A young friend of mine was recently diagnosed with depression, and when I asked him how he felt about it, his answer surprised me. More than anything, he said he was relieved. Now that he knew what was wrong with him, he could set about learning how to manage and treat it.
I don’t think relief is the first word many of us would use to describe clinical depression, but the more I thought about it, the more I understood. Depression isn’t just being sad or going through a rough patch. Depression can suck every emotion right out of you. Sure, some days you may not be able to stop crying, but other days, you feel nothing at all. It’s a confusing, painful, and frightening place to be. So finally getting a doctor to put a name to it? I can see why anyone would be relieved, just to know where to begin.
Whatever course of treatment you and your doctor settle on for your situation, be sure to talk about integrating these natural ways to manage depression into your plan…
Eat a healthy diet. This one is difficult, because when you’re depressed, eating anything can be a challenge. However, the old adage “put junk in, get junk out” is true. Everything is connected, so if you’re not taking care of your body by feeding it well, you’re not taking care of your mind, either. If the thought of preparing food is too much, go ahead and buy things like precut fruit, frozen veggies, Greek yogurt, nuts, and quick cooking (but not instant) oatmeal. They’re good for you and easy to make when you don’t feel like making anything.
Get into a routine. Doing nothing day after day can contribute to, and even exacerbate, clinical depression. It’s too easy to fall so far behind that you get overwhelmed, do nothing, get further behind, get more overwhelmed…it’s a cycle that can be difficult to break. Create a routine that you follow every single day, if you feel like it or not. A routine will help give you back some control when you feel like you have none.
Take 30: More studies than I can cite have linked exercise with better mental health. It gets oxygen throughout your body for energy. It releases feel-good chemicals that help in the moment, and last for hours. It gives you a sense of accomplishment when you need one. In fact, exercise may even help “rewire” your brain to relieve depression. And you don’t have to be intimidated or overwhelmed at the thought of working out because you don’t have to join a gym, make it to a class, or be able to run a marathon to get the benefits of exercise. Thirty minutes a day, five days a week is all it takes. Pull on a pair of sneakers, walk for 15 minutes, then turn around and come home. Who knows, do that often enough and you may discover you want to stay out longer.
Look into supplements: When it comes to nutritional supplements, magnesium, B vitamins, and fish oil have all been helpful when it comes to easing symptoms of depression. Even if you’re eating reasonably well, you may not be getting enough of these specific nutrients. Either load up on nutrient-dense foods, or find a supplement version. Some people have also found SAM-e, St John’s Wort, and saffron to be helpful at keeping symptoms at bay.
Talk about it: Getting professional help is nothing to be ashamed of, and can make a huge difference when it comes to dealing with depression. Find a therapist you click with and trust who can help you reframe how you think about and cope with the day-to-day.
Managing depression is more than just deciding to be happy instead of sad. Depression isn’t a bad day, or even a bad month. It’s an illness that needs to be treated as such. The good news is that, as with many other illnesses, there are natural ways to help manage your depression. One day at a time.