5 Tips for Beating Depression
How It Works
1. Deal with your drama
Treating the symptoms of depression without identifying the root cause is like putting a band-aid on a bullet wound and expecting it to heal. You’ve got to dig deep, clean out the site, sterilize it, sew it back up, and keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t get infected. Take some time to identify the root causes of your feelings. By identifying the root cause, you can rise above it.
Perhaps there’s some trauma, past hurts, emotional baggage, or deep dissatisfaction in your life that you haven’t dealt with. You’re still carrying it with you, and as a result, it’s weighing you down. There’s a mind-body connection, so if you don’t deal with these issues, they will manifest as physical symptoms.
Talking to a licensed counselor or therapist can be helpful if you’re not sure where to start or need someone to talk things through. Journaling can also be an insightful exercise, by either word vomiting on the page, or writing down what you’re feeling and then asking yourself "WHY?" (the question of “why?” is what the psychologist would ask you anyway), your response, and then "WHY?" again and again until you get to the root cause.
2. Pay attention to your diet
Even after working through my issues, such as my lack of self-acceptance and crippling perfectionism, I found that I still struggled with hormonal imbalances and nutrient deficiencies, the symptoms of which can mimic depression. I couldn’t control what was going on in my body, but I could control what I put in it.
After researching the connection between certain foods and their impact on the body, I decided to cut out wheat and dairy from my diet. I probably should have given up meat too, but hey, I love a good steak! Adjusting my diet helped re-balance my hormones and alleviate the depression-like symptoms associated with hormonal imbalance. As an added bonus, my hormone-related acne cleared up and the inflammation in my body decreased.
Leafy greens, whole fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats are part of a healthy diet. Just avoid obsessing about eating healthy. Otherwise, you might end up with an unhealthy eating disorder such as orthorexia, which is what I developed by letting my controlled eating habits turn into an obsession.
3. Supplement if you need to (and you probably need to!)
Vitamin B, Vitamin D, and iron deficiencies can have depression-like symptoms, and what do you know, I’ve been deficient in all three!
There’s the mind (dealing with your issues, positive self-talk, etc), and there’s the body (eating right, exercising, etc). While you're doing all of this mind and body work, supplementing with high-quality vitamins can help fill in the gaps in your diet. Outside of the mind work that I do to maintain mental toughness and emotional stability, supplementing with high-quality vitamins is a large reason why I’ve been able to stay away from heavy psychiatric medications for so long.
Talk to your doctor before taking any vitamins or supplements, as some compounds may interact with or impact the efficacy of other medications. Also, there is such a thing as taking too many vitamins, so be sure to work with your care team to find out what works best for YOU.
You can also supplement sunlight! Ten minutes a day on 10% of your body is recommended for your body to synthesize Vitamin D. However, if you can't get outside, a sunlamp can help perk up your mood. I work from home and can often go days at a time without leaving the house (especially during the winter), so the lack of sunlight is an instant downer. I use a sun lamp for a few minutes on grey days and almost every day in the winter, or if I feel a bit “down” for no apparent reason. Just don’t look directly at the light!
4. Exercise (especially if you don’t feel like it)
I try to exercise every day, even if it’s just walking a few blocks. If I don’t exercise (like in the middle of winter when it’s too cold outside), I tend to get stressed out more easily. Plus, exercise burns off stress hormones and releases endorphins—you know, those happy, feel-good hormones?
If you enjoy going to the gym or taking fitness classes, that’s great. The gym was never my scene, but I didn’t use that as an excuse. The important thing is to find out what works for you and then work it. It might be sit-ups, pull-ups, or walking up and down the stairs if you have them. It doesn’t really matter what you do, just get moving!
5. Seek positive input
Encouraging books, podcasts, and even people can be helpful when forming new neural pathways. I’m also a huge fan of inspirational quotes and of talking to my mom every week (she is one incredible lady). As a highly-sensitive person, I tend to absorb the energy of the environment I’m in and the people around me, so I put myself in places and around people with positive energy.
Seeking positive input also means laughing more. When I was depressed, I would go days and sometimes weeks at a time without laughing! Laughing at least 10 times a day for at least 20 seconds induces a chemical response that reduces stress and alleviates anxiety and depression. Plus, who doesn’t enjoy funny movies or memes?
Seeking positive input may also mean limiting negative input such as TV, music, or even social media. Garbage in, garbage out. You can't expect to live a positive life if you're filling your mind with negativity.
The solution to pollution is dilution. So if you can’t limit certain aspects of your environment (such as co-workers or certain family members), then you’ll need to have even more positive input to counterbalance the negativity.
nor hard Somewhat
I've battled depression since childhood. For me, depression felt like being in cement—drowning in thick gunk, getting all mixed up and stuck that way, and ending up very [emotionally] heavy and sinking down to the bottom of the proverbial ocean. During my darkest days, I didn’t want to think or breathe. Even blinking was too much effort. The fetal position became my best friend.
Even at my worst, I knew I wanted more. I wanted to BE more. Wanting to control my depression, rather than allowing it to control me, pushed me forward even when I felt like I couldn’t go on. This drive empowered me to take back my life, beat my depression into submission, and learn to embrace joy.
Medications helped me gain the emotional stability I needed to make coherent decisions. I used that foundation of mental clarity to implement healthy habits and life choices that are not only good for general health, but at least in my case, have allowed me to utilize naturopathic approaches instead of relying solely on medication.
Some, none, or all of these coping mechanisms I’ve tried may work for you, but please consult your doctor before attempting to decrease or stop your medications.