Effectively Coping With Depression
By Lloyd J. Thomas, Ph.D.
Over 125 thousand people die each year from prescription medications, properly prescribed and properly taken. This surprising statement is taken from statistics available to each of us from the U.S. Center For Disease Control and Prevention. That statistic is depressing. More than a third of the population has sought treatment for illnesses without using prescription drugs. We also know that preventing illness in the first place, is a whole lot easier than treating it after it occurs.
When it comes to depression, there is a lot you can do besides immediately resort to anti-depressant drugs. If you are seriously depressed, seek professional help first. A qualified psychiatrist is able to prescribe effective drugs to relieve your depression. However, when medication doesn't work to your satisfaction, or you don't like the side effects (there are side-effects to every prescription drug), then you may want to try to prevent depression in the first place, or see what you can do to relieve it, by taking some of the actions offered below.
Radically change your eating habits. The food you put in your body is not as important as the nutrients you absorb from the food. If your food has few nutrients in the first place, and you don't absorb them well, then eating becomes useless at best, toxic at worst. We know that the nutrients we absorb do have an major impact on the biochemistry of the brain. We know that certain biochemicals in the brain work to depress us. Certain ones work to relieve depression.
Instead of looking to anti-depressants to alter your brain chemistry, first look to the food you eat.
Avoid ingesting depressing chemicals. Ethyl alcohol acts as a sedative. It is a depressant drug. Caffeine is a stimulant, but when withdrawing from its affects, we often "overshoot" the norm and become depressed. There are certain foods that will depress us. And too much food requires too much energy to digest. When we expend too much energy digesting food, we often feel lethargic and depressed. Complex carbohydrates (e.g. pasta, breads) provides energy without depressing.
Simplify your lifestyle and maintain simplicity. With every acquisition, you add a little more complexity to your life. Coping with complexity can become overwhelming. When we feel overwhelmed, we feel helpless or inadequate. Psychological depression is often characterized by a sense of helplessness and inadequacy. Keep the complexity of your life at a minimum and your lifestyle becomes more easily manageable...less depressing.
Accept yourself as you are now! When you accept yourself, your self-image changes, your self-esteem rises, and your feelings of personal power increases. You will stop striving to become someone you're not. You will stop wasting energy on feeling responsible for anything or anyone over which you have no power or influence. You will diminish the felt pressure to be perfect, or to perform at your best at all times.
Protect yourself from exposure to toxins whether they come in the form of environmental situations, nasty people, or toxic chemicals.
Associate with people who are positive, up-beat and psychologically and emotionally nourishing to you.
Move your body. Exercise. Don't feel guilty if you don't feel like exercising. You may start by increasing the depth and speed of your breathing. Then progress to walking. If you can't walk, do isometrics. Exercise speeds up your metabolism and that has an anti-depressant effect.
Fill your mind with enjoyable dialogue, images and memories. When you are clear enough with these activities, your body responds as if they were actually happening now. Your thinking will enhance your mood. If you cannot imagine high-quality thoughts, call close friends and ask them to tell you what they like about you. Try it. It works.
Finally, work with a great therapist. Not every therapist is qualified nor effective at coaching you when you're depressed. Shop around until you find one who has had a lot of experience working with depression without prescribing medication. If he or she feels medication is absolutely required, follow that advice.
Non-medicinally preventing or treating depression is the preferable choice. If or when that choice fails, by all means, seek help from medicine.
Dr. Thomas is a licensed psychologist, author, speaker, and life coach. He serves on the faculty of the International University of Professional Studies. He recently co-authored (with Patrick Williams) the book: "Total Life Coaching: 50+ Life Lessons, Skills and Techniques for Enhancing Your Practice...and Your Life!" (W.W. Norton, 2005) It is available at your local bookstore or on Amazon.com.