Can You Depression-Proof Yourself?

Most of us can tell when our mood starts slipping – whether it’s when insomnia creeps in or when feelings of agitation, anxiety or sadness increases. Some people also experience fatigue, appetite changes, a lack of desire to socialise or a loss of interest in activities they’ve previously enjoyed. Should these feelings happen regularly, it can lead to a mood disorder known as “depression.” It can present itself as mild and temporary in some people or be severe and ongoing, in others.

Depression may not only arise from stressful events in our lives but can also happen if there is a family history of depression or early childhood trauma, a chemical imbalance in the brain or a change in hormone levels (for e.g. post-partum). Substance abuse, people who experience high levels of physical pain or who have a chronic illness, are all factors that predispose someone to depression. Certain thyroid problems or a Vitamin D deficiency has also been known to trigger depression.

Depression can affect every aspect of a person’s life, seriously impacting physical health, happiness and productivity.

But can we prevent the onset of it?

Depression is not considered preventable but once you experience a depressive episode, it could be easier to prevent another one, by making certain lifestyle and mind-set changes. Here are a few:

Manage Your Stress

Stress often leads to negative thinking, which in turn, can spiral into depression. However, it is the most avoidable cause of depression. We may not be able to control or change the stressful things and events in our lives; but we can control how we handle and manage stress. Some short-term stress can actually be helpful and motivating but prolonged stress usually requires certain coping skills. Some people cope by articulating feelings, staying focussed, doing meditation, acupuncture or changing their mindset about possible outcomes.

Make Dietary Changes

It may be shocking to know that high-fat and high-sugar diets have the same effect on our bodies as chronic stress! Certain foods can offer depression resistance, mainly by maintaining brain health. One category of these super foods contains Omega 3 fatty acids, like: wild-caught salmon, extra virgin olive oil, flax seed oil and nuts. Omega 3’s reverse the degeneration of nerve cells in the brain, which are an effect of depression. Other foods that are beneficial, are those rich in antioxidants, such as berries and colourful vegetables, which prevent inflammation of the brain cells.

Improve Your Sleep

People who suffer from depression often experience sleep issues. These can range from insomnia to hypersomnia (excessive sleeping during the day). A consistent sleep schedule can alleviate some of the symptoms of depression. Creating the right bed time ambience is also helpful and this can be done by limiting noise, light and electronic device use in the bedroom.

Get More Sunlight

Our bodies need sunlight to produce Vitamin D – a mood enhancer. Sunlight also helps regulate our circadian rhythms, so we can sleep better. The sun’s rays also trigger the production of a hormone in our bodies, called serotonin – which helps lift our mood and gives us a feeling of being calm.

Forge Healthy Relationships

Isolation and loneliness present risk factors for depression, particularly in the elderly. Having a good support network and healthy relationships can alleviate symptoms of depression. One of the key benefits of close relationships, is decreased stress and having emotional support. Close relationships have also been shown to positively impact our health by improving our immune system and helping with healing and recovery.

Get Enough Exercise

Exercising releases chemicals in the body called endorphins, which make us feel good. Physical activity has been shown to improve nerve cell growth, which ultimately helps relieve depression. Psychologically, the act of exercising can also help distract the mind from the stressors and negative thoughts that cause depression.

To sum up, many factors can contribute to a bout of depression and whilst we may not be able to entirely depression-proof ourselves, we can be more aware of the triggers and lifestyle changes we can make, to keep depression at bay. Should symptoms be prolonged, the first step is to make an appointment with a mental health professional or doctor who can help diagnose your depression, test for contributing factors and discuss treatment options with you.