This article is the sixth in a series about depression.
Q: What are additional self-help tips for depressed individuals and their significant others?
A: In an article on help guide, there is a recommendation for those people who are depressed to reach out to others. Isolation intensifies depression and depressed individuals feel like being alone and isolated. However, simply talking to friends or family face-to-face about one’s feelings of depression can be a big help. The person whom one chooses just needs to be a good listener, not distracted or judgmental.
Getting going in the morning, just getting out of bed, can seem difficult. If someone cannot run or jog, walking, even just a mile, can help alleviate depression. One can also put on music and dance around the house when no one else is home, if someone finds that embarrassing. Any activity that requires movement and energy is good, such as arts and crafts. Playing games or doing puzzles with someone is good because it involves someone else.
A depressed person needs to find ways to reengage with the world. Even though a person does not feel like participating in activities that make that person feel better, once someone starts to get involved, that person will begin to feel better. Examples of ways to help alleviate depression include spending time in nature, caring for a pet, volunteering to help others, or resuming a past, favorite hobby.
On Teens Health from Nemours, the first suggestion to teens is to exercise vigorously. Jogging, walking, biking or dancing are good choices. A teenager can ask a friend to exercise together if the teen is having trouble getting motivated. Other means of addressing depression include breathing exercises and meditation. Teens need to be encouraged to maintain a good diet. They can eat too much, too little, or too much junk food. Good nutrition influences both mood and energy level, and depressed individuals already have lowered energy levels.
Teenagers need to work on identifying what is bothering them but be advised not to dwell on negative thoughts. Talking with a caring friend is advisable and helpful. After venting depressive thoughts and feelings, teens can turn their thoughts to something positive. Then teens can initiate actions to solve problems. If the teens can’t figure out what to do, they need to ask for help. Connecting to family and friends can help to alleviate depression. Adults may need to help teens rather than watching them experience the pain of depression without any support.
A big loss with depression is a person’s creativity and sense of humor or fun. To address the loss of creativity, depressed adolescents can engage in painting, doodling, drawing, writing, sewing, dancing, writing or playing music. Adolescents can do something fun, such as playing with a pet, watching a funny movie or playing catch with a friend.
Teens need to try to focus on good things. They can start with one good thing and then try to add on more. Teens can balance their weaknesses with their strengths. Since depressed teens, like all depressed people, dwell on the negative, they can ask family or friends to help them think of strengths.
There are recommended tips for women about how to cope with their depressions. Women need to try to get a little sunlight each day — at least 15 minutes. Women can take short walks, have coffee outside, eat meals outside, sit in the park, and enjoy time in a garden. As advised for all persons who are depressed, women should talk one-on-one to someone they trust to listen. They should talk about their depressions and how they feel.
Women need to keep up with their social activities even when they do not feel like socializing. Retreating is easier when someone is depressed, but being around others helps depression. Unfortunately, what is needed most is to get started and that is what is the most difficult first step for women and everyone else who is depressed.
Studies show that regular exercise can work as well as any antidepressant for increasing energy levels and decreasing fatigue. A daily 30 minute walk will give a depressed woman (or man) a boost of energy. If 30 minutes at a time is not possible, women can do 3 ten minute walks.
Depressed women can either sleep too much or too little, probably too little if they are working fulltime and raising children and/or helping to care for an elderly parent. Women should aim for 8 to 9 hours of sleep. Relaxation techniques are recommended for women on a daily basis. To relieve depression and/or stress, women can try yoga, deep breathing, meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation.
The preceding information directed toward depressed women is from helpguide.org. The following information is from collaboration between help guide and Dr. Michael Craig Miller, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
Dr. Miller points out that exercise improves circulation and neural pathways and regulates moods. A high intensity exercise is a brisk 30 minute walk, aerobics, or a game of tennis. A daily low intensity walk will probably stay with a person longer as a regular daily routine.
A second area recommended by Dr. Miller is meditation because it promotes positive feelings and reduces negative emotions such as anger and fear. Medication also lowers blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, oxygen consumption, adrenaline, and cortisol. Cortisol is the hormone released by stress. Dr. Miller’s suggestions for women regarding socialization are to invite friends for coffee, go to a movie, or attend an art exhibit. If a person really has nobody to do things with, that person can take a class, join an adult group at church, or join any other group of interest.
Finally, Dr. Miller spells out how to find purpose in life. He recommends volunteer work for a hospital, library, school, charitable group, or day care center. Women who do not work full time and who are not raising young children can tutor children or mentor young business people through the chamber of commerce. Women can also get involved in sports such as baseball, softball, tennis or other community programs, either playing or coaching. Also available to both men and women are dance classes, painting classes, gourmet cooking classes, and gardening.
Next week’s article will discuss negative effects and complications of depression.
Judy Caprez is professor emeritus at Fort Hays State University