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The Depression Management Report Card: Are You Making the Grade?

Monday, December 7th, 2015 at 9:14 pm    

Depression connects to every part of our life and our body. Unlike other chronic diseases and disorders that may be isolated to one area of the body, depressions, and other mental illnesses, have a way of touching everything from our central nervous system and organ function to our relationships with others. In order to manage depression, our bodies, mind, and soul play different but equally important roles. Here are a few ways to check-in and learn more about areas you might need to spend a bit more time studying.

  1. Social Studies – It is common for those suffering from depression to isolate from social engagements, conversations, and activities, choosing instead to be alone, which unfortunately fuels depression and ruins relationships. Do you find yourself canceling on friends at the last minute? Avoiding co-workers in the hallway or sitting silently and aloof in meetings? Do you look for ways to avoid interaction with your family members or closest friends? These actions reflect a need for improvement. If you’re making efforts to make it out of the house to attend at least one social event a week, you’re doing your best to engage in conversations with co-workers, or initiating connections with family and friends, give yourself an A. Depression makes these things difficult, but give yourself credit for even the smallest improvements in engaging in social activities.
  2. Human Nutrition – This is a topic that is often ignored or undetected in those with depression. Have your eating habits changed drastically – either eating more than usual or not enough? Any sudden weight gain or loss? Is your alcohol consumption more than usual? Be sure to take this subject seriously. Good nutrition is important to keep your body’s immune system, brain function, and muscles healthy and strong in order to avoid any illness that might exacerbate symptoms of depression. A balanced diet of fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and sources of fiber are important. For those with depression, alcohol should be avoided.
  3. Physical Education (PE) – It’s amazing what a brisk 15 minute walk can do for your mood. Studies from the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) and numerous other sources have shown the positive effects exercise has on mental illness. This doesn’t mean you have to sign up for a marathon or swim 45 laps every day. Start small. A walk around the block, parking further away from the store than usual, or meeting a buddy for a walk at the park are all activities that earn an A in managing depression.
  4. Philosophy/Advisor – Meditation, church, yoga, or even a break from electronics all add up to giving your brain an opportunity to refocus, reflect, and bring you back to a place of calm. Also, think of your appointments with your therapist as a time when you can let things go and wash away the negativity depression brings. Fresh starts and positive reflections are great ways to keep depression from hindering your abilities to succeed and live a happy and healthy life.

How to be a Healthy Partner to Someone Struggling with Depression or Anxiety

Monday, November 30th, 2015 at 3:23 pm    

Anxiety and depression are two of the most common disorders diagnosed among Americans today. According to a 2013 report from The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), 40 million Americans are affected by an anxiety disorder, and depression touches 14.8 million people annually. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for individuals to experience the comorbidity of anxiety and depression.

Given the prevalence of anxiety and depression, it is likely that someone close to you will struggle with one or both of these disorders at some point in their life: a spouse, parent, sibling, or even a child. One of the most important elements of treatment and symptom remission for those who have anxiety or depression is a strong network of understanding and caring loved ones and friends.

In order to support your loved one through the difficulties brought on by anxiety and depression, we’ve highlighted a few key ways you can be a healthy partner and a positive influence in their recovery and ongoing wellness.

  • Build your knowledge of what anxiety and depression are. It’s important for supportive partners to understand that neither anxiety nor depression are conditions that a person can will himself or herself to not have; they can’t just “snap out of it.” Unfortunately, these are common misconceptions that can be quite harmful to those who are suffering and cause them to feel shame, guilt, and frustration. Find a reputable book (perhaps one suggested by a therapist) to learn more about anxiety and depression. Read it together with your loved one to show your interest in understanding what they struggle with and that it’s not their fault.
  • Be a partner in health. The benefits of regular exercise, hobbies, and healthy social outlets have been shown to be powerful tools to keep symptoms of depression and anxiety at bay. The buddy system works well for everything from going to the gym, to showing up at social outings. Encourage your loved one to participate in things you know he or she enjoys doing, even when they seem to have lost interest. Losing interest in activities one normally enjoys is a common symptom of depression and anxiety, and when left unchecked can cause further isolation.
  • Acknowledge when your loved one is going through a tough time. It is important that he or she feels they can talk to you about their feelings, and what they’re going through. Also, be conscious of any statements or actions that may point to a heightened need for treatment, such as mentions of suicide or loss of hope. Sentiments like these should be taken seriously and help should be sought immediately.
  • Attend a therapy session with your loved one. If it is appropriate, it might be beneficial for you, as the individual’s primary partner, to go to therapy with your loved one to learn about any new changes or goals the therapist has established. In these sessions, it’s important to be open, honest, and realistic with your loved one and their treatment provider.

As a friend, parent, or spouse of someone with anxiety or depression, your love, understanding, and kindness can be some of the most powerful and successful treatments available. You play an important role in your loved one’s health, but it is important to keep your own health and wellness top of mind, too.

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