Depression is one of the most commonly experienced mental health problems. While the causes of depression are different for everyone, there are often common contributors such as excessive stress or ongoing stress, trauma (past or recent), and emotional pain.
I’m going to share some tools for managing and recovering from depression that you might like to try.
Supporting your physical health
Keep your blood glucose levels stable
Some people lose interest in food when they are depressed and unintentionally lose weight. Unfortunately, lack of nutritious food can exacerbate depression. Other people overeat comfort foods when they are depressed, which may be a sign of hungering for comfort (e.g., talking to someone trusted, being around people and in environments where you feel safe, respected, and cared about).
From a nutritional perspective, the following guidelines will help support stable mood.
Eating breakfast is key to setting up your mood and energy for the day. Skipping breakfast exacerbates low morning blood glucose and triggers the fight-or-flight response. Low blood glucose leaves your brain literally hungry (around 20% of all body glucose is used by the brain), your mood and energy low, and the fight-or-flight response will increase anxiety, hypervigilance, irritability and feelings of overwhelm, plus have adverse effects on your immune and digestive function.
Ideally, eat a protein-rich breakfast for steady blood glucose levels. Consider enjoying:
Protein-rich foods promote satiety (fullness) and stable blood glucose because they take longer to digest. Stable blood glucose levels = more stable mood. If you have little appetite first thing in the morning, take some hard boiled eggs or dinner leftovers to work with you, or keep some good-quality organic muesli and nuts and seeds at your desk and add coconut yoghurt. Aim to eat by 8:30am at the latest, even if it's just one hard boiled egg or a few mouthfuls of nutty muesli or leftover dinner.
Reduce or take a break from caffeine and alcohol (depleting substances)
Alcohol is a depressant and depletes B vitamins via urination and liver conjugation processes. B vitamins are vital for the structure and function of your nervous system and thus mental health. A deficiency in folate, or B9, has been found to play a role in depression in particular,
Like alcohol, caffeine also robs your brain of nutrients. It depletes B vitamins via urination and the mineral magnesium, which is needed for calm, relaxation, muscle relaxation, and sleep. Furthermore, without adequate B vitamins, the body cannot make the soothing neurotransmitter, GABA. Reduced GABA has been linked to sleep problems, anxiety, addiction, and panic attacks.
Additionally, caffeine and alcohol stimulate production of the stress hormone cortisol and keep us in the stress response, know as fight-or-flight. Being repeatedly pushed into the stress response via hormonal effects triggered by alcohol and caffeine consumption can worsen depression (and especially anxiety). Prolonged, elevated cortisol levels are associated with many adverse effects on mental and physical health, such as depression, exhaustion, sleeping problems, digestive problems, weight gain, and lowered immune function.
Take a break from alcohol and caffeinated drinks (all types of coffee, black tea, colas and energy drinks) for one to two months and see how you feel.
Aim for sound sleep
Which two tools from this article might you try this week to support yourself?