9 ways to beat depression
Posted July 30
I have hit a rough patch the last few years and think I might be suffering from depression. I don’t know the difference though, between regular discouragement and the kind of depression that justifies talking to a doctor or counselor. I have always thought people with depression just needed to buck up, but I think now it’s not that easy. This dark cloud over me won’t go away no matter how hard I try to think positive. I really don't want to take medication, but how would I know if it’s necessary and what else can I do? I’d love some advice on breaking free from this. Any suggestion is worth a try.
Depression is becoming increasingly common in our world. Some experts think the rise in cases of depression is tied to the amount of processed junk food we eat. A University College London study showed that people who ate a lot of fried, processed, high sugar junk food were 58 percent more likely to suffer from clinical depression. Other experts blame heavy metal poisoning, a sedentary lifestyle or even living at high altitude.
Whatever it is, the World Health Organization estimates that 121 million people around the world are clinically depressed. Many of those live in the USA as 13 percent of Americans are now taking antidepressant drugs. (This figure jumps to 25 percent for women in their 40s and 50s.)
Opinions vary on whether these people really need medication. Some think antidepressants are way over-prescribed and others think they are absolutely necessary, despite the many side effects. I would recommend talking to your doctor and researching all your pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical options before you decide what's right for you. If you have mild to moderate depression I offer a homeopathic depression bootcamp that is good option for those who don’t need medication.
Ask yourself the following questions to see if you are chemically depressed, not just sad and struggling:
- Have you lost interest in activities that you used to enjoy? Are you no longer interested in being social, having sex, playing sports or doing things that used to make you happy?
- Have you either lost or gained a lot of weight in the last month?
- Are you either having trouble sleeping or sleeping all the time?
- Do you feel hopeless and helpless? Is the dark cloud of negativity hanging over you all the time — without any end in sight?
- Are you much more restless, grouchy, angry or irritable? Do you have a short fuse and feel bothered by almost everyone? Or do you find yourself not caring about anything or anyone? Are you more reactive or impulsive?
- Are you tired all the time and even small tasks or events wear you out?
- Do you have trouble concentrating, remembering things or making decisions?Do you have more feelings of inadequacy than ever before? Do you ever think the world and even your family might be better off without you? Do you think about suicide?
- Do you have more headaches, backaches and stomach pain than you used to? Do you feel generally unwell most of the time?
Most importantly, don’t lose hope, because there are answers, and just because you haven’t found yours yet, that doesn’t mean you won’t — and soon. I also recommend talking to a counselor or coach who can teach you some skills for processing and replacing negative thoughts and feelings. With brain illnesses you want to work on the problem from the physical, mental and spiritual side.
Here are nine other suggestions to help you survive and beat depression:
- Get out in the fresh air and exercise every other day. Studies have shown exercise greatly reduces both depression and anxiety.
- Eat a healthy diet with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and lots of water. Cut back on or eliminate caffeine, sweets and processed foods. This creates improvements for many people fast.
- Learn some techniques for relaxing your body. These will help you pull your body out of a flight or fight (parasympathetic nervous system) response. There is a great worksheet of these on my website that will teach you some techniques for calming yourself down.
- Get out of your head. Distract yourself from thinking too much. Focus on serving others or get busy with a project, game, movie or anything to get the focus off you and your thoughts.
- Don’t blame yourself. Greg Thredgold, author of the book The Depression Miracle, says you must remember depression is a brain illness, not a weakness. Don’t let this challenge make you feel inadequate or worthless on top of being miserable. Shame is the last thing you need or deserve. Despite the stigma around depression, you must remember the truth — depression is an illness that can happen to anyone.
- Take life in small chunks. Greg says to take it one hour or even 15 minutes at a time. Figure out how to make it through today, but no more than that. Don’t let yourself think about weeks or months ahead. Carrying that is too heavy. Just get through the next hour or so as positive as you can.
- See this experience as a lesson that has shown up in your journey to make you stronger, wiser and more loving. Seeing this challenge as here to serve your growth will mean using it to gain empathy, courage and compassion for others. It will also feel less like a weakness and (more accurately) like an interesting class you got signed up for. Whatever you do don’t self-identify with it. You are experiencing depression, you aren't a depressed person. You are an amazing, valuable, strong person experiencing a very interesting and challenging illness.
- Remember your value as a human being is exactly the same as every other person on the planet. It is also infinite and absolute and cannot change no matter what you go through. You are good enough right now and always will be. Focus on this truth and with every person you pass this week remind yourself they have the same value as you. The more you give power to this truth, the more you will feel it.
- If you experience thoughts of suicide, please reach out and tell someone. If you have no friends or family members you feel comfortable talking to, call the crisis line 800-273-8255 or find an ASIST trained coach or counselor.
Brighter days are coming!
Kimberly Giles is the president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is the author of the book "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and a popular life coach, speaker and people skills expert.