January 25, 2013

Easing Symptoms of Depression

Depression is one of the most common co-occurring disorders found among addicts. Not only are most addicts feeling hopeless and demoralized about their condition and state of their lives and health when they come to treatment, but they must also contend with an altered brain chemistry that can lead to a depressed state. The good news is that there are simple things a person can do to push back against or ease their depression symptoms.

    • Set small goals for yourself. If you don’t feel like getting up, there’s no way you’ll get out of bed if you know you have to get up, feed the cat, walk the dog, take a shower, brush your teeth, get dressed…etc.  Take life one minute at a time. “I’m going to turn on the shower.” You may or may not get into it, but that small task is something you can manage. “I’m going to get undressed.” Again, this is a small task you can do. Once you’ve gotten out of the shower, you may decide that you want to get back into your pajamas and bed. That’s fine. You pushed yourself and did what you could. You deserve credit for that.
    • Get some light! If you are able to go outside, do so. At the very least, pull back the curtains and let the light into your room. Turn on the lights if it is bleak outside. Physical darkness leads to emotional gloominess. Light, especially sunlight, can literally lighten your mood.
    • Take a walk. When you’re depressed, the idea of putting on your shoes and walking even to the end of the block sounds like a horror, but the act of walking will improve both your physical and mental well-being. If all you can do is make it once up and down the stairs, do that – but try.
    • Call someone. Socializing, even if only a little, can improve your mood by helping you feel connected and less lonely. Ask the other person how they are and hold back from complaining about how you feel. Lending an ear to a friend will help put your own problems in perspective and over-ruminating about the issues you face can make them grow in your mind.
    • Seek help. If you find that you are unable to break out of your depression after two weeks, it is time to seek professional support. Find a caring psychotherapist with whom you can build a solid, trusting relationship to work through your depression.

Once you are on the other side of your depression, you can take steps to ensure that you do not return to it.  Regular exercise and healthy eating both play important roles in mood regulation.

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