8 tips to manage the blues

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Depression is treatable.

Between 80 to 90 percent of depressed people respond to medication and psychotherapy, and feel some relief from depression symptoms. But treatment doesn’t stop with medication and psychotherapy. Healthy lifestyle choices can go a long way in helping you feel better.

1. You don’t snooze, you lose
Insomnia is a common complaint amongst depressed people. 

  • Don’t lie in bed for long periods if you can’t fall asleep. Your brain will associate your bed with lying awake and not being able to sleep. Get out of bed if you can’t sleep after 10 minutes or so. Carry out a non-interesting activity like reading a boring book, until drowsiness returns and then go back to bed. Repeat this until sleep takes place.
  • Follow the same routine at night before trying to sleep. Your mind and body will connect this routine with sleeping.
  • Avoid stimulants like coffee and alcohol before going to bed. 
  • Don’t eat a huge meal close to bedtime.
  • Get in a bit of exercise. You’ll fall asleep more easily and get a better night’s rest.  
  • Take a warm bath before bedtime.
  • Keep a notebook next to your bed and write down any worries that you may have before trying to sleep.
  • Stop napping. Daytime naps will make it more difficult for you to sleep at night.
  • Make sure that your bedroom is comfortable, dark and quiet.
  • Wake up at the same time every day.

2. Get active
Exercise gets those endorphins (feel-good hormones) into your bloodstream. But when you feel depressed, it’s difficult to motivate yourself to even brush your teeth, let alone go for a walk or run. Don’t get caught in this vicious cycle of feeling unmotivated and wanting to camp on the couch – it will make you feel more depressed. 

Exercise a little bit every day. Begin gradually. Even 10 minutes a day is a good start. Slowly increase the intensity and amount of time you spend exercising. 

3. Watch what you eat
When you’re depressed, you may lose your appetite or eat like a horse. Both can make you feel even worse. 

  • Eat five to six small meals rather than two to three big ones.
  • Eat at least five portions of fruits and vegetables a day. A portion size is the size of your fist.
  • Make complex carbohydrates like wholewheat bread, brown rice, and sweet potatoes the basis of every meal. Eating the right carbs can boost the production of serotonin in your brain, which can make you feel more positive.
  • Eat plenty of lean protein to increase amino acid intake. Amino acids can help manage feelings of depression and anxiety. 
  • Eat more foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids like fish (salmon, sardines and tuna), flaxseeds and walnuts. Omega-3s can help ease symptoms of depression. 
  • Drink at least eight glasses of water a day.
  • Say no to alcohol. Alcohol can cause or worsen depression as it changes the balance of brain chemicals or physical structure of the brain. Alcohol can also slow the metabolism of some antidepressants.

TIP
What you eat and drink can interfere with your medication. Ask your doctor if there are any foods you need to steer clear of.  

4. Check your medicine cabinet
Many types of medication (including natural remedies) can interfere with antidepressants. Some can reduce the effect of your medication, while others can lead to poisoning. Always tell your doctor exactly what you’re taking.

5. Learn to relax
Relaxation decreases tension and anxiety, and improves sleep. Try meditation, yoga or specific relaxation exercises. A long, hot bath with aromatherapy oils or a massage can also do wonders.

6. Be gentle on yourself
Expect less from yourself. Consider what’s important to you and set small, realistic goals. Postpone major plans and life changes like changing jobs or starting a family.

7. Ask for help
Don’t try to do things all by yourself. Delegate tasks and ask your support network to help with childcare, chores and other responsibilities. You’ll be able to return the favour when you’re better. Share your feelings with friends and family. Ask your doctor to refer you to a support group. 

8. Don’t give up hope
Don’t feel discouraged if you don’t feel better immediately. Some antidepressants take a few weeks to kick in. If you don’t see an improvement within six weeks, discuss your concerns with your doctor.


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