Tag Archives: self help

“And I guess that’s why they call it the blues..”

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Wow, it feels like yesterday that I looked at the calender and we were headed into February and my thought then was “wow, cant believe we are entering the 2nd month of the year already!” Its now 7 months down the line, I wipe my eyes and have to look again to realise there are only two and a half months left of this year! Its incredible how fast time flies by.

On the other hand I am also encountering more and more people who feel they have literally dragged themselves through the year, or are finding it increasingly difficult to get motivated and struggle to feel the end of year excitement the way many of us do. Common complaints are feeling demotivated, feeling sluggish, not in the mood to be around people, sleeping poorly and feeling tired all day as well as the occasional feeling of tearfulness. A general dissatisfaction with the way things are and an inability to find the joy in daily activities that used to be enjoyable.

Well my friends – that’s why they call it the blues, and it sounds a whole lot like Major Depression to me. In chatting with many of these people there seems to be a resistance to admitting they may be facing depression, or a resistance to getting the necessary treatment. So I figured I’d spend some time on the issue here and hopefully clear up some misunderstandings.

Let’s first look at the symptoms of depression:

  • Feeling tearful or “down” more often than not
  • Disturbances in sleep – particularly waking up in the early hours and unable to fall asleep again
  • Disturbances in appetite – either over-eating, or a lack of appetite (sometimes weight gain and weight loss)
  • Decrease in energy – feeling sluggish and fatigued
  • Social withdrawal and a preference to be alone
  • Inability to find joy in previously pleasurable activities
  • Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
  • Thoughts of suicide (more present in severe depression)
  • Indecisiveness
  • Loss of concentration and inability to sustain attention
  • Low libido

Now, if you’ve been feeling most of these symptoms for a month or more, it is more than probable that you are actually struggling with a major depressive episode (that’s the fancy psychiatric name for depression). The really important thing to remember here is that depression is as much a physical illness as pneumonia, or diabetes is and deserves the right treatment too.

What actually happens when you are depressed (“depressed” in the sense of experiencing a major depressive episode – not “depressed” in the general term used when feeling sad)?

anti-depressant Well, to put it briefly and simply – our brains send messages from transmitting neurons to receiving neurons via chemicals known as neurotransmitters. Amongst the 30 odd neurotransmitters found in the brain, serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine have been associated with emotional regulation, reactions to stress, and the physical drives of sleep, appetite, and sexuality. As a result, anti-depressants function to regulate the amount of a specific neurotransmitters in the brain – some anti-depressants such as SSRI (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors) work with serotonin only, while others affect the dopamine levels.

While there does appear to be a very strong relationship between neurotransmitter levels and clinical depression, and that anti-depressants are highly effective for the majority of people, we can still not be 100% certain of the actual relationship between neurotransmitters and depression.

As a result, psychotherapy and a variety of other management techniques are also effective in the treatment of depressive episodes. – Here are a few really important aspects in managing and treating your depression:

  1. EXERCISE EXERCISE EXERCISE: Despite that lethargic, de-motivated, and energy-less feeling you have, the irony of it is that dragging your bum to the gym, or going for a walk actually increases your energy levels, allows for the release of some endorphins and generally gets you feeling better. Besides the health benefits of exercise – its a great way to feel good about yourself when you have actually accomplished something
  2. SLEEP! again, despite the lethargic feeling, try not to stay in bed past your waking up time, try not to have afternoon naps. Get 6-8 hours of sleep per night – no more and no less. Sleep regulation with an exercise programme will do wonders for your mood.
  3. DIET: Its easy to get into the comfort eating mode, wanting “feel good foods” like ice cream, cakes and chocolate. Believe me, engaging in healthy foods is going to help your blood-sugar levels, regulate your energy and generally assist in feeling better about yourself. Make sure you are getting enough vitamin B’s (the full range are excellent in managing depression)
  4. SELF CARE: you deserve to take care of yourself and do nice things for yourself. If you had flu, you would take time out and rest. So, if you feel like you need some time out – take it, but don’t get caught in a loop of self-pity and wallowing – rather take the time to get active in gym, eat healthy and tackle that old hobby you had put aside ages ago.
  5. FIND SUPPORT: talk to your friends and family about how you are feeling and let them take you out occasionally. Don’t shy away from social interaction – isolation and loneliness only feeds the depression
  6. And if all else fails – visit a psychologist! 🙂

treating depression

 

Oh yes, and with summer fast approaching (well here in South Africa) don’t be afraid of getting a little sun – it really does energise and gets your lust for life going!

 

“Happiness and sadness run parallel to each other.  When one takes a rest, the other one tends to take up the slack.”  ~Hazelmarie Elliott (“Mattie”)

 

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Spring’s Inspiration

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Hey all.. Wow it has been a long time since I added to the blog. I guess Winter with it’s late sunrises and early darkness got the better of me and fueled my laziness. But lo and behold, we have woken up for 5 days in a row with beautiful sun, warm days and the sun is setting a little later every day.

With this, it seems, there is a new buzz in the air. A new kind of energy. The last long haul of the year 2011.

Suddenly we have kicked in with our exercise regimes, we are trying to eat healthier, meet dead lines, take on new projects and generally finish off things before the end of the year hits us…and ladies and gentlemen – it is upon us. I even saw an advert for Christmas the other day!!! With all this happening I am also asking myself how to make the best of this new found inspiration to lose the winter weight, or aim for the last bit of success the year has to offer. You know how it is – we start a project with gusto and enthusiasm – determined to make it a success, only to lose that touch of inspiration somewhere not too far along the way. So how do we maintain it? How do we ride this new “spring energy” right into the middle of summer???

A good question indeed. And here are my thoughts on the issue. WRITE IT ALL DOWN!

Yep, this is the new motivation system folks. If you write it down you have already spent more energy invested in your goal than if you only spend fleeting seconds pondering it. Writing it down – making a list of the things you want to achieve, the goals you have set – makes them tangible and real in the world. Especially if you then put them up somewhere where you can see them every day. The next step is to think quite carefully about the steps needed in attaining the goal. So for example – if the goal is losing 5 kgs, then how do you plan to do this??? Maybe it is 3 x a week gym and joining weighless? Maybe its 5 x a week walking with a friend and cutting out the glass of wine every night 🙂 Either way, planning and writing down the steps to attaining your goals also makes the process run smoothly. Again, you want to have these “mini goals” (lets call them) up where you can see them so that you have a daily reminder about what you have set out to do. The bigger goals are now broken down into smaller, achievable steps – now there really is no excuse for not following through.

But what of the motivation you ask? Well, I am still working on this one. Its beginning to seem that the loss of inspiration is part of the human condition and my best counterattack to this is to find a “buddy” – find someone who will take on the task with you – if it’s quitting smoking, losing weight, finishing a project, taking on a new one – two energies are somehow always better than one. Finding support (and a little cheer leading team) can only be beneficial in the long run!

So here’s to enjoying the energy that Spring brings with it and wishing you all the best for the downhill journey toward 2012..

“Defeat is not the worst of failures. Not to have tried is the true failure.”
George Edward Woodberry