Living well with depression
While seeing a health care professional is a key part of the treatment process, developing self-help skills is also very important (MDSC, n.d.-b). Depression can affect many different areas of someone’s life. Living a healthy lifestyle that includes being physically active, eating well, sleeping, spending time outdoors and limiting alcohol and other substance use can speed up recovery and help prevent the return of symptoms (Bilsker & Paterson, 2005).
Regular physical activity can help people manage their depression. Exercise affects mood in the following ways (Bilsker & Paterson, 2005):
- ● Exercise can produce a boost in mood in some people (though this may not occur if someone is experiencing a major depressive episode).
- ● After a few weeks of regular exercise (at least 20 minutes, three to four times a week), people tend to experience a general improvement in mood.
- ● Improvements in physical fitness often lead to more energy. This can empower a person to be more active and do more in general.
- ● When an individual is feeling tense, exercise can help “burn off” stress.
Depression tends to disrupt appetite, so maintaining a balanced diet can be difficult for people with depression (Bilsker & Paterson, 2005). For instance, some people overeat when they are depressed, while others lose their appetite. Because food is our main source of our energy, it is important to remember that your body still needs fuel even if you do not feel very hungry. Eat regular meals, avoid dieting and eat healthy foods. There are many positive effects of a healthy, balanced diet on overall health.
Sleep disorders (too little or too much sleep) can be both a cause and effect of mood disorders. Stress, anxiety and depression can disrupt sleep. Also, poor sleep can worsen anxiety and depression (Bilsker & Paterson, 2005). Thus, learning positive sleep habits can improve a person’s mood.
Some suggestions for getting enough sleep include:
- ● Avoid over-the-counter sleeping medication.
- ● Go to bed and get up at the same time each day.
- ● Only use your bedroom for sleeping.
- ● Avoid napping during the day.
- ● Practice breathing or distraction strategies when trying to fall asleep.
One way to manage stress is by going outside and getting fresh air. Sunshine and fresh air can be calming, and make your body and mind feel better.
Some people are affected by the lack of sunlight in the winter. It makes them feel sad and depressed. If you feel the effects of winter weather, it may help to use a bright light when you are indoors—even in the daytime. It may also help if you go for a walk during the day (CAMH, 2011).
The feelings a person has while experiencing depression can lead them to use alcohol or other substances, such as tobacco, cannabis, amphetamines or cocaine. At first, the effects of these substances may be calming, but these effects do not last. In fact, using substances to cope could lead a person to become dependent on a substance.