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Depression- How to Help Yourself

Everybody seems depressed these Days. Here are some ways to help you feel better.

Depression is Common

If you are depressed, you are not alone. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) 1 in 18 Americans are suffering from depression. This is over 14 million people. Depression is common in other countries as well.

Causes of Depression

Depression can be caused by a variety of things.  Genetics is more likely if there is a family history of depression. Physical conditions such as hypothyroidism, chronic pain or even influenza can lead to depression. A variety of situational factors can lead to depression such as divorce, death of a loved one, loss of a job, past abuse, unresolved anger, etc. Depression often results from several factors.   

Symptoms of Depression

If you are depressed, you are likely to have more than one of the following symptoms:

  • Not enjoying things you normally do
  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Being more easily angered
  • Feeling Nervous
  • Sleeping consistently more or less
  • Feeling sad all the time
  • Loss of self-esteem
  • Weight loss or gain not explained by other factors
  • Having trouble thinking clearly
  • Fearing the future
  • Withdrawing from people
  • Increased abuse of drugs
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Thoughts of suicide (Suicidal thoughts may precede an actual suicide attempt. Contact a mental health professional immediately.)

Helping Yourself

Severe depression requires treatment by a health care professional. The following suggestions are intended to help those with mild depression. They may also act as an adjunct to professional treatment.

  • Socializing – Interacting with other people often helps relieve the feelings of isolation associated with depression.
  • Exercise – Physical exercise causes the release of endorphins which reduce pain and lead to feelings of euphoria. If you are over 50, have not exercised recently, or have a medical condition consult a physician before exercising.
  • Meditation – There are many different types of meditation. Most people will benefit from meditation, especially if they find the type best suited to their individual needs and personality. 
  • Setting Goals – Try to keep goals achievable and in daily terms. Expecting too much of yourself is stressful. Achieving small goals can boost feelings of accomplishment and self-worth.
  • Stress Reduction – Feeling under stress for extended periods of time can lead to depression. Exercise and meditation both help reduce stress. Progressive muscle relaxation, self-hypnosis, guided imagery, biofeedback, acupuncture and massage can also help reduce feelings of stress.
  • Supplements – There are many natural supplements which may help with depression:  St John’s Wort and 5-HTP both can reduce depression by themselves, but work especially well together. SAMe, Fish Oil and B-Vitamins may also help reduce feelings of depression.
  • Tryptophan – For many people this amino acid, available as a supplement, works well to reduce depression. It also occurs naturally in the following foods listed from highest to lowest concentration: flax seed, cowpeas, pork salami, lentils, turkey, peanuts, chicken, almonds, egg yolk and walnuts
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