Do not underestimate how powerful lifestyle changes can be in your efforts to combat depression. It can be difficult to make such changes when you are living under the cloud of depression, which is why seeking professional help is vital. A physician may refer you for therapy and/or put you on medication that will help regain some control of the illness. Once a balance is attained, you can start tackling other aspects of your life that may be fueling your depression.
What do we really mean when we talk about lifestyle? A few different things; the major ones are diet and exercise.
This is an important place to start – not only does it reduce symptoms of depression, but it also provides you with a major boost in your mood. Additionally, exercise has been found to help relieve symptoms of anxiety, and anxiety and depression often go hand in hand.
Why is it so effective? It triggers the release of endorphins and serotonin, which are feel-good chemicals that help fight depression. In addition to this, exercising can provide you with a boost in self-confidence and self-esteem, leave you feeling empowered, help you build social connections, and make new friends. It is all of these things that help combat depression.
Your body and brain need nutrients, and a steady stream of them to properly function. If you eat poorly you aren’t feeding your brain the nutrients that it needs to recover, repair, and thrive. This could exacerbate symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Typically, your plate should be 50% vegetables, with a side of protein and a smattering of carbohydrates. If you aren’t sure how to get the balance right, an app will help you track your calories and the balance, too. You need to drink plenty of water and choose lean meats and whole grains.
Something most people don’t consider is their gut health – so enjoy a healthy dose of fermented foods (miso and yogurt are good examples) to support your digestive system. There’s more – sugar isn’t helping. Studies have found that people drinking four cans (or more) of soda are more likely to be depressed than those who don’t. The same goes for coffee (with sugar) – so, switch to diet if you must drink soda and either ditch sweet coffee, use a natural sweetener alternative, or no sweetener at all. Caffeine can also be a contributing factor to anxiety, so cut back on how much you drink- especially after 2 pm.
There is one more important dietary factor to consider – alcohol. It is a depressant and it is often used as a means of self-medication. You should strictly limit your intake, and if you’re taking psychiatric medication – cut it out altogether as it is contraindicated to drink alcohol while taking psychiatric mediation.
In addition to diet and exercise – you will want to ensure you are getting a good night’s sleep each night. Create healthy habits surrounding your diet, exercise, and sleep and use your lifestyle to battle against anxiety and depression. If you feel like you may benefit from professional advice, get in touch with Dr. Forshee, Psy.D, LCSW today.