Keeping Depression Out of My Life
One in five people suffer from major depression at some point in their lives according to American Medical Association.I have been one of those people and have developed some great strategies to keep depression out of my life.
It is postulated that many of those people who suffer from depression, suffer their entire lives without any help.
And men are worse than women when it comes to dealing with it…
Clinical depression is actually a disease that can be treated with and without medication. I have done both and do much better without medication.
Years ago I was working for a big software company and was traveling globally on a regular basis for almost 2 years. Some months I was on the road for three weeks at a time in a different part of the world each week.
It was an exciting lifestyle…at first…but eventually became the nemesis of my mental well being. Rich foods, weird hours, different cultures…lots of stress from mis-managed expectations and professional performance commitments started to take their toll on me.
Sitting in an airplane for 10+ hours at time does nothing to help depression either.
My doctor did what most doctors would do. He wanted to take my pain away immediately knowing that I couldn’t quickly change my lifestyle and prescribed me 5 mg’s of Cipralex every other day.
And guess what dudes and dudettes? It worked. For a while.
Then, I started to feel a bit fogged in mentally, began gaining weight and lost my libido. While I felt “ok”…the side effects caused me anxiety of a new kind.
So I stopped. Tapered off.
And began a new approach to deal with anxiety. In the interest of brevity…I am going to skip the next part of my journey and just bust out the list of stuff that I have learned to be VERY effectively manage depression in my life.
These things totally work for me and may not work for you. Some of them are NOT the best alternatives either…I understand that.
But hey…life is short and I want to get though it as best I can, while enjoying the ride a bit too.
So here’s what I do:
- B-Vitamins. I take a high potency B Vitamin once or twice a day. They are water soluble and will make your pee look like a melted bright orange Mr. Freeze. But – The B Vitamins are proven to help with mood. In fact many people are clinically low in B1 (Thiamine) and B3 (Niacin) I have learned – both of which have massive benefits for people dealing with depression. I trust the Natural Factors brand.
- High Potency fish oil. Most of us need more omegas in our diet anyway. There have been some great clinical studies about the ability for fish oil to improve mood. My naturopath uses fish oils to help people get of SSRI’s (depression meds) all the time with great success she tells me. I use the Ascenta brand.
- Nicotine. I like cigars. They give me a lift, they taste good and help me to relax and feel good. I don’t smoke them every day and I know they contribute to mouth cancer. I don’t inhale. But I dig ‘em nonetheless. Nicotine is shown to help with depression and I’ve read some interesting studies online about big Pharma working on straight nicotine pills as an anti-depressant option for consumers.
- Exercise. I’ve always loved pumping iron and getting my heart rate up. Cardio would be my first choice if I couldn’t lift weights for some reason.I usually hit the gym daily and get my heart rate up to about 130 beats per minute for at least 30 minutes on the elliptical after doing some resistance exercises.I sweat a lot. There is a TON of research to validate the positive effects on mood from exercise. And I find that the effects last for up to 6 hours some days. I could do a whole post on exercise.
- Sleep. I love to sleep. Any time I can get more sleep, I am a happier guy. Sleep does wonders for the body and endocrine system. Usually I aim for about 8 or 9 hours a night…but I don’t always get it. Sometimes a nap helps me to feel better too.
- Cooking. I love food…eating it and cooking it. I love Mexican, Sushi, Thai and Jamaican. I love trying new combinations of fresh, local ingredients in the kitchen. One of my favorite “happy dishes” to prepare and make is with Heirloom tomatoes (or Heritage tomates as we call here in Canada – same thing), balsamic vinegar, feta cheese, fresh ground pepper, fresh basil, GOOD olive oil and some sea salt. Mmmm. Just thinking about that dish makes me feel good. Somehow, the process of cooking is a means for me to feel good.I recently started growing many of my own herbs and some vegetables during the warmer months and it’s been incredibly fun.
- Alcohol. Yep – I know what you’re thinking…alcohol for someone with depressive tendencies is not a good thing. But I find that there are two drinks which do not make me more depressed and actually happier…even if I drink too much and am hung to the gills the next day (because alcohol IS a depressant). The first is really good red wine. I love red wines…sirahs/ shiraz/ cabs/ and malbecs/ zinfandels…I like all the big, beefy reds. If it’s SO huge, that I have to chew it before swallowing it and it’s really a bold, big red, then I am even happier. Gary Vaynerchuk has a great way of presenting and thinking about wines. He makes me laugh too – you should really check out his blog some time. The second drink that I love is 100% agave tequila with a whole fresh squeezed lime. Good tequila is actually a barbituate according to those in the know. Strangely, I can drink a lot of tequila, keep my game on AND function with near normalcy the next day. I have learned that tequila (the good stuff) is the easiest hard liqour for the renal system to break down. I realize that it may sound like I’m talking about how booze works for me as a coping strategy…but 80% of society drinks alcohol, and 40% of them drink too much according to my doc. I usually don’t have more than a few drinks a night, a couple nights a week and ALWAYS with friends or family – NEVER alone. And then the same on weekends. My doc thinks that I’m within safe limits and doing fine.
- Socializing. I never used to spend enough time on this very important element of my life and if I did – it was at work…or with work people. But now, I make it a priority. It just makes me feel good to spend time with good friends and family and shoot the breeze. I don’t care if I’ve heard the same stories or jokes before. We live in such a fast paced world with not enough connections that matter. A good friend of mine just returned from Italy with his girlfriend and remarked how much people socialize at night…every night. It’s just a way a life there. And he also said how happy people seemed there…and how he is lucky to see ONLY one or two good friends a week while back home in Vancouver. Maybe he should move out of Vancouver!
- Intimacy. Spending close, quiet time with my wife is calming and uplifting for me. It doesn’t matter if we are just sitting on the deck chatting, watching TV or eating dinner together. Doing more of that is always a good thing for my mental well being and helps me to feel grounded. She is very smart, calming and kind. Being around her just makes me happy.
- Blogging. Who knew? I like blogging. Because I like to write and don’t care if anyone ever reads my stuff…I do it without prejudice and expectation. There is something stimulating for me to wrestle with my thoughts and try to shape them into content that is coherent enough to read. I wish that I had more time to write.I also love the endeavor of the technologies related to blogging because it keeps me into what’s happening online.
- Music. I love music…all kinds of music.Music makes me feel good. My home is wired with speakers in just about every room through one of my favorite toys – the Sonos Wireless music system. This is another proven, powerful way that I keep my moods up and depression out of my life. I work out to music and drive with music. My iPod has to be one of the most important technology gadgets that I own.
- Being outdoors. I’m not exactly Grizzly Adams and I’m not talking about always doing crazy hikes here, but I do like to just be outdoors, a lot. Even in the winter, when it’s cold and dark…being outside works well for me. If we can have a camp fire with the neighbours…go for a walk alone…or just sit outside and enjoy the fresh air, it all lifts my spirits. I used to live in Vancouver, BC where it seemed to rain ALL the time, something I couldn’t stand any more. This was not a good climate for anyone who might have any depression. Where I live now, in Kelowna, it is very dry and rarely rains. Making the move to a place with a drier weather pattern has helped me a lot.
- Laughter. This is of course an obvious one. Laughter just makes me feel good. Loads of research here on the power of laughter. But it’s worth mentioning here because I am proactive with it. I actively seek out funny people, shows, books and movies. Two of my favorites lately are Eddie Izzard’s and Dane Cook’s stuff. They are both very smart and totally crazy funny.
- Pets. We have three cats and they bring me great joy. When I traveled a lot, I missed them. But now that I work from home predominantly, I find they are a powerful ally in treating depression as they come to visit me throughout the day. I love animals and I especially like cats because of their complicated inner lives, agility, natural affection, calmness and incredible cleanliness. There’s something peaceful about looking at a cat sleeping.
- Dark Chocolate. For me, there is no treat like dark chocolate to lift my spirits. Just to be clear – dark chocolate is anything north of 72% …it needs to say 72% cacao or better. If it isn’t 72% or better, then it’s just junk food. Having said that, dark chocolate looks good…exotic to me. It smells good. And I love the taste of it and how it feels in my mouth. In addition, it always gives me a bit of a buzz and the high magnesium content relaxes me (magnesium deficiency happens to the be most common mineral deficiency even for those following a balanced diet). Cacao is a very good antioxidant too. I’m not talking about munching down on chocolate bars left and right here. But I DO usually eat a few squares every day. Some of my favorite bars are by Zazubean, Vosges and Green & Blacks. None of these manufacturers have bitter tasting dark chocolate and are always a safe bet, although a bit more expensive. and lastly….
- Talking about depression. Especially with people who also have struggled with it. I used to be embarrassed that I was or could be depressed…like something was wrong with me. But when I realized how prevalent it is and that there a lot of people who struggle with depression. It is actually very common and sadly, most people do nothing to manage it. That is sad, because it’s actually quite easy to deal with whether it’s acute (like from a major life event) or chronic (like a chemical imbalance). Either way, there is nothing wrong with depression in an of itself.
What IS wrong is not doing anything about it….
Anyway – a bit of a long winded post – I realize that, but these are the things that have me happy as can be and keep depression at bay. Most of them are simple, low (or no) cost and easy to do on a daily basis.
If would love to hear about any feedback you have or how you manage depression.