Beating the Winter Blues: Basic stuff to deal with depression & low mood
- Dr Gemma Gladstone
- July 21, 2019
Feeling down, unmotivated, fearful or depressed? Here is a list of evidence-based (backed by substantial research) suggestions & behaviours to reduce depression and help relieve nervous tension and anxiety:-
- Movement & physical exercise. Exercise and physical movement, whether it be intense or gentle can help us complete the stress response cycle, activate the relaxation response and is a natural anti-depressant.
- Some form of daily mindfulness practice, meditation or applied relaxation strategy is a must for good mental health. Coping with stress and reducing anxiety levels means that you can reduce their role as contributing factors in depression. If you want to deal with low mood, you have to address how you manage stress first.
- Dietary modifications can absolutely help with reducing symptoms of depression, stress and anxiety. The reduction of things like sugar (basically anything that tastes sweet in your mouth), alcohol and other toxins also helps with reducing brain fog & improving mental clarity also.
- Don’t underestimate the power of adequate and good quality deep sleep. Practice good sleep hygiene and go to bed earlier. Getting more hours of sleep before the hand strikes midnight is beneficial to your health and mood. Getting up earlier and getting sunlight in the morning is a mood enhancer.
- Trying dealing with denied or avoided emotions (eg, through therapy, keeping a journal, being more authentic when relating with friends and family members for example). Chronic suppressed emotions serve to create a prolonged stress response in the body, which in turn can lower immune function and also increase the risk for depression.
- Avoid ‘avoiding’ – deal with the things you are avoiding, whether they be emotional, relational, social, medical/health or physical. Procrastination creates stress, which increases anxiety and anxious apprehension. When all you do is ‘avoid’, you never allow yourself to learn new ways to deal with situations and master difficulties.
- Make time to schedule in joyful moments, in a deliberate way (not just decluttering – although that is pretty good!) – like meeting a friend for coffee, going to the movies, having a massage, going for a swim in the ocean – whatever provides a positive mood shift, no matter how small.
- Spend more time in nature. I know we hear this one a lot, but it really works. Activate as many of your senses as possible and try to be mindful to all those sensations.
- Make the effort to connect with others in small, incidental ways (eg, chat with the person making your coffee, make eye contact and smile at a fellow shopper walking by) – especially if you’re not inclined to. Small but regular social contact is highly correlated with enhanced mood and is good for stress control.
- Asks for more hugs. Increase your level of physical contact with others if possible….even very small gestures count and have a mutually supportive effect . Physical touch is important for a sense of connection and nurturance. Perhaps get a massage or some foot reflexology. Obtaining comfort through pleasant sensory sensations is important when someone is experiencing depression. Think about getting a pet and if you have already got one make sure you give them plenty of physical contact. It’s beneficial and therapeutic.
- Take time to stop and breathe. Rest, slow down and reduce those expectations of yourself that might be just too high!
- Notice what you have; see, feel and practice the gratitude. Turn you mind towards the things and people that you have in your life that you appreciate. Take pleasure in small things and small achievements.
- Address unhealed or unresolved issues from the past. Time does not heal all wounds – no matter what the popular belief says. Sometimes we need help from a mental health professional to work with us to identify and address old unhelpful patterns of behaviour or old hurts from the past. It is never too late and you are never too old to deal with psychological injuries and unhelpful beliefs. Help is available.
If you notice a significant change and drop in your mood which you can’t seem to shift and if you notice that your ability to enjoy the things you normal enjoy is reduced, you should speak to your doctor and seek help from a mental health professional. Getting psychological therapy can be very helpful in guiding you to address the psychological factors which have contributed to you becoming depressed. There may also be a role for anti-depressant medication. Combining medication with counselling and therapy is often the best approach.