Five mental health tips

Many people suffer from depression for a variety of reasons. Take a look at some tips on dealing with this situation, when it hits you or someone close to you.

Tip 1: Nearest and dearest depro?
Your family member or friend has been diagnosed with a mental illness. Luckily, there's a lot you can do to make the situation better for your loved one and for yourself, according to the Cape Support for Mental Health.

Take action:
Empower yourself by finding out as much about the illness and the treatment as possible; find a psychiatrist who specialises in the particular illness and who is recommended by others who are in a similar position; look after yourself and take care not to get swamped by the illness; don’t take personal responsibility for the illness – you haven’t caused the illness and don’t need to feel guilty; join a support group in your area to share your experiences and feelings with people who are in a similar position.

Tip 2: Eat your stress away
When you get stressed, your body gives off cortisol. This can create intense food cravings, especially for fuels of stress response, like fats and carbohydrates. Counteract this response by following the right diet.

Take action: Eat regular and small healthy meals and keep fruit and veggies handy. Herbal teas will also soothe your frazzled nerves. Eating unrefined carbohydrates, nuts and bananas boosts the formation of serotonin, a "feel-good" drug. Small amounts of protein containing the amino acid tryptamine can give you a boost when stress tires you out.

Tip 3: Strong people go for help
Gnashing your teeth in the dark will not get you extra brownie points. It is a sign of strength to ask for assistance and people will respect you for it. If there is a relationship problem, the one who refuses to go for help is usually the one with whom the problem lies.

Take action: Don't delay if you need it – make an appointment with a therapist today. Your GP should be able to suggest therapists. An organisation, which deals with the problem you encounter, will also have a referral list.

Tip 4: Laugh and cry
Having a good sob is reputed to be good for you. So is laughter, which has been shown to help heal bodies, as well as broken hearts. Laughter boosts the immune system and helps the body shake off allergic reactions. Research also suggests that the mere act of anticipation may make people feel better hours before they get around to watching a funny video.

Take action: Make an appointment with a few good friends today, take out a funny movie or put in a few days leave and take a break. Any enjoyable event – even if it's just a relaxing afternoon at home – could spark a positive reaction.

Tip 5: Beating depression after retirement
Most of us equal the word "retirement" with relaxation, holidays and sleeping late. But for many, it can be the start of depression. It is common for people to suddenly feel emptiness and despair when they retire, especially if they have invested everything in their careers and neglected other areas of their lives.

Take action:
If you are planning to retire in the near future, take note of the following: lead a balanced lifestyle and cultivate interests outside of work; don't wait until retirement to plan what to do with your time – plan ahead; prevent isolation by getting involved in activities where you can meet people with similar interests; learn more about depression and its symptoms; if you are worried that you may be depressed, seek help as soon as possible. (Health24, September 2005)

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