As a licensed behavioral counselor for over 25 years, I have coached thousands of clients who struggle with depression. I also coach clients who are diagnosed with medical conditions, since depression is often connected with chronic medical issues such as heart disease, diabetes and inflammatory diseases.
Depression can last anywhere from a few hours to a few years, and it can be debilitating. What's worse is that people often find it difficult or even embarrassing to discuss. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 10% of the US adult population report being depressed.
So, it's really important to address depression and know what symptoms to look for in order to get the most appropriate level of help needed.
Here are 10 symptoms of depression:
- Lack of pleasure or interest in doing things
- Feeling down, hopeless or helpless
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Increase or decrease in appetite
- Inability to concentrate or focus
- Impaired memory
- Low energy level
- Thoughts that you'd be better off dead or hurting yourself in some way
Here are 5 ways to outshine depression:
1. Get moving, even if it's just for 5 minutes.
It only takes 5 minutes of physical activity to activate the ‘good mood’ chemicals in your brain. Those endorphins are our natural anti-depressant, and a bonus is that they reduce the intensity of pain. Many levels of physical activity will help with outshining depression, so even stretching or walking can relieve feelings of depression.
Sometimes when you feel depressed, you don’t have the energy or desire to exercise, so be gentle with yourself and try to push yourself a little past your comfort zone with this. You will see that exercise will actually increase your energy and improve your mood.
2. Surround yourself with people, preferably positive people.
Considering we are social animals, we have a natural need to be around other people. Often times, people isolate and withdraw from others when feeling depressed. This can actually intensify the depression.
It’s important to surround yourself with positive and supportive people and avoid negative and hurtful people in your life. Developing a support system is essential in promoting mental health for everyone.
3. Eat healthy foods.
You really are what you eat. When you regularly eat unhealthy foods, it affects your mood and can also lead to guilt and shame for making poor choices. The guilt and shame can trigger feelings of depression, and when you are depressed, your brain craves foods high in fat, sugar, and carbs.
It becomes a stressful cycle that’s hard to break.
Healthy foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains give you energy and boost your immune system, both of which affect your emotional well-being.
4. Choose positive thoughts.
Our thoughts are our experiences. So when you think positively, you have a better chance of experiencing positive things around you, reducing the risk of feeling depressed.
Having daily positive affirmations such as “I am healthy and confident” and “Today is going to be a great day” can help set the tone for the rest of the day.
Negative thoughts can bring down our spirits, so it is important to avoid them as much as possible and to focus on the positive things around us that are happening.
5. Avoid booze.
Since alcohol is a depressant and can impair your judgment, it is risky to drink in excess if you are feeling depressed. Alcohol is sometimes used as a coping mechanism and can actually be a poor coping skill for those who are drinking just as an escape or to numb the pain. There are a lot of other better ways to manage symptoms of depression as I’ve described earlier.
Depression can be a chronic condition and should be treated as any other medical condition. Counseling services, psychiatric treatment and medications are also good resources for helping those with symptoms of depression.
People of all ages and any socioeconomic status can be affected by depression, and there is a variety of help available to assist those in need of services.
Hospitals and community mental health centers can provide information on services available, some at no cost.
Many companies offer free counseling sessions through their EAP (Employee Assistance Program). The earlier the intervention, the better it is for the person needing help.
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