Your mental health is an important part of your well-being, and it’s important to check in with yourself from time to time. There are many aspects of mental health, but one of the most common mental health conditions that people experience is depression. Recognizing symptoms of depression is a first step in getting help and learning self-care strategies.
Everyone feels down sometimes. But if you find yourself experiencing the following symptoms, you may be experiencing depression:
- Avoiding people and activities you used to enjoy.
- Eating or sleeping too much or not enough.
- Feeling helpless or like nothing matters.
- Fighting with family and friends.
- Poor concentration.
- Low energy.
- Mood swings.
- Thoughts of suicide or self-harm.
- Unexplained aches and pains.
- Using alcohol, smoking or other drugs to cope.
If you have been experiencing any of these symptoms for more than two weeks, Alamdar Kazmi, MD, ProMedica Physicians Behavioral Health – Sylvania, recommends talking with your primary care provider. Like many illnesses, clinical depression can be treated.
When you talk with your doctor, they will ask about your symptoms, thoughts, feelings and behavior patterns to determine the best course of treatment. Treatment may include psychotherapy (talk therapy), pharmacotherapy (antidepressant medication), light therapy and/or alternative medicines. The best course of treatment is different for every person and depends on the patient’s preference or expectations, symptoms, other illnesses or medications, and their response to the therapies over time.
Depression lasting more than two weeks that is affecting one’s quality of life or work performance can be helped with a combination of psychotherapy and medication. Notably, the benefits of psychotherapy often persist beyond the course of treatment, and patients remain well,” says Dr. Kazmi. “It is also important that patients pursue positive activities that may have ceased due to depression. Engaging in these activities is an effective means of relieving depression.”
Engaging in consistent self-care strategies can be beneficial, whether or not you have depression. Over time, self-care can help you build new routines that support your mental health. Try some of these proven self-care strategies:
- Breathe. Take a moment to focus on your breathing. Count to four as you inhale, then count to four again as you exhale – repeat this several times. Calm your mind by taking these full, even breaths.
- Get some Zs. Your mind needs time to rest and recuperate each day. Aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night. Try your best to be consistent with the time that you wake up and go to bed each day, even on the weekends.
- Get moving! Exercising can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and boost mood and self-esteem. Get your heart pumping faster than your resting rate for at least 30 minutes each day.
- Get outside. Even on cloudy days, spending time outside can help improve your mood, especially if you get outside within the first two hours of waking up in the morning.
- Have fun with friends. Laughter produces a chemical that has anti-depressant and anti-anxiety effects.
- Fuel your body with a balanced diet. A diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, eggs, beans and nuts can improve your happiness. Drinking water is always key!
- Avoid smoking and drugs, and limit alcohol consumption. Tobacco, drugs and alcohol not only affect your physical health, but your mental health as well. Using substances as a coping mechanism is not effective and may make existing mental health conditions worse.
Everyone feels down sometimes. If your blues are constant and keep you from doing the things you love, talk to your primary care provider for help.