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Coping with depression can be very difficult, but you can lessen the blow by recognizing when you have symptoms and getting professional help.
Follow the treatment plan your doctor prescribes. Contact your doctor right away if you are having bothersome or worrisome side effects from your medication. Keep in mind that some side effects get better on their own within the first few days or weeks of starting a medication, while others require a change in dose or medication. Don’t change any part of your treatment without first talking to your doctor. Stopping a drug suddenly can trigger new side effects related to withdrawal.
1. Take the Long View
Keep your long-term goals in mind. It usually takes two to three weeks before you begin to feel better, and it can take as long as six to 12 weeks to know whether a medication will be fully effective for you. Stopping and starting medications prematurely will not give your body enough time to respond to the recommended treatment, and it won’t allow your doctor to determine whether the medication is right for you.
2. Practice Self-Compassion
Take it easy on yourself. Depressed people often lack self-compassion, and this actually can contribute to depression. It’s easy to blame yourself for the way you feel, or to think you deserve to feel the way you do. Many people, especially men, feel they should be able to “pull themselves together” and get on with life. You might even have had some people tell you this. Such feelings or comments stem from a fundamental misunderstanding of depression. Just as you can’t “decide” one day not to have diabetes, you can’t wake up one morning and choose not to be depressed. What you can choose to do is to get the help you need to feel better.
3. Exercise Regularly
Research has found that exercising for as little as 30 minutes a day can be just as effective at relieving the symptoms of major depression as drug therapy. For many individuals coping with depression, exercise also can play a useful part along with medications and psychotherapy to help you feel better. A longitudinal review of exercise research over a 26-year span suggests that even fairly low levels of exercise, such as walking or gardening for 20 to 30 minutes a day, can help ward off depression in individuals of all ages. So, just taking a short walk in the fresh air will do you good.
4. Maintain a Healthy Diet
Several research studies have shown that diet can have a profound impact on mood. Many have linked a diet high in fast foods, such as pizza, hamburgers, and hot dogs, as well as high in trans fats, an unhealthy type of fat found in many packaged and processed foods, can substantially increase the risk of depression. Conversely, eating healthy polyunsaturated fats (found in fish and vegetable oils) as well as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is associated with feeling happier and having a lower risk for depression.
5. Sleep Well
Depression and poor sleep are closely linked. Understandably, people who are depressed can have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep because of the persistent worries that plague them. When you don’t sleep well, you feel worse during the day. You have less energy to go out with friends or to exercise. The link between poor sleep and depression appears to be biological, too. Some people coping with depression sleep too much and never seem to feel rested. Too much or too little sleep exacerbates the depression you’re already experiencing. Between seven and nine hours sleep a night is now considered optimal, according to recent research.
6. Control Stress
Stress is a big player in dealing with depression. Control it before it controls you. Great stress-busting techniques include exercise, yoga, meditation, progressive relaxation, and guided imagery. Whenever you feel that your stress is getting out of control, take a step back. Take a vacation from work, leave your kids with a babysitter, or get help taking care of an ailing spouse or relative—whatever you need to do to regroup. Consider whether certain obligations can be tabled temporarily.
7. Put Yourself in a Position to Experience Pleasure
You may doubt that you will be able to get pleasure from life because you’re coping with depression. Still, allow yourself to do the things you used to enjoy before your depression took root. Take a picnic lunch in the park. Accept that invitation to dinner even if you don’t really feel up to it. Don’t expect to fully enjoy these moments until your depression is treated, but by continuing to give yourself opportunities to experience pleasure, you will contribute to your recovery.
8. Release Your Emotions
When you’re feeling stressed out or sad, let it out. Bottled-up grief and anger can ferment until it finally explodes. Talk about your feelings to family members, friends, or a therapist. Write your thoughts in a journal. When in doubt, a good cry can be very therapeutic.
For more information about depression, purchase Overcoming Depression at www.UniversityHealthNews.com.
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