We all have days we feel drained and tired. With busy schedules and less sleep than we would like, these are normal feelings. Depression, on the other hand, is not just having a few “off” days. It’s a chronic disorder that causes problems with your everyday life.
What is Depression?
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) defines depression as a mood disorder that affects how you feel, think and handle daily activities such as sleeping, eating, and work. Symptoms have to be present for at least 2 weeks for your doctor to be able to make a diagnosis.
Common symptoms of depression include:
- Persistent sadness
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sleep issues
- Eating too much or too little
- Thoughts about death or suicide
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms contact your doctor for an evaluation.
Non-Medical Ways to Help with Depression
There are several non-medical ways that can help to alleviate your depression symptoms and improve your overall health. Eating foods rich in nutrients, exercising regularly, and setting personal goals are ways you can strengthen your mind and your body. Here’s a look at these methods (plus some more conventional ones).
1. Healthy Foods
The best foods to help fight symptoms of depression include fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, dairy products, and lean meats. Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water is also essential for good health.
Incorporating healthy foods in your diet is easy. Pre-cut fruits and vegetables, and pre-packaged servings of nuts and seeds are a quick go-to snack. Mix up a smoothie for an easy to-go breakfast. Packaged salads are a great meal starter. Add lean cuts of meat, cheese, nuts, or seeds to make it a lunch or light dinner.
Some Clinics state when you exercise your brain releases several chemicals that make you feel good. One of these chemicals is Endogenous Cannabinoids, a natural cannabis-like compound.
Exercising on a regular basis is a healthy way to cope with your depression. Working out helps you to refocus your thoughts, and improve your self-confidence. Finding groups to exercise with such as yoga class or at the gym enables you to develop a social network.
Exercise doesn’t have to be intense or complicated. Thirty minutes a day of getting your heart rate up is all it takes. Simple ways include using the stairs instead of the elevator, or parking farther away from stores or your office and walking. Gardening, walking around the block, and playing catch with your kids can also get you moving.
3. Goal Setting
When you are experiencing depression, the last thing you want to do is set a goal, but it can help. One big, long term goal broken down into doable short term goals is best.
A counselor or your medical doctor can help you set achievable goals.
4. Cognitive Behavior Therapy
One of the most commonly used tools to help with depression is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). It’s a type of talk therapy that helps you to identify and change your negative thought patterns.
Cognitive behavioral therapy consists of a limited number of sessions with a trained counselor. You meet with your counselor at preset appointments to share your thoughts and feelings. During your session, your counselor will help you identify any negative thought patterns and create ways to change them into positive ones.
5. Hospital and Residential Treatment Programs
CBT can be done in an inpatient or an outpatient treatment program in a hospital or residential treatment facility. If you have severe depression or are in danger of hurting yourself, or have injured yourself you may be admitted to a hospital for medical treatment. While in the hospital you may be required to attend CBT sessions.
For severe depression or depression with co-occurring disorders and addictions, your medical doctor may suggest you stay in a residential treatment facility. Residential treatment facilities are live-in programs that specialize in psychological disorders and addictions that often go hand-in-hand. Duration and treatment of such programs depend on each individual’s unique needs.
6. Medications for Depression
When you are diagnosed with depression, your medical doctor will work with you on deciding which treatment is best for you.
There is a wide range of medications available. Selective Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most commonly prescribed medications.
For more severe cases of depression, your doctor may either combine several medications or prescribe Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs). MAOIs are a group of medicines that are used when other medications don’t work effectively. This type of drug has serious side-effects and cannot be combined with other medications and cannot be taken with some foods.
7. Medical Marijuana
Even as more states legalize the use of medical marijuana, the debate of whether or not it is a viable option as a drug still continues. Research in the use of medical marijuana is still in its infant stage, but studies have shown some positive benefits of its use for many disorders including depression.
Current research being done are looking into medical marijuana’s ability to stabilize moods and to normalize endocannabinoid functions in the brain, the feel-good chemical naturally released by exercise.
Each person reacts differently to medication due to their unique needs. Medical marijuana doctors can help you decide if this is the right treatment for you.