10 tips to beat the blues
Readers talk back
We all get them. Days when everything seems to be an effort. Days when even getting out of bed seems too hard.
The blues. Not your full-blown, debilitating depression that requires medical help. No. Just your average, run-of-the-mill misery days.
Common as they might be, these days are a pain. They interfere with your work, your relationships, your life.
Here are 10 useful tips to help prevent these blues – help build up your emotional immunity.
Get those endorphins flowing. Build up that serotonin. Numerous studies have shown that people who exercise regularly have fewer depression symptoms. Interestingly it doesn't need to be all jogging and zumba either, resistance training (lifting weight etc) is also effective in preventing depression.
- Get connected
Loneliness and aloneness are both well-known precipitants of feeling down. Get out there and stay in contact with people. Catch up with old friends, volunteer at a local charity, start a night class, make a date to meet friends for breakfast, coffee, or drinks. Staying connected is one of the best ways to safeguard yourself against 'blue' days.
It's a well-known fact that lack of sunshine can lead to a clinical depression (seasonal affective disorder). It seems vitamin D, along with being essential for bones and helping prevent a number of chronic diseases such as multiple sclerosis, will also improve your mental health.
- Treat pain
Pain makes anybody feel miserable. Of course you can't always control these things but you can at least try. Go and see someone about those frequent headaches, that painful hip, that chronic constipation or that nagging toothache. Even the fact you're doing something about it rather than just trying to ignore will put you in a better frame of mind.
Sleep is as essential to your emotional health as your physical health. Practising good sleep habits will build your resistance to depression symptoms. This includes trying to get deep, refreshing sleep after not spending too short or too long a time in bed.
If you have problems sleeping try and make a concerted effort to fix these – avoid caffeine, make sure your room is dark, quiet, and comfortable, go to bed at a reasonable hour (not too early) and get up at the same time every day.
- Eat well
Again research shows that people who eat well – with lots of fruit and vegetables in their diet are less prone to depressive symptoms. Comfort eating might make you feel better in the short term but hot chips and ice cream will eventually add to your feelings of lethargy that characterise a 'down' day.
- Omega-3 fatty acids
This is somewhat controversial with some studies finding diets high in omega-3 fatty acids protective against depression while others not noticing any difference.
However, omega-3 fatty acids which are found in fish have been shown to have a number of health benefits, therefore it would make sense to include more fish in your diet as part of your emotional resilience campaign.
- Practice mindfulness
This newer form of psychotherapy is actually a type of meditation. Anxiety and stress can trigger episodes of depression and days of misery. Mindfulness involves taking a moment, amid the frenzy of your daily life, to appreciate the hear and now.
Really focus on what your senses are experiencing at this moment – the heat and taste of the coffee you are drinking, the feel of the chair you're sitting on, the sound of the background music playing in a taxi. Check it out! It's a great relaxation exercise that will help prevent the blues.
- Get organised
When we get busy many of us tend to get messy. While our lives might be ruled by our diaries - our desks, cupboards, offices and homes appear to degenerate into chaos. Most people find this depressing. Pay attention. Get some files, some labels, some storage boxes and a number of garbage bags. Sort it all. It's very cathartic – and creates a sense of control and satisfaction. Two key emotions that help prevent the development of depression.
- Schedule breaks
Sometimes, when you wake up with the blues it's a way of your body telling you – you need a break. Everyone needs some time out every now and then. The key is to recognise this and factor it into your plans, before your mind and body decide to take matters into their own hands.
This list was compiled by It's My Health panel of GPs.