Beat Your Depression

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Archive for December, 2007

Holiday Depression

December 21, 2007 By: John Category: Depression Facts, Good Mood Foods, Overcoming depression 3 Comments →

Why is it that depression is common at holiday periods and especially at Christmas?

We are told that it is the season to be jolly. But what if you’re feeling anything but jolly? I can recall how, in my late teens, I had an unexplained feeling of being low and “down in the dumps” on Christmas Day. Actually, for some reason or other, my mood is often at a low ebb on Christmas Day. I can recall my father asking me what was the matter and I could not give him a logical answer. I was just as perplexed as he was. I wondered if it was because I knew by now that Father Christmas was not real. I still cannot explain why I often feel low at this time of the year.

Depression is common at this time of year, for many reasons.

For some, Christmas and the holiday season is not a time of joy and cheer but of depression, loneliness, anxiety and self-evaluation.

It seems that the festive season tends to force you to face the fact that life isn’t always as joyful as we are led to believe.

For single people, in particular, Christmas and New Year can be a very isolated time. But even if you’re surrounded by family and friends, this time of year can bring more than its fair share of stress, noise, anxiety and squabbles.

When you add this to longstanding financial problems, family conflicts, job problems or bereavement, it’s no wonder calls to helplines about depression and suicide rise by nearly ten per cent during the festive season.

There could be many reasons including financial constraints, not being able to spend time with family, especially those recently departed, or conversely, spending too much time with family, can all lead to Christmas depression and holiday depression.

The added stresses, unrealistic expectations, and fatigue can also contribute to holiday depression. People with few friends or family members, or living a long way from friends and family, may feel even more alone and isolated. People with a large circle of family and friends may feel stressed by having to cook and entertain for large family get-togethers, especially if there is an unpleasant in-law that you need to deal with without causing a scene.

Other holiday depression stressors include:

  • Separation or divorce that can leave people celebrating Christmas and the holiday season alone.
  • People who have lost a loved one, especially recently, are often very mindful of that loss.
  • The activities of the holidays can place a significant burden on already full schedules.
  • The costs involved with the holidays can place a significant burden on already tight budgets.

Although the stressors that can cause holiday depression cannot be completely eliminated, there are a number of suggestions that can help keep Christmas and holiday depression at a minimum.

  • Schedule obligations and parties wisely. If trying to cram another obligation into the already overfilled schedule causes stress, cancel and spend the evening taking a bubble bath or curled up with a good book.
  • Recognize the sadness of absent loved ones instead of denying the sadness.
  • Set reasonable financial goals based on what the budget can afford.
  • Remember that Christmas depression is not permanent. Moods typically improve once the holidays are over.
  • Set reasonable time goals while employing time management techniques. For example, you can do Christmas shopping during the off-peak season and shop online or by mail order. Unique, thoughtful and handmade gifts are often much more appreciated than a gift bought out of obligation.
  • Be especially mindful of diet during the holiday season. High sugar and carbohydrate laden foods typical of the holidays will only make depression matters worse. Allow indulgences during the holidays, but with limitations.
  • Put old issues aside when dealing with family. If that is not possible, consider limiting the time spent with people who aggravate you.

Children, can also experience a post-holiday let down after Christmas, when the brightness and togetherness of the season make way to more mundane things.

Compounding the problem of depression around Christmas and the holiday season is fewer hours of daylight that occur from Thanksgiving and past Christmas. So, in addition to holiday depression, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can also play a role in depression during the holiday season.

Although there are many easily identifiable causes for holiday depression, there are also some people [like me] who cannot pinpoint the exact cause of their Christmas depression. They know they are “supposed to” feel happy during the holiday season but instead of feeling happy, the flat, lackluster cloud of depression hangs over them.

Regardless of the cause of depression during Christmas and the holiday season, sufferers of depression during the holiday season might experience excess fatigue, a change in sleeping patterns, irritability and feelings of sadness. People who do not display the outward symptoms of depression during Christmas and the holiday season might develop other stress responses like over eating or excessive drinking.

Should you be a sufferer of depression, try to think of things other than inward thoughts. You can show more interest in, and engage with, children who usually really enjoy the festive season. This will make you think of things, other than your own problems. Or you can start a conversation by asking people questions [not nasty] about themselves. This takes your thoughts away from your own particular problems and makes you appear to be a “nice guy” to the person that you are questioning. Everybody seems to like talking about themselves and people who take an interest in them usually become very popular. Also be careful what you eat as this can affect your mood, either adversely, or for the better.

For those of you who have friends or loved ones who exhibit signs of depression, you may be able to understand their feelings and try to distract them by involving them in activities that will discourage inward thoughts. Giving them a simple job [accompanied with some genuine praise] may be all that it takes to jolt them out of their introspective thoughts and get them to be the pleasant people that we know that they can be.  Introduce some good humor as this, too, helps to alleviate problems associated with depression.  You will need to use discretion with this though.

I hope that you can keep depression at bay during the festive season and have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

What Foods Can Combat Depression, Anxiety and Stress?

December 19, 2007 By: John Category: Depression Information, Good Mood Foods, Natural cures for depression, Overcoming depression, Stress matters 12 Comments →

Perhaps the question should be, “Can foods combat depression, anxiety and stress?” or, “How to use food to combat depression, anxiety and stress?”

There are quite a lot of foods that are said to be conducive to combating depression, anxiety and stress. Psychologist, David Benton, of Britain’s University of Wales has conducted studies showing that chocolate is one of the most powerful mood elevators. Benton says chocolate contains not just serotonin-boosting sugar and mind-soothing fat, but also other chemicals that favorably affect brain messengers [neurotransmitters] controlling mood.

However, Professor Robert Sapolsky [Ph.D. Neuroendocrinology] of Stanford University states, in his lectures on “Biology and Human Behavior: The Neurological Origins of Individuality”, that neurotransmitters are constructed from cheap and plentiful precursors – simple amino acids that you get in your diet in huge amounts. He also advises that they can be constructed very quickly and can be recycled. So it appears that there may be something, other than the composition of mood enhancing foods, that has a beneficial effect.

There is no doubt that most people enjoy eating. We consume a variety of foods and treats, including highly processed “junk foods”. We enjoy eating so much that we may indulge in restaurant meals, often as a special treat to celebrate occasions such as a birthday, a promotion at work, for a romantic interlude, or for no specific reason at all, other than to enjoy the experience. Just think of the many other occasions when we partake of food, including beverages, at social gatherings viz: following christenings, weddings, office parties, and even wakes when we celebrate the life of a departed friend or relative.

The enjoyment of eating can make a person feel good and have a beneficial effect on the mood of the consumer. This increase in feeling happy or contented has a corresponding reduction in the feelings of being depressed, anxious, or stressed. Even believing that certain foods can improve a person’s mood can do just that by virtue of the placebo effect. The placebo effect is the result of how our bodies react to what we believe in, either consciously or subconsciously, even when that is not necessarily the case. The saying, “If you think you can, you can, and if you think you can’t, you can’t,” is quite valid and shows just how powerful our thoughts, beliefs, and feelings (all closely related) can be and how they can impact, in a positive or negative manner, on our bodies.

I believe that any foods that produce an enjoyable feeling may be useful in combating depression, anxiety and stress. So what may be beneficial foods for one person may not have the same impact on another. It is the enjoyment gained from eating that matters most as it is this feeling that triggers our neurons to release neurotransmitters such as seratonin, which is our body’s narural opiate.

Food and drink with a high GI [glycemic index] rating also provide us with a relatively quick burst of energy that can make us feel better.

Unfortunately, the benefits of eating foods with a high GI rating give a quick fix of short duration. The refined sugars and fats are considered to be empty calories as they provide the rapid, unsustained, release of energy. When this energy dissipates a period of lethargy follows. When this occurs you will often get an urge to eat more of the high GI foods to increase your energy levels and replenish feelings of well-being again. Eating low GI food and snacks will provide a gradual release of energy that prevents the “yo-yo” effect, or highs and lows, associated with high GI foods.

It is not only the highly refined foods that have a high GI rating; sodas are right up there with them as sodas invariably have a high sugar content, especially sports drinks.

If necessary, a compromise may be to eat a banana [high GI] to get a quick impact plus a few almonds [low GI] as a snack to obtain a sustained benefit.

Everything needs to be taken in moderation, even natural cures for depression. Take care, as too much chocolate, caffeine, or sodas may result in weight gain that could have the opposite effect and cause depression. Luckily, you can enjoy some chocolate and keep your weight under control as it is claimed that only small amounts are needed to produce the desired effect.

Whilst eating your favorite foods may improve your mood substantially, a shift away from negative thoughts, may be all that is needed to correct the “chemical imbalance” that many medical practitioners quickly blame for states of depression and anxiety etc? You may end up being a happier person without the need to resort to drugs that have dubious benefits and may result in a life long addiction to them!

“You Are What You Eat” applies to depression

December 18, 2007 By: John Category: Depression Facts, Good Mood Foods, Natural cures for depression, Overcoming depression, Recovery from depression 1 Comment →

There may be some truth to the adage “You are what you eat.”

Do you happen to be moody or depressed, in need of revitalization and energy, or notice your behavior and mood changes from day to day? For example you may feel on top of the world one day whereas on other days you feel like you are at the bottom of a pit. Then your mood and energy levels may be related to your diet.

It has been demonstrated that what you eat affects your mental functioning and, by choosing foods wisely, you may be better able to stabilize your emotional and mental health. Just as putting the right fuel into your automobile is very important, [You would not like the problems associated with diesel fuel in a gasoline tank.] putting the right food in your body may make the difference between a happy day and a grumpy day, and it may improve your overall performance.

Food can make us feel good. There is no doubt about that as many people eat food for pleasure more than for nutritional needs. The food we eat has the ability to alter the production or release of neurotransmitters within our bodies. These neurotransmitters are chemicals that the body uses to relay, amplify and modulate the transmission of our thoughts and actions to the brain, and other tissues such as muscles, via interfaces, known as synapses, between nerve endings [neurons]. There are very many neurotransmitters doing a variety of jobs.

Some examples of neurotransmitter action:

  • Acetylcholine – voluntary movement of the muscles
  • Norepinephrine – wakefulness or arousal
  • Dopamine – voluntary movement and motivation, “wanting”, pleasure, associated with addiction and love
  • Serotonin – memory, emotions, wakefulness, sleep and temperature regulation
  • GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid) – inhibition of motor neurons
  • Glycine – spinal reflexes and motor behaviour
  • Neuromodulators – sensory transmission-especially pain

It is important to appreciate that it is the receptors on the ends of neurons that dictate the neurotransmitter’s effect. This will be expanded upon later when discussing addiction and withdrawal symptons and how they are caused.

The food we eat affects the neurotransmitters and thus our moods. These neurotransmitters also tell us when we are full, if a food is too hot, and how it tastes. There is a theory that the nutrients in foods are precursors to the neurotransmitters, deciding how much of the neurotransmitter is produced. Foods are made of many nutrients that interact together and this can complicate matters. This is also why some foods produce natural reactions, and maybe even remedies, that commercial extracts from the food, or synthesized chemicals, are unable to mirror.

Physiological and psychological interactions make up the mood-food connection. It may be that a food is comforting because it reminds us of a pleasurable association with family meals while growing up. It may be the temperature of the “comfort” food, like warm hot chocolate, that is the comforting element helping you to relax or fall asleep.

It is interesting that a little warm milk before bedtime also increases the levels of seratonin. As mom may have told you, it helps you to sleep. Serotonin is a derivative of tryptophan, which is found in milk. The “warm” part is just for comfort!

More about mood foods in the next post.

Good Humor Counters Depression and Anxiety

December 17, 2007 By: John Category: Depression Facts, Depression Treatment, Natural cures for depression 1 Comment →

“Good humor is tonic for the mind and body. It is the best antidote for anxiety and depression. It is a business asset. It attracts and keeps friends. It lightens human burdens. It is the direct route to serenity and contentment. ” – Grenville Kleiser

With the benefit of hindsight I now realize that good humor has helped me to stave off depression on many occasions over the years. In fact, it is only when I allowed circumstances to overcome my sense of humor that depression set in.

Notice that I said, “when I allowed circumstances,” and did not blame prevailing circumstances for my predicament at the time! This is because we all have choices as to how we react, or respond, to what happens in our lives.

Make sure that the choices that you make are in YOUR best interests.