How Lifestyle and Depression Go Together
As many as 1 in 5 Canadians are diagnosed with depression. It is a mental health condition that can manifest in a number of different ways – from social withdrawal and isolation, thoughts of sadness, irritability and agitation, excessive sleeping or eating habits, and even suicidal ideation as well as attempts.
A combination of therapy (such as seeing a psychiatrist, psychologist, or a licensed counselor) and medication are among the most common methods of treatment used to treat depression, and they come with much success. Therapy is beneficial as patients will often find it helpful to speak to an outside source about their feelings as opposed to a friend or family member out of fear that they may be judged, or guilty in the sense that they may feel as if they are burdening others with their problems. Therapy can also be beneficial as you will learn ways to not only recognize possible triggers leading up to your depression as well as learn more about the condition itself, how to better recognize your feelings and cope with them, and also change your way of thinking (known as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or CBT); while medications work to help stabilize the mood and reduce anxiety.
It is important to point out that when entering into the above types of treatments, change won’t happen overnight – especially where medication is involved, as it may take several weeks before you start to begin noticeable changes. It’s important to not get discouraged, however, and stick to the plan as well as follow any recommendations that your doctors or therapist make.
I also recommend patients make some crucial changes in regard to their lifestyle as an ongoing part of their treatment plan for depression. These include changes with sleep, physical activity, and eating habits. Sleep is known to have quite the major impact on mood – as when you aren’t getting enough of it, symptoms of depression can actually worsen. Without adequate sleep you may also find yourself to be moodier and more irritable, sad, and even fatigued, so make sure you’re getting enough shut-eye each night (at least 7 to 9 hours.) Getting regular exercise can also be an effective method of treatment for depression. When you exercise, your body gets a boost of endorphins and serotonin, and it also works in a similar way that anti-depressants do by triggering growth of new brain cells. The exercise you do doesn’t have to be vigorous, either, as 30 minutes of walking each day can be enough for you to start reaping the benefits – which are not just limited to your mental wellbeing. Your diet also plays an important role for not just your mental health, but your physical wellbeing too. In order to stay energized and minimize mood swings, you need to ensure you’re eating healthy, well-balanced meals, while avoiding foods that are high in fat, sodium and sugar. Foods known to have a calming effect include whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes, while protein-rich foods such as poultry, fish, milk, soy products, lean beef, beans and peas can all help boost your alertness. Foods rich in selenium and omega-3 fatty acids can also benefit the mood, as can an increase in your vitamin D intake, which can be obtained through sunlight (but be careful not to overexpose your skin to the sun’s harmful UV rays) or by taking a vitamin D supplement.
If you’re still experiencing symptoms of depression or find that your condition has not improved after trying therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes, you should let your physician know. There are several different conditions that can mimic depression, such as hypothyroidism. Certain medications can also interact with each other and may cause symptoms similar to depression or worsen pre-existing symptoms, so be sure to check with your physician or pharmacist for any potential drug interactions.