If you find yourself on occasion struggling with the blue monster, you are not alone. Almost everyone has their moments with this dragon. For most of us, it will be a temporary situation, but for some, it can be a more serious condition, which can rob the joy from life. Here are some effective ways to beat the blues.
Nature and light. Most people in this area have heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. In the wintertime, when we have less daylight and many of us find it difficult to get our “outside time”, a lot of people start feeling more irritable, lethargic, and even depressed. We were designed to be outside, and we do better if we have some time in the sun and some time in nature. We are blessed here in Tahoe with the number of sunny days per year that we enjoy, but in the winter they can be frustratingly short, leaving us little time before or after work to get a dose of fresh air and sunshine. Studies have shown that our moods improve when we regularly have some time in nature, and also that natural light helps fight depression. Additionally, a deficiency of Vitamin D, which our bodies synthesize from sunlight, is a surprisingly common problem, and can be a contributing factor in depression. Make it a point to get your outside time, even if it’s just a short walk outside during your lunch break. And consider supplementing with Vitamin D. (Your doctor can check your levels to see if you are low).
Omega-3 fats have been shown to have a significant antidepressant effect. along with several other benefits, including boosting the immune system, reducing inflammation, reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke, and reducing symptoms of hypertension, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), joint pain, and certain skin ailments. This is an impressive array of benefits to be gained from a good fish oil supplement, available at any health food store.
Exercise. Also as potent as anti-depressants, and like Omega-3 fats, it has many additional benefits. I’m sure you can list at least some of these benefits yourself, but here are some: lowered blood pressure; more oxygen to our brain for better mental functioning; keeping our weight under control; reduced risk of diabetes and heart disease, and improved self-image. Our bodies were designed for movement. Our ancestors, of course, got plenty of exercise, what with hunting, gathering, hauling water, and all the daily activities that were a part of their existence. They didn’t need to get on a treadmill or hike up the side of a hill just for the exercise. In our modern, more sedentary times, we need to take action to make exercise a part of our daily (yes, daily) life.
Relationships. Isolation is a risk factor for depression. Human beings are a social animal. People need people. We get comfort, support, love and laughter, and a sense of belonging from our relationships. In our hunter-gatherer days, people needed each other in order to survive. From a psychological perspective, we haven’t changed that much. People who have a healthy support system live longer, happier lives. Ironically, when we’re feeling depressed, we tend to withdraw from others, and it’s important that we make the effort to stay connected.
Change the Channel. When we’re struggling with depression, we have a tendency to focus on the negative. And of course, focusing on the negative makes us more depressed, in a repeating cycle that makes the problem worse. How to change this cycle of negative thinking is the subject of many books, so I won’t pretend to be able to give you a quick solution in a paragraph. You can check out one of these books, or work with a professional (see next paragraph). The first step is to become aware of the negative thinking; the next is to challenge it. Often times we are dwelling on the things that make us unhappy, so we need to learn to balance our thoughts. Also, getting up and doing something helps us not sit around and dwell on our negative thoughts. Activity is an antidote to depression, so get up and get involved in something.
Psychotherapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and more recently MBCBT (Mindfulness Based CBT) are research-validated tools for fighting and beating depression. If it’s more than “just the blues” or a little bit of SAD, professional help is available and effective.
Dr. Catherine Aisner is a Psychologist in South Lake Tahoe, helping individuals and couples improve the quality of their lives. She can be reached at 530-541-6696 or online at www.CatherineAisner.com.
1. exercise. Classes,
2. social – make friends by asking someone to go for a walk
3. laughter – funny movies, etc. watch together
4. play games in eve instead of watching tv (unless funny movie)
5. stress management – eliminate what you can, compartmentalize, etc.
Ex. Of Denise w/her box of job related stuff – resume, letters of reference, contacts, etc. Literal box. Put in closet or cover with a blanket
6. Be productive. Doing something feels better than sitting staring at tv, sinking into enuei