity.
I saved this part for last because I personally recommend and prefer the others before this option. Firstly, many pharmaceutical companies are greedy and care only about the almighty dollar. Secondly, there is no one “magic pill” that works on everyone. Everyone's brain is different, and therefore everyone’s depression is different, and therefor the drugs all work differently. Thirdly are the side effects. In nearly all of the antidepressant medication commercials I’ve ever seen, “worsening depression” and “suicide” are included as possible side effects. No thank you.
That being said, if you do decide to take the route of talking to your doctor to determine a medication as a treatment to your depression, please note the following: There are different doses of each drug, and you will likely have to explore how each dose impacts you. Not all drugs will work, and it is possible that you may have to go through a trial of different drugs to find the right one for you. Even then, after some time a particular may not work anymore and you may end up having to find another. Coming off of an antidepressant cold turkey can be dangerous, so again, please talk to a doctor before taking, changing or stopping any sort of antidepressant or other medication.
And remember, be patient. The science behind controlling brain chemicals isn’t exact yet, so the process of medication can very easily be long and arduous. Try your best not to stress too much if it takes more time than you expected.
As a means of concluding this, I want to share a section from the depression page on the National Institute for Mental Health’s website. You can find these listed under the category of “Beyond Treatment: Things You Can Do.” I personally find these to be helpful and things to keep in mind:
- Try to be active and exercise.
- Set realistic goals for yourself.
- Try to spend time with other people and confide in a trusted friend or relative.
- Try not to isolate yourself, and let others help you.
- Expect your mood to improve gradually, not immediately.
- Postpone important decisions, such as getting married or divorced, or changing jobs until you feel better. Discuss decisions with others who know you well and have a more objective view of your situation.
- Continue to educate yourself about depression.
Which of the following helps you to feel better?
Share your comments at the bottom of the page.
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