Living with depression can be a daily struggle. Perhaps youÃ•re experiencing lingering depression symptoms, or you want to prevent future depressive episodes. Certain lifestyle changes can make living with depression much easier.
However, lifestyle factors should not be used as a substitute for prescribed depression treatment, such as depression medication (If prescription medication and therapy donÃ•t work for depression, alternative options, such as transcranial magnetic stimulation, are often more effective than lifestyle changes). If youÃ•re interested in supplementing your treatment plan, speak to your doctor about making lifestyle changes to treat your symptoms.
Understanding Your Risk Factors
You canÃ•t change all your risk factors for depression (i.e. your genetic make-up), but you can control most of them. Some of the most common risk factors for depression include:
- Alcohol and drug abuse
- Chronic illness
- Genetic factors
- Hormone imbalances
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Stress and stressful life events.
Knowing which risk factors are problems for you can help you prevent a major depressive episode. If, for example, you notice symptoms of depression when youÃ•re excessively busy or tired, you can cut back on your activities and take more time to rest.
Living with Depression: Maintaining Your Physical Health
Eating a healthy diet and exercising daily are two of the best depression treatment strategies. Here are some simple tips for good health:
- Avoid alcohol, drugs, and caffeine. Although itÃ•s very tempting to use these substances to combat the symptoms of depression, they can actually aggravate your symptoms and make depression worse.
- Exercise at least a little bit every day. Exercise can do wonders for your mood and your energy level.
- Get plenty of sleep. Because fatigue is both a cause and an effect of depression, maintaining a normal sleep schedule is a very important part of your depression treatment.
- Include more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in your diet. Consider enhancing your diet with additional vitamins and supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D and a B complex vitamin. All of these are excellent for depression.
Living with Depression: Maintaining Your Mental Health
Maintaining good mental health is another important part of living with depression. Consider some of these lifestyle changes for optimum mental health:
- Express yourself. Releasing your feelings is very therapeutic. Share your feelings with someone you trust. Write your feelings in your journal. Express them through music. Paint them on a canvas.
- Identify the sources of stress in your life. If possible, eliminate them. If not, talk to your mental health care provider about some good stress management tips.
- Keep it simple. Depression can make your daily â€œto-doâ€ list seem insurmountable. Set accomplishable goals everyday and donÃ•t be hard on yourself if you canÃ•t get it all done.
- Stay socially active. Spending time with encouraging people can help boost your mood and take your thoughts off how you feel. Avoid the people who will tempt you to drink and stay out late.
- Wind down. Take time everyday to relax and do the things you enjoy.
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2010). Coping and support. Retrieved May 10, 2010, from the Mayo Clinic website: www.mayoclinic.com/health/depression/DS00175/DSECTION=coping-and-support.
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2010). Treatment and drugs. Retrieved May 7, 2010, from the Mayo Clinic website: www.mayoclinic.com/health/depression/DS00175/DSECTION=treatments-and-drugs.
Lundbeck Institute Staff. (n.d.) Depression Ã Prevention. Retrieved May 10, 2010, from the Lundbeck Institute website: www.brainexplorer.org/depression/Depression_Prevention.shtml.
Nemade, R. et al. (n.d.) Depression: Major depression & unipolar varieties. Retrieved May 5, 2010, from the MentalHealth.net website: www.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=438&cn=5.
Saison, J. et al. (n.d.) Dealing with depression: Self-help and coping tips. Retrieved May 17, 2010, from the HelpGuide website: helpguide.org/mental/depression_tips.htm.