Depression is a difficult condition to understand, but even more difficult to combat. Although depression has existed as a mental condition throughout human history, it is only in the last century or less that we have identified it as a condition that can be diagnosed, combated, and potentially cured. As mental health professionals continue learning about depression, medical professionals have taken it more and more seriously, seeing how depression and depressive behaviors can actually be causes of heart disease and other medical issues. At South Denver Cardiology, we take mental health very seriously; as such, if you or someone you know is dealing with depression, we recommend these tips for combating depression.
First, Diagnose the Depression and Identify Its Symptoms
Depression can manifest itself in a variety of ways; seeing how exactly depression affects an individual’s health and behavior is critical to addressing it.
In a list of depression’s symptoms, some symptoms can appear contradictory: oversleeping, lack of sleep, overeating, lack of appetite, overworking, lack of motivation, socializing with substance abuse, social isolation, etc. If an individual is at risk of depression, identify the symptoms, as they may also identify the right treatments.
For individuals suffering from depression, becoming educated about the condition and its symptoms equips them with essential knowledge. Being able to identify their own behaviors and characteristics as the products of a common mental condition–rather than as negative traits unique to them–is very important, especially in combating self-blame or self-loathing, which would otherwise exacerbate the depression itself. Individuals’ ability to say “That’s not me, that’s my depression” gives them a huge advantage in treating and beating their condition.
From Seeing Depression to Treating and Beating It
There are at least two broad, non-medical recommendations that psychologists recommend for treating depression, in addition to case-by-case prescriptions: social engagement and exercise.
One of the most widely recognized symptoms of depression is social isolation. It’s a particularly dangerous symptom, because social withdrawal only feeds the condition. Many people have good reasons to withdraw: their social circles are a bad influence, they’ve experienced verbal, physical, or sexual abuse, they feel misunderstood or alone even around other people. Social withdrawal can even occur within social settings, as people become uncommunicative, abusive to themselves or others, or develop drug or alcohol habits.
Joining a supportive social group can be the best defense against depression. Whether that be an art class or a sports team, a community organization or a time bank, an addiction focus group or a religious institution, becoming part of a network of mutually supportive people can have tremendous effects on self-esteem, levels of activity, and motivation. And don’t forget your family, good friends, and those who already love you.
Exercise is another excellent way of combating depression and improving health and self-esteem. As always, exercise works best when it is enjoyable; the rule applies for both fitness and mental wellbeing. If running is enjoyable, then run! But know that there are limitless forms of exercise. And by pairing enjoyable exercise with social interaction, you’ll be amazed at how much better you feel.
You should also consider mental wellness exercises like yoga or meditation, and even mental “exercises” that you enjoy, such as word games, strategy games, reading, writing, painting, what have you.
Additionally, taking vitamin D and just getting some old fashioned sunlight can help if you are feeling the symptoms of depression. If you live in a climate where the winter months are mostly cloudy, you may want to consider a sun lamp. However, here in in Colorado where we have almost 300 days of sun, we are hoping you will not need one.
In the end, the most important defense against depression is identifying how the condition has impacted the things that have ever or could bring you wellness and joy, and to pursue those things, against your depression-born discouragement.
How To Use This Information
If you are worried about how depression may be affecting your cardiac health, or how your cardiac health may be stimulating depression, you are not alone—not only because depression is widely recognized to spur behaviors that are causes of heart disease, but also because you are not alone in treating your depression. At South Denver Cardiology, we take your mental health concerns as seriously as your heart health. Please contact us for a personal consultation or medical service: call (303) 744-1065 or contact us online.