October is Depression Awareness month, and struggling with depression can directly affect your eating habits, weight and motivation to exercise causing a downward spiral into feeling more depressed about letting your personal situation get out of control. Let’s discuss how to fight for ourselves during these times…
For starters, it’s important to determine if depression may be affecting you. Some of the most common symptoms of depression are depressed mood, decreased interest in activities you used to enjoy, increase or decrease in appetite, daily fatigue and loss of energy, feelings of worthlessness, and difficulty concentrating. If you’re experiencing 5 or more of these symptoms over a 2 week period, then there is a good chance you’re experiencing depression.
It is also helpful to understand how depression is affecting your health habits and choices. For some people, they lack motivation and this prevents you from having the energy or desire to exercise. You may find yourself sleeping in late or throughout the day and having trouble getting out of bed. For some, depression results in overeating as a means to cope with the feelings of discomfort residing inside. Food may become a source of pleasure and feeling good that you otherwise aren’t experiencing. Depression can also contribute to a loud inner critic who tells you constantly that you are “wrong,” “bad,” “worthless” and other harsh adjectives that can contribute to you feeling down about yourself and life.
Often depression is accompanied by a feeling of hopelessness that things cannot change, improve or get better. I want to assure you that you CAN feel better! Improving your health and lifestyle habits can directly affect your mood. Making a few small changes can have ripple effects on the health of your mind and body.
| SO– What can you do?
For starters, trying your best to follow the PFC recommended meal plan and exercise routine is key. Both proper nutrition and adequate exercise are linked to a better mood and improving symptoms of depression. In fact, some research suggests that exercise is as effective as medication in ameliorating depression.
If you find you’re struggling with motivation to exercise or don’t have the energy to do so, then start small. What’s the one form of physical activity that you most enjoy? Commit to do that activity at least once per week, and then build from there. It could be taking a walk for 10 minutes… Once you start moving again and experience feeling better afterwards, that good feeling becomes a natural reinforcement to continue exercising. You can also recruit a friend or accountability buddy to exercise with, that way you’re making it a positive social experience. Connection is key when it comes to overcoming depression. Often the tendency can be to isolate or withdraw socially. Instead, engage a technique called opposite action, and do the opposite – arrange a dinner with friends or go out to a social event. This form of behavior activation can lift one’s mood over time.
Another thing that is just as important as moving and eating well is to become an observer of your mind! What are the thoughts you’re having that are contributing to you feeling down and badly about yourself? Write a list of the thoughts you observe yourself thinking. Once you have the list come up with a new thought or mantra that can be your go-to positive self talk thought, such as “I am enough,” “I can do this,” or “Everything is alright.” Every time you catch yourself thinking a negative thought about yourself, interrupt it with your new mantra.
Lastly, if you are really struggling with depression, the best option is to seek professional help. Find a local therapist or support group, or schedule a behavioral health coaching session with one of the THINK team members at PFC. We’re here to help you when you’re having difficult times, even from home. To schedule a session, just click HERE!