Non-Pharmaceutical Ways to Treat Situational Depression
Depression is an angry beast that can consume you. It makes completing even the simplest day-to-day tasks seem impossible, and personal relationships crumble because you just don’t have it in you to maintain them. Emotions are all over the map, but none of them are good. In short, it’s devastating.
Though there are many forms of depression, they fall under two umbrellas: clinical and situational.
Clinical depression is long-term, recurring over a period of years or a lifetime. It requires medical treatment to help restore chemical imbalances and regain some semblance of happiness. People experience varying degrees of success with medication, but a multi-treatment approach that includes both traditional and holistic practices is much more effective for most people.
Symptoms of Clinical Depression
These symptoms go on for more than just a few hours or days. They can become part of your life, and begin to erode your mental health to the point that you find it hard to function.
• Lack of happiness
• Near-constant irritability
• Notable weight fluctuation from your norm
• Notable appetite fluctuation from your norm
• Difficulty making decisions
• Feeling worthless
• Difficulty concentrating and/or focusing
• Feeling tired all the time
• Lacking desire to participate in day-to-day events, or even required functions, such as work.
Situational depression, also known as adjustment disorder with depressed mood, is brought on by circumstances, either internal or external. Maybe you’re not happy with where you’re at in life, or you’ve lost your job, suffered the death of a loved one, or experienced some other trauma that impacts your emotional well-being. Once you’re able to cope with the overwhelming emotion and get past the trauma, recovery is attainable without the need for long-term medical treatment.
Symptoms of Situational Depression
Symptoms usually set in within ninety days of the triggering event. Note that there’s a window and that you’re not technically depressed immediately following a traumatic event, because experiencing emotions is natural at that point. However, when the emotions drag on without improvement or get worse, you’re beginning your descent into depression.
Here are some symptoms of situational depression. Note that they’re not as severe as clinical depression, and you don’t want to let them get worse if you can help it.
• Loss of appetite
• Inability to focus
• Unfocused worry and anxiety
• Inability to concentrate
• Insomnia or sleeping poorly
• Withdrawing from normal daily activities and/or relationships
As you can see, these symptoms are bad, but not as horrible as what folks suffering from clinical depression face. It’s a matter of degree and duration, though both types feel devastating when you’re experiencing them.
Fortunately, there are several proactive measures you can take to help you get through situational depression, but if you don’t take some sort of action, your chances for developing clinical depression increase significantly. You may also find these helpful with dealing with clinical depression.
Remember, depression is complex. There’s not just one cause, which means there not just one cure-all treatment. It’s a perfect storm created by psychological, biological, and sociological problems. Therefore, anything you can do to bring about more balance and happiness in any of these areas is a step in the right direction.
For centuries, meditation has been used to maintain both mental and physical health, but mainstream Western medicine, for the most part, wrote it off as voodoo, at least until recently. The more we learn about the body and the brain, the more we understand that the whole is more than the sum of the parts.
Meditation has gained much attention in the last few decades and scientific studies are showing that its effect on both physical and emotional health is significant. So much so that it’s included as alternative treatment for nearly every health condition imaginable. Here are some reasons why:
Boosts Serotonin and Norepinephrine
Serotonin and norepinephrine are two of your brain’s “happy” chemicals that are often lacking in people with depression, and meditation boosts them both, naturally. It creates an environment where your brain is flooded with the chemical formula to being happy, which, in turn, relieves depression.
Deactivates the anxiety and depression section of the brain
It’s inherently impossible to be happy/calm and unhappy/anxious at the same time. Way back before we established our place at the top of the food chain, our brains needed to be aware of danger and have something ready to help us survive it. That was our fight or flight response.
We don’t need that anymore, yet we still experience anxiety, which can lead to depression. When we become anxious, our bodies (specifically the amygdala section of your brain) release chemicals such as cortisol that kick us in gear so we don’t get eaten. The problem is that everyday stress triggers this release, too. In turn, the excess cortisol creates anxiety and a host of other physical problems including depression and obesity.
Enter meditation. Studies by such esteems people as Harvard neuroscientists studied the brains of people who had recently begun to meditate. They’d just completed an 8-week mindfulness class, and the scientists found that not only was the amygdalae section of the brain less active, it had actually decreased in size!
Breaks the Cycle of Depression
Depressive thoughts are circular—the more negative thoughts you think, the more your brain fixates on other negative aspects of your life, and it spreads like a wildfire. Meditation breaks that cycle by boosting your happy chemicals and clearing your mind of negative thoughts.
Helps you Focus on the Present
Many depressive thoughts are based on what has happened or fears or anxiety about what might happen. We overthink our way right into depression, but meditation makes you be fully present and keeps your thoughts exactly where they should be—in the here and now. It keeps your brain from letting yesterday’s misery suck away today’s happiness.
Helps you Acknowledge Negative Thoughts
It’s going to happen. You’re going to have negative thoughts. It’s how you deal with them that’s important, and meditation helps you acknowledge them and keep them in perspective.
These are just a handful of ways that meditation can help you battle depression. The point is—do it!
Physical exertion causes your brain to release endorphins that boost mood—thus the concept of a runner’s high. These endorphins are released most abundantly during high-intensity exercise, but anything that gets your heart rate up for several minutes causes at least some boost.
According to Dr. Michael Craig Miller, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, low-intensity exercise sustained over time may be even more beneficial because it initiates the release of neurotrophic factors, or growth factors, that cause nerve cells to grow and form new connections. This helps depression.
As with meditation, deep breathing has been used to relieve anxiety and depression for centuries, and now science is backing it up. Think about this for a second—when your body is in its most relaxed state, sleep, how is your breathing? Slow and deep, right? There’s a reason for that.
When your body kicks into fight-or-flight mode as we discussed above, another portion of you sympathetic nervous system that’s affected is your breathing. It becomes rapid and shallow in order to get more oxygen into your body so you can run if needed. If you pay attention, your breathing increases when you’re anxious, too. Those people who tell you to take a deep breath are onto something.
Deep breathing exercises stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system, which is what regulates your body when it’s relaxed and at rest. Since your breathing is one of the easiest body functions to control, it only makes sense to use it if it will make you feel better.
Richard P. Brown, MD, and Patricia L. Gerbarg, MD wrote a book called The Healing Power of Breath, and they defined relaxation breathing techniques that are helpful when trying to manage anxiety. One is coherent breathing, which is basically taking five breaths a minute to maximize your heartrate variability. That’s a determining factor of how well your parasympathetic nervous system is performing.
Focus on Your Happy Triggers
We all have things that make us happy. Memories, pets, children, TV shows, books, activities; the list goes on. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as it makes you happy. This goes hand-in-hand with all the reasons that meditation and depression are in such opposition. It’s hard to be miserable when you’re happy. There’s a key here, though.
People who suffer from depression often go through the motions. You can’t do that here or it won’t work. Make every effort to focus your emotions on the activity. Find what it is about it that makes you happy and pursue that. Then do your best not to let sad thoughts intrude on the happiness the trigger is bringing you.
This may sound cheesy, pardon the pun, but the physical act of smiling releases endorphins and serotonin. Literally, acting happy can make you feel happy. Again, though, put intent in it. Make it a genuine smile because that’s all part of it.
Depression is a wicked beast that can drag you under and suck all of the joy right out of your life. People who have never experienced it have difficulty understanding why you don’t just get over it and get happy. It doesn’t work that way. Or, rather, it can, but you have to work at it.
If you experience symptoms of depression—and you’ll know it if you do!—don’t wait to get help. Situational depression is much easier to treat than clinical depression, though it may not feel that way at the time.
As with all medical conditions, approaching it from many directions at once may be your best chance at beating it, and hopefully some of the tips in this post may help you do that.
If you have experience with depression and want to ask questions or offer additional tips that have helped you, please do so in the comments section below.
Author: Theresa Crouse
Această operă este pusă la dispoziţie sub Licenţa Creative Commons Atribuire-Necomercial-FărăDerivate 4.0 Internațional .