Saturday, June 30, 2012

Chase Away Mild Depression

 Many of you who know me, know that I recently entered into treatment for a severe depressive episode. Although living with Major depressive disorder is no picnic, I don't always feel crushing depression in my life. Why? Mostly because - I take my medication; I stick to a good routine; I check my mental pulse often. In a phrase: I take care of myself. Usually, I can shake off the cobwebs of a down period, because I stay on top of my mental illness. Obviously, that was not the case this year, when I allowed things to build and spin out of control.

I am now nearing the end of my treatment program, and I never again want to be in the mental space that brought me to the program in the first place, even though I learned invaluable lessons there. In order keep it from happening, I have to be vigilant. My best chance of recovery is implementing the self-care practices I mentioned earlier. In addition, there are things I can do that will aid in preventing my sinking to those depths again. Relapse is always at the back of my mind, so I really have to glom onto positive things I know have worked at one time or another. In the past, I have been able to do just that, and have (mostly) kept on an even keel, by following a few simple tips.

Today, I thought I would share with all of you a few tips and tricks that have helped to lift my spirits, at times, when I am down in the dumps, and may help lift some moods out there as well. Of course, I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV (or the Internet), so please, if you experience any of the following symptoms for longer than a couple of weeks, please seek professional help. Don't try to deal with it on your own any longer.*

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or empty feelings
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in everyday activities, including sex
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia, sleeping too much, or waking and not being able to go back to sleep.  
  • Eating disturbances - changes in appetite, weight loss or gain
  • Decreased energy, feeling foggy, groggy or unfocused
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Restlessness or irritability
For those just caught in a rut, or have fleeting symptoms of mild depression, here are a few tips that may help you to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again. These are hints are some things that I have done in the past to get myself out of a funk. I claim no scientific evidence to their efficacy, but anecdotal 
evidence can't always be overlooked, you know.

Volunteer - Often helping out other people is just the ticket to get your mind off your own problems, get you out of the house and give you a self-esteem boost.

Read a good book with a guaranteed happy ending. Sometimes you just need to escape into another realm for a few hours to keep the hum-drums from invading your mind. I have found that even re-reading a beloved book helps me to get out of my own head for a while.  Ditto movies and old TV shows.  Who can keep from laughing at I Love Lucy, The Andy Griffith Show or even The Simpsons; whatever makes you happy.

Get moving. Admittedly this is a hard one for me. I hate exercise in any formal sense of the word, but I have found that if I do some sort of activity on a daily basis that makes me break a sweat, I feel a lot better all day. It really does help.

Eat right. This is another toughie for me; I tend to reach for the carbs and sugar when I am feeling down. But eating plenty of fruits and vegetables every day is such a better choice and is not only good for lifting the moods, but also for you overall health. An apple a day keeps the doctor away, you know. Also taking some extra vitamins and supplements daily may help. B-complex (especially B12 and B6), calcium, magnesium, omega 3 oils and vitamin D are said to help in the areas of energy and moods.

Do something you love doing. I like to do crafts and I have found that it really does lift my spirits when I make time to do them. Dishes be damned. They will still be there when you get done working on that scrapbook or whatever it is you chose to do. One thing that is guaranteed to make me smile is picking up a box of 64 Crayola Crayons and a cute coloring book and sitting down for a good coloring session. If you haven't tried it in a while, you really should. It brings back fun memories of childhood and makes me feel carefree again for a little while. Plus it is a fun activity to do with the kids.

Give in to the waterworks. At times we bottle things up and compartmentalize our lives in order to be good caregivers for our families. This can backfire quickly. You need to release those feelings of sadness, frustration, etc. A good cry is sometimes all it takes to clearing your head.

Talk it out. Talking to a trusted friend or relative about what is bothering you helps tremendously most of the time. If that doesn't help, schedule a few sessions with a therapist. Hey, they get paid to listen to you, so you don't have to apologize for being a downer or for focusing the whole session on your problems. It can be very freeing.

Write it down. Whether it is a spiral notebook, a blog or whatever, regardless if anyone else ever reads it or not, writing down your feeling and thoughts is a very cathartic experience for a lot of people. I myself have worked through a great number of bad times through writing it down, going back over it and thinking things through in that fashion.

Turn to your faith. Those feelings of hopelessness melt away for me as I call to mind some of my favorite scriptures and pray that God will help me get through the day. Regardless of what your religious affiliation is, meditating, praying and/or focusing on religious texts can make a world of difference in your outlook.

Go out with friends. Let your hair down a bit and go out for the night with your friends. Relax, have a drink, take in a funny movie, whatever floats your boat, but no kid talk or problem solving allowed, just strictly for the fun of it. Sometimes we moms forget how to have fun.

Clean it out. Clearing out physical clutter from your home will also help you to clear out some of the mental clutter you have. It is freeing to let go of superfluous junk in your life both literally and metaphorically. Getting rid of a pair of pants that you are hoping to, but probably not ever going to, fit into again will not only leave room in your closet, but it will also leave room in your mind as you absolve yourself of the guilt at not being the same size you once were.

Let yourself feel sad. You don't have to be upbeat all the time. You are not responsible for the well-being of everyone around you. You are allowed to be down every once in a while. Life is an up and down adventure, so allowing yourself to just feel sad for a while and not ignoring it is often a good thing. You feel sad for a bit and then next thing you know the feeling has passed and you are up again. It helps to know that most people, who have evolved past a five year old level, experience the same ups and downs in life as you do. They don't ignore the lows and pretend like they don't exist, but neither do they wallow in self pity any longer than necessary. They feel what they feel, work through the feelings and then move on. It is the most mentally healthy thing you can do.

I hope that some of these things have helped you today. We all need to take care of ourselves both mentally and physically. We, especially we moms, want to be there to care for our families for a long time to come. Taking care of ourselves just makes us happier, and adds that much needed deposit into our energy bank so that we are able to withstand all the withdrawals that are made on our reserves every day.