Thursday, July 9, 2009

Tame Your Depression: Six Steps toward Feeling Better Now

For the past fifteen years I have lived with chronic depression. I use the word lived but that’s a bit misleading. For the majority of that time I allowed the symptoms of my depression to take over my life. I existed, sure, but I certainly didn’t live.

One day that changed—it had to—and I got my life back. I’ll explain that in a bit, but first let’s take a look at Depression and its uncanny ability to assault your life.

Depression is a very serious medical condition, but unfortunately for those who suffer its effects, it is very misunderstood. I lost count of all the people who, while trying to help, consistently urged me to “cheer up,” or “just relax.” Their support was well meant, but their ignorance of this disease left me feeling very frustrated. Believe me, I wanted to cheer up, but I just couldn’t. It’s similar to asking someone with COPD to just quit coughing: it’s just not going to happen.

Consequently, depression made me feel very lonely and hopeless. I thought there was nothing I could do and I felt paralyzed. Here’s what I was dealing with. You will undoubtedly recognize the items on this list, as they are classic symptoms of this curse:

 Feelings of darkness, heaviness and persistent “blah”
 Loss of interest in things I used to enjoy
 Anxiety
 Inability to focus or concentrate
 Irritability
 Sleep Problems
 Loss of energy

Yep, I had it all, and it had me.

Sadly I relinquished a large chunk of my life to this illness—a chunk I can’t get back-- but one day I finally decided to fight back. I was taking medication at the time, and although it helped somewhat with the nagging symptoms, I knew I needed to take additional steps. I read everything I could get my hands on and began acting upon some of the solutions that had worked for other people. The advice I read seemed so simplistic, and to say I was skeptical at first would be an understatement. Regardless, I surged forward and I came up with a list of six simple steps that would ultimately change my life. Slowly and with significant effort, the darkness began to fade. The better I felt, the more progress I was able to make, and my world began to look a little brighter.

Below are the steps that helped me. Keep an open mind and give each one of them a try. I sincerely believe these simple steps can help you as well:

Six Steps Toward Feeling Better Now

1. Get Up!

• Even if you don’t feel like it or you have nowhere to go, get up, jump in the shower and get dressed. Believe me, that simple step will make a world of difference. Lying in bed all day will only make your depression worse.

2. Exercise.

• Dedicate 30 minutes a day to some form of aerobic exercise. Jog, walk or ride a bike. Exercise has been proven to perk up your mood, and help you sleep at night.

3. Get some sun.

• Many experts agree that spending time outside in the sunshine can help alleviate the symptoms of depression. Schedule some form of outdoor activity everyday: Take a walk, have a picnic or fly a kite. Any outdoor activity will help you beat the blues. Bonus: a little tan may improve your self-esteem.

4. Be positive.

• Depression makes it all too easy to take a negative view of your world, but these thoughts only worsen depression symptoms. Force yourself to spend some time considering all the positive things in your life. Plan a trip or take up a hobby. Give yourself something to look forward to and your life will take on a sense of momentum and hope.

5. Keep a journal.

• Writing is a great outlet for troubling thoughts, associated with depression. Keep track of your challenges and successes by putting them down on paper. Depression can make it difficult for you to concentrate and focus, so writing things down can be a helpful tool. After all, once it’s down on paper, you no longer have to remember it.

6. Talk about it.

• Depression can be very lonely. You convince yourself that nobody understands, and retreat into your own little world. This behavior is not only unhealthy for you, but can poison your relationships as well. Remember that your depression affects everybody close to you. Sharing your struggles (and your hope) with your family and friends is very therapeutic for everyone involved. Open, consistent communication will lead to healing and understanding.

Your life is too precious to have it imprisoned by depression. These steps worked for me, and I am willing to bet they’ll work for you as well, assuming you commit to them. It’s worth a try isn’t it? Implement each of these steps into your daily routines and you will feel better. What do you have to lose?


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