In my last post, I listed four things I do to ward off depression. If you haven't read it yet, click here to check it out.
Here's the remainder of my list:
5) vitamins & SUPPLEMENTS
Boy, I take a ton of these. I chose my supplements based on peer-reviewed medical research that showed a benefit to using them in treating or preventing depression. Essentially, science gave them the thumbs-up, and I generally trust science.
I've been taking these supplements for years:
This is just a good idea, folks. Just do it. I take this one because it's gentle on my tummy.
- Krill oil (AKA good ol' omega-3 fatty acids)
I take krill oil largely because it's supposedly much easier on the environment than fish oil––there's a jillion krill in the ocean (actual number). There's also a good case to be made for going as far down to the bottom of the food chain as possible, in part because you avoid contaminants such as mercury. I take this one because it's a super-mega-dose, and I feel the additional amount makes a big difference.
There's a ton of research indicating that mental health is strongly linked to gut health. I don't know all the specifics, but I do know that my digestive tract gets irritated really easily, and taking daily probiotics helps to keep it happy, which in turn keeps me happy. I've taken a ton of different probiotic supplements, and for me, this one works the best. (I need lots of different strains to keep my irritable gut from taking out its wrath on me.)
- Vitamin D
Less sunlight means less vitamin D. In addition to my light box, which helps to crank up my vitamin D levels, I take this supplement every morning.
About 5-6 weeks ago, I added the following supplements to my daily regimen:
In this article in Psychology Today, Dr. Emily Deans notes that Americans today get considerably less magnesium in our diets than in past generations. "When you start to untangle the effects of magnesium in the nervous system," she writes, "you touch upon nearly every single biological mechanism for depression." She posits that less magnesium = more depression, backed by lots of scientific evidence. I take this magnesium supplement every day.
I learned a lot about the supplements that help prevent depression from this article on the site Everyday Health. In it, author Therese Bouchard writes:
"Iodine deficiency can be a big problem because iodine is critical for the thyroid to work as it should, and the thyroid affects more than you think: your energy, metabolism, body temperature, growth, immune function, and brain performance (concentration, memory, and more). When it’s not functioning properly, you can feel very depressed, among other things."
While I don't technically have hypothyroidism, whenever I get bloodwork done, my thyroid levels are on the cusp of being considered abnormal. Because of this, I figured it was a good idea to start taking an iodine supplement in the form of dried kelp––which, like krill, is an ecologically sustainable resource.
Iron is supposed to help your energy levels, and energy is something I tend to struggle with. While I'm not technically anemic, every time I get my blood checked––just like with iodine––my iron levels are on the low end of normal. I really think my daily iron supplement is making a difference. (I take this one, but there's a ton to choose from.)
I think all of the above supplements have been truly beneficial for me, seeing as I've been doing quite well for the past month and a half. Granted, I implemented a number of positive changes around that time, but I figure the supplements aren't hurting me, so I might as well keep it up.
(Important note: My psychiatrist gave me the green light to take all of this stuff. Too much of anything isn't good, so make sure your doctor is cool with you taking any of the above supplements before you add it to your daily routine.)
6) MINDFULNESS & MEDITATION
I promise you, guys, this isn't super woo-woo. It helps tremendously.
I've heard that depression is worrying about the past and anxiety is worrying about the future. And neither exists. All that exists is right now. This is the crux of mindfulness: being aware of what is happening right now. Right this second. Meditation helps you tap into the mindfulness mindset.
Guided meditation works best for me because listening to someone else telling me what to do keeps me focused. Maybe at some point, I'll get better at meditating on my own, but for now, guided meditation is where it's at. I've found meditation apps to be particularly helpful, especially Buddhify and Calm.
But my absolute favorites are self-hypnosis apps by Andrew Johnson, who has the most soothing Scottish accent I've ever heard. (Self-hypnosis is a form of meditation, you guys . . . it's not going to make you cluck like a chicken every time you hear the word "weekend" or something silly like that). At least for me, his apps are unbelievably effective.
While I often use these guided meditations to help me fall asleep, they're not only good for sleeping. In the early afternoon, my energy level often plummets, and I suddenly feel like keeling over and taking a nap. Lately when I've felt like this, I've stretched out on the couch and listened to an energizing meditation instead (try the free "Power Nap" app by Andrew Johnson). I'm telling you, within 15-20 minutes, I'm raring to go. I'm absolutely bursting with energy!
Meditation works, people. Use it.
Sometimes, unloading my thoughts in a journal really helps to alleviate any depression starting to creep up. You can try writing down positive thoughts if you want, but honestly, I've found it most helpful to dump every negative thing crawling around my mind onto the page. Somehow, this works. I feel tremendously relieved after jotting everything down. Even though I'm aware (as I'm writing it down) that these thoughts are bunk, that it's just my depression or anxiety talking, when I'm done, I feel like a huge burden has been lifted off my shoulders and I'm noticeably less depressed/anxious.
Try it. It works.
I take a lot of daily medications. Right now, I'm on five psychiatric medications. Five. One for ADD, four for depression/anxiety. True, I'm (slowly) tapering off one of them, but still. That's a lot. And though I don't like to admit it, I'm embarrassed by it, even though I shouldn't be, because no one would judge someone with heart disease or cancer for taking a lot of meds.
But guess what? I take them anyway. And they help. So I keep taking them.
If you need medication, take it. That's the only way it'll work. And when you start to feel better, KEEP TAKING THEM. You feel better because the medication is WORKING! Don't stop taking it until your doc tells you it's OK and gives you a taper schedule (because if you go off your meds cold-turkey, chances are high you'll hate yourself for it a few days later. Trust me. Been there.)
So yes, staying on my meds is a key part of keeping depression at bay.
There you have it: 8 badass ninja tactics I use to fight off depression. Depression is too tough to tackle on your own––I've found it really helps to have advice from people who've been there and gotten through it. Hopefully this helps someone out there.
If you're struggling, please know that you're important, you're loved, you have amazing gifts to offer the world, and even though you don't believe a word I'm saying, it's all true. You deserve to feel better, your deserve to enjoy life and all it has to offer, and you can and will get better.
Seek help. Tell a friend. Tell your spouse or significant other. Tell a family member. Tell a mentor. Tell your doctor. Tell someone. I know it seems exhausting to find help, and you think you're a hopeless case anyway, but that is depression talking, not you. DEPRESSION LIES. Don't believe it. All you have to do right now is believe that someone can help you. That's it. Tell someone, and they'll help you find help. You're worth it, friend. Don't give up now. You're stronger than depression. I know you are.