10 SIMPLE TIPS FOR DEALING WITH DEPRESSION
We spoke to one of the UK’s leading consultant psychiatrists Dr Rafael Euba, who is based at The London Psychiatry Centre, for depression advice. Dr Rafael Euba gives 10 simple tips to help beat depression.
If you’re battling depression, the last thing you might feel like doing is looking after yourself. After all, when you have a condition that tells you you’re worthless, why would you want to prioritise self-care for depression?
Depression often feels like an insurmountable mountain. Surely nothing as simple as getting dressed can make a difference, right? Wrong. What follows is no substitute for psychotherapy and/or medication when needed, but anyone suffering with depression can benefit from making a few simple lifestyle changes.
‘Tackling depression is a holistic process that involves mind and body,’ Dr Euba says. ‘Exercise releases feel-good endorphins that can significantly lift your mood – without the withdrawal and crash associated with sugary foods, alcohol and drugs.’
At The London Psychiatry Centre we have an expert personal trainer on hand to help our patients improve in this area. But if working with a trainer isn’t for you, there’s plenty you can do. Dr Euba tells us: ‘The first and most important rule is to find activities you actually enjoy – or at least enjoy enough to keep going! If you know you hate group exercise classes, then don’t try to force yourself to do 6 Crossfit classes a week.’
It’s good to balance strength work with cardiovascular exercise. For example, if you like yoga, complement it with a run or a dance class once or twice a week. It may be a struggle at first, but it won’t take long for you to start feeling the benefit.
2) Take Care Of Your Hygiene
Dr Euba tells us: ‘Through good habits and self-nurturing, you can reinforce a sense of self-worth. When you’re depressed, you may not feel like you have the energy to take care of your hygiene. But little positive actions, like getting showered and fully dressed even if you’re not at work, really can have a positive impact on the way you feel.’
3) Eat Well
As we recently covered in our post about nutrition and depression, there is a very strong link between ‘food and mood’. Your brain chemicals are generated by the nutrients in the food you eat.
Here at The London Psychiatry Centre, we have an in-house nutritionist experienced in working with depression sufferers. Her basic ‘rules of the road’ for good food and mood eating are as follows:
- Always pair protein with carbs – the protein will slow down your insulin response, helping to keep your energy levels steady
- Look for foods that contain plenty of brain-friendly amino acids. For example seeds, brown rice, raw unsalted nuts, dairy, avocado, eggs, organic or free range meat and fish.
- Eat lots of vegetables
- Have fruit in moderation, because it has lots of natural sugar in it which can quickly elevate your blood sugar levels, creating a ‘spike and crash’
- Avoid processed foods and added sugar as much as possible
- Try to keep away from caffeinated drinks.
- As much as possible, keep your carbohydrates complex (think brown rice instead of white bread)
Don’t get too rigid about it or set yourself up to fail with a food plan that’s unsustainable. But as far as possible, try to eat along these lines. When it comes to food and mood, you really are what you eat!
4) Identify Things That Make You Happy
While it’s not realistic to think we can always be doing things we like, it helps to be aware of what makes us feel good, grounds us, or gives us a sense of purpose. Sit down and make a list of people, places and activities that generate positive feelings. It might be going for a walk in the woods, playing with your cat or writing poetry. Then when you have your list, work out ways that you could include at least one of these things in your daily schedule.
5) Get Into A Bedtime Routine
Depression and sleep problems often go hand in hand, with many sufferers sleeping too much or too little. Dr Euba recommends getting into a bedtime routine, keeping the following in mind:
- Go to bed and get up at around the same time every day. This rhythm will help you to ‘get sleepy’ at the right time.
- Don’t spend much time in bed when you’re not actually sleeping – in other words, try not to get into bed at 7pm if it’s not time to sleep till around 11pm
- Keep off the caffeine, especially in the evenings
- Lay off the screen time for at least an hour before bed – smartphone and tablet use before bed has been shown to be disruptive to sleep
- Wind down for a couple of hours before bed – perhaps by watching a programme that makes you laugh, meditating, or keeping a journal. If you’re not sure what relaxes you, try a few different things and notice what works.
6) Try to Keep Your Space Tidy
Yes, it may sound trite, but there really is something in the phrase “messy bed, messy head”. Clutter externally can feed internal clutter and the sense that “things aren’t right” – a feeling which drives depression. Don’t beat yourself up when your space is messy, but try to guard against mess by taking a few minutes each day to put away your clothes and wash dishes. The physical activity of tidying could boost a few endorphins, and the outward sorting helps to feed a sense of purpose and inward organisation. You won’t regret it!
7) Avoid Alcohol And Drugs
Yes, of course it’s tempting to ‘self-medicate’ with drink and drugs when you’re feeling low. But when you do, you end up with two problems instead of one. It’s easy to set up a pattern of dependence if you start reaching for drink and drugs. They create a withdrawal response which can leave you feeling worse than where you started, and the same is true for large amounts of caffeine. No one is saying that you can’t enjoy a glass of wine or two in moderation, but when it’s a fix, avoid it.
8) Spend Time With Others
When you suffer with depression, often the default response is to hide away, but lots of time alone with one’s thoughts can give them too much room to run amok. Reach out to loved ones on the phone. Try to schedule your time so that you have some interaction with others even once a day. You could volunteer locally, or join a sports team or group such as a choir or meditation class.
9) Keep A Mood Diary
You may want to chart your mood changes for a little while to see if you can spot any patterns. What helps and what hinders your mood in terms of people, activities and places?
10) Make Use of Online Support
If you’re feeling like you can’t make it out of the house or don’t feel up to talking to anyone in person, then online support can really help. Mind’s Elefriends is an online safe space where people experiencing mental health problems can support each other.
‘None of these are a substitute for the right psychotherapy and/or medication when needed,’ Dr Euba reminds us. ‘But key little lifestyle changes really can be a big help in beating depression – I speak from many years’ experience with clients when I say that.’
If you want to get your life back from depression, The London Psychiatry Centre can help. Call us for a consultation on 020 7580 4224.