Depression is a mental health condition which affects a person’s thinking, feelings, energy and behaviour. It is the most common mental health condition, affecting some 300,000 people in Ireland.
The World Health Organisation define depression as “a common mental disorder, characterized by sadness, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, feelings of tiredness and poor concentration” (WHO, 2017). Every day experiences create different moods (sadness, grief, elation etc.), so it can be difficult to determine what is normal and what is abnormal. A prolonged feeling of any one emotion could be a signal that you need to take steps to get yourself back on track.
Top Tips to get yourself Back on Track:
Get support: Surround yourself with people you trust and feel you can openly speak to about your problems. The expression “a problem shared is a problem halved” is very true. Counselling can be very effective. The HSE offers a National Counselling Service (NCS) which is a confidential counseling and psychotherapy service available free of charge in all regions of the country.
Say YES: Try to change your mind-set… say yes more often, even if you don’t feel like participating. Just by participating in new activities, your body will generate more positive emotions… helping to negate negative emotions. A fulfilling social life can contribute to a sense of meaning and self-worth.
Eat a Balanced Diet: Eat a balanced diet with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, fish, lean meats, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds. A balanced diet will provide adequate vitamins, minerals and omega-3 fatty acids to help keep your body nourished and energy stable. Low energy contributes to low mood so eating every 3-4 hours is a good way to keep energy stable and reduce low mood.
Avoid Energy Grabbers: Refined carbohydrates such as pastries, white bread, white pasta, white rice, sweets, cakes, biscuits etc. can cause energy slumps, contributing to low mood. Caffeine can also lead to mood problems if drank in excess. Caffeine also inhibits levels of serotonin in the brain, and, when serotonin levels are suppressed, you can become depressed and feel irritable.
Avoid your Triggers: Everyone has their own triggers… it could be gluten, sugar, alcohol, nicotine, dairy – we’re all different and we all react differently to different foods/ substances. People who are sensitive to gluten found in wheat, rye, spelt or barley often find that these foods contribute to feelings of sadness. If this is the case, avoid as much as possible. Alcohol often triggers depressive tendencies in the days following a drinking binge. Try to avoid any foods, drinks or substances that tend to exasperate symptoms of depression.
Exercise: According to some studies, regular exercise works as well as medication for some people to reduce symptoms of depression, and the effects can be long lasting. Exercise gives you a boost of energy, increases endorphins — such as serotonin — that improve mood and may improve sleep quality, which in turn can increase overall happiness. Do: Exercise for at least 30 minutes, 3 times a week at a minimum. Walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, skating, hiking, aerobic classes are all types of aerobic exercise. Find something you enjoy and just Do It!
Spend Time Outdoors: Research shows that soaking up extra vitamin D from the sun can help to reduce the symptoms of depression. Vitamin D acts like a hormone in the body and affects brain function, so a deficiency can cause mood disorders, including depression and seasonal affective disorder or the winter blues, a form of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern. Do: Spend 20 minutes out in the sun everyday. Even on cloudy days, your body will be able to produce some vitamin D.
Find a Purpose: Having a purpose or goal in your life can give you direction and greatly ease negative feelings. It doesn’t need to be complicated – it could be visiting a sick friend, completing a patchwork quilt, sorting out the garage.
Relaxation techniques: Try Pilates, Yoga or Meditation, as they are great ways to relax the mind and get in touch with the now. All three relaxation techniques have a positive effect on serotonin levels, thereby improving ones mood.
Relax with Lavender Oil: This oil is well known for its calming benefits and also benefits mood. There was an interesting study showing the benefits of lavender on people suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can result in depression. The lavender oil, when used daily, helped decrease depression by 32.7%, reduced sleep disturbances and moodiness in 47 people suffering from PTSD. Do: To use lavender oil as a natural remedy for depression, add 5–10 drops to warm bath water, diffuse 5–10 drops in your bedroom at night to promote sleep, and apply 2–3 drops topically to the temples, chest and wrists in the morning.
Food Supplements to help manage Depression:
Eskimo-3: This is a premium food supplement rich in EPA and DHA, the omega-3 fats which are vital for neurological health. The higher your levels of omega-3, the higher your level of serotonin will be. The reason for this is that omega-3 fats help build the brain’s receptor sites for serotonin, the feel good hormone. Omega 3s supports brain, eye, and heart health throughout life. Eskimo-3 has the highest levels of EPA and DHA available in a single serving. On the market for more than 20 years and with over 120 scientific studies, the Eskimo range represents probably the finest quality fish oil on the market, providing Omega-3 rich oil of legendary purity, freshness & stability. The oil is always from sustainable sources, and there is full traceability and quality control throughout the production process, from the fishing boat to the finished oil.
Vitamin D3: Vitamin D also regulates the conversion of tryptophan into serotonin –your feel good hormone. Low levels are thought to be responsible for S.A.D (seasonal affective disorder), commonly referred to as “The Winter Blues”, and therefore supplementing with vitamin D during the winter months can help ease symptoms and improve mood.
Rhodiola: This is an adaptogenic herb which works by increasing the sensitivity of neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine. These neurotransmitters help to increase focus and memory and improve mood. Terranova Rhodiola is very good.
B-Complex: Deficiencies of a number of nutrients are quite common in depressed individuals. The most common deficiencies are the b vitamins Folic acid, vitamin B12 and vitamin B6. These B vitamins are essential for a healthy nervous system and the healthy production of hormones serotonin and dopamine which are essential for improving mood.
Multi Vitamin/Mineral Formula: A good multi-vitamin mineral supplement could help safeguard your health. A deficiency of any single nutrient can alter brain function and lead to depression, anxiety and other mental disorders. By taking a good multi, you can correct all deficiencies, and hopefully positively affect your health.