I’ve been treated for depression off and on since I was nine. Treatment has ranged from just trying to ignore it to self medicating to therapy and counseling to medications. Some of it works for a while, but it’s an ongoing to battle.
What is depression?
“Unlike the blues, sadness, or even grief, depression is a condition in which a person feels an overwhelming and debilitating unhappiness. People who are depressed may have trouble thinking clearly and be unable to perform normal functions. They may be uninterested in eating and be unable to sleep, or they may engage in these activities excessively. Persons with depression may even have thoughts of suicide.”
For some people depression can cause feelings of lethargy or anger and irritability… it can affect each person differently, which makes it hard to treat. So far there is not a physical test, like blood tests, to diagnose if you might be depressed. So it takes communication and observation by your doctor to help make that determination.
What Causes Depression?
“Although depression can be triggered by an emotional event in a person’s life, a decrease in the levels of one of the neurotransmitters, serotonin, has been linked in the biology of depression.”
“The brain is composed of millions of interconnecting nerve cells called neurons. In order for a person to think, move, or feel, these neurons must communicate with one another. They do so by sending and receiving chemical messengers called neurotransmitters.
When a neurotransmitter is released from a neuron, it crosses a cleft, or synapse, and binds to a receptor on another neuron; thus the signal is passed on.”
How to treat depression?
Treatment ranges from medications such as Zoloft and Paxil to cognitive behavior therapies. Sometimes the best thing is to sit in a room with a therapist and just talk. Often both are used. There are some natural remedies that some doctors approve of (check with your doctor first) such as 5-HTP, B vitamins and St. John’s Wort. Other therapies that sometimes helps are treatments like biofeedback.
I have a list of suggestions that I turn to when depression hits me. These ideas are not meant to replace diagnosis and treatment from your doctor and/or mental health specialist. If any of these ideas appeal to you, it might be a good idea to talk to your doctors about them and get their input before including them in your health care routine. I’m also including things that can be done during self quarantines for Covid 16, and many instructions can be found online.
Yoga. The ultimate mind/body exercise, you stretch yourself physically and mentally in yoga class. Between the deep breathing and asanas, both can make a difference in how you feel.
Meditate, Chant or Pray. Whether it’s rosary beads or Buddhist chants, the rhythmic singsong cadence of repetitive prayer or mantras may have a calming effect on the heart, according to some studies. You can use relaxation or meditation audio tapes and find videos on YouTube.
Give to charity. Volunteer at your local hospital, teach literacy classes, or dish up meals at the local shelter. Donate money and food to food banks. Offer to teach something online on YouTube.
Humor. Studies have suggested that humor can lower blood pressure and boost levels of natural feel-good chemicals known as endorphins. Read comic strips (my favorite is Pickles). Read comic books. Watch cartoons from your childhood (Rocky and Bullwinkle?). Watch stand up comedians like Robin Williams, George Carlin, Jeff Foxworthy, Amy Schumer, Tina Fey, Ellen DeGeneres, Carol Burnett.
Create a sanctuary. A soft pillow and knitted throw on a favorite chair, can help to neutralize stress. Surround yourself with favorite pictures and photos, plants, aromatherapy.
Drink Chamomile Tea. Or lavender tea. I love Yogi Honey Lavender tea and I can feel much more relaxed after drinking just one cup.
Play with a yoyo
Write a list of the 10 things you enjoyed most about today. Or are grateful for. (Do this each day)
Speak to People. Start with your family…. your partner, your kids, your parents, your siblings; by phone, by text, by email, on a video app. Talk to strangers on an online group. On chat apps on the phone such as Quarantine Chat
Collage Therapy. Collect old magazines and even junk mail and cut up pictures or just colors and designs and glue onto poster board or an artist’s canvas about how you feel or how you would like to feel.
Spend 30 minutes coloring with whatever colors call to you. This is a form of meditation, good for hand-eye coordination, slows down the mind, and brings out your inner child. I have an adult coloring book of fairies that I color using glitter gel pens.
Journal – Keep a private journal where you can record events, your reactions to them, how you feel about situations, what you are learning. Do a blog. My blog works as my journal, but I also keep an autobiographical journal too, that someday will hopefully become a book for my grandchildren. You can keep an art journal. A photo journal. A nature journal.
Sing. Singing draws more oxygen into your body, enhances mental clarity, and reduces fatigue. Make a playlist on whatever music app you like best (I use Amazon) and make a playlist of your favorite songs that you like to sing along to. Turn it on full blast and sing at the top of your lungs.
Hydrotherapy which can be anything from showers and baths to saunas and hot tubs. I like to take hot showers and imagine my depression and anxiety being washed away and down the drain.
Bake bread. Making bread the old fashioned way helps with feelings of irritability and aggression when you have to spend 10 minutes kneading the dough. It become a good physical release and the reward is the smell of homemade bread baking in the oven. I understand there is a shortage of yeast these days because so many people are suddenly making bread at home. If you find that to be true, try fruit and veggie breads… banana bread, zucchini bread, carrot bread.
Plenty of sleep… go to bed earlier or take afternoon naps
Dance.. aerobics, ballet, bellydancing, or just move around the room to your favorite music.
Get a piece of stretched canvas and some acrylic paints and paint your feelings. Don’t worry what it looks like.
Make an adult blanket to cuddle with. Use a variety of soft fabrics; velvet, silk, satin, soft cotton… and sew them together as a crazy quilt.
Learn to play an instrument; piano, guitar, harp, cello, flute… provides a sense of accomplishment.
Plant and tend to a garden, even a container garden or herb garden.
Color raw rice with a few drops of one color of food coloring and a few drops of desired essential oil. Let sit and dry. Store in a low wooden box. This rice is very relaxing to play with, sift thru your fingers, fill small silver or wooden cups, pour out. Revert back to childhood.
Look at old photos, or better yet, put them in a scrapbook with colorful papers, stickers, die cuts, and journaling
Jump rope, and see how many of the rhymes from childhood that you remember.
Write a poem, about being sad, about being happy… write lots of poems, and keep them in a notebook.
Do a jigsaw puzzle
Learn how to juggle
Learn a language; French, Dutch, Japanese, Sign
Hug a Tree – Spending time with nature is my favorite way to feel better. Put on your hiking boots and get lost for a couple hours near a babbling brook. If you can’t get out of town, at least go for a barefoot run through the grasses in your yard.
Change your bed sheets – Order a new set of colorful bed linens to brighten up your bedroom. Crisp, clean, and colorful bed linens to curl up inside at bedtime will offer comfort when you most need it.
This last one I use to do with my daycare kids and I discovered that their parents would sit down for a bit when they were picking up their children and play with it too. I started making up and giving it to the parents as gifts. One told me she kept in her drawer at work.
AROMATHERAPY MODELING DOUGH
1 cup flour
1 cup warm water
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. cooking oil
1/4 cup salt
Essential oils of choice (One should obviously stay away from oils that could cause a serious problem to the skin, etc.). If color is desired food coloring or Kool-Aid powder work well. Kool-Aid also comes in a nice color variety:)
Mix all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until smooth. Remove dough from the pan and knead until blended smooth. If you want colors, add food coloring or a pinch of Kool-Aid now until the desired color is made. Let cool. Now to make it aromatic, roll the dough into a ball and push a hole in it with thumb. Add a few drops of an essential oil (usually 1-3 to start) and knead the dough thoroughly. Sniff. Keep doing this until you get the aroma you are looking for.
Here are some single EO’s and color ideas:
Brown — Cardamom, Frankincense or Cocoa Absolute
Orange — Tangerine or Bergamot
Yellow — Lemon or Lemon Balm
Green — Mimosa, Eucalyptus or Spikenard
Red — Rose or Geranium
Purple — Lavender
Blue — German Chamomile
Pink — Pink Grapefruit
White — Peppermint or Tea Tree
Lavender scented in a deep purple colored dough is wonderful!!
Make small quantities and use them as office toys. Why sit and squeeze a tennis ball or rub a worry stone etc., while on the phone when you can squish, squeeze, roll, pinch, mash, and sniff play dough?!