Recovery from Depression: Part 2
As I said in my part one of my depression recovery series, an important step to take once you've recovered from depression is to do everything you can to ensure that your depression will not recur. We're starting to understand that the whole body is involved in the treatment of depression and depression resistance, not just the brain. So even if your depression has been banished or is being held at bay by treatment, you can take steps to ensure that you improve your resistance to the disease.
Improving Your Diet
By diet, I don't necessarily mean that your goal is to lose weight, although you very well could end up doing so. What you want to do is cut back on the junk like sugar, fat, simple carbohydrates and caffeine. The more junk there is in your food, the less room there is for the good stuff. When we're depressed, many of us tend to gravitate towards foods that are high in sugar and carbohydrates as a way to self-medicate. Unfortunately, at the very least, eating this way will not improve our mood and in all probability compounds the problem.
I remember years ago when the book Sugar Blues came out, I was amused (and still am, to be honest) by the somewhat hysterical tone. However, I am fairly moderate in my consumption. I rarely drink soda or eat fast food. Even so, I do notice a positive difference in my mood when I cut back on it. If you're someone who consumes a lot of sugar, you might want to see how your mood improves when you cut back gradually. Keep a log of your consumption and your moods to see if there's any correlation.
Not that I'm a health nut. If I have the choice of a veggie burger or nice juicy hamburger, which is the case when I get my lunch at a restaurant near UC Berkeley, I have to say that I have never chosen the former. But I've found that it's pretty easy to make food choices that can improve my mood instead of being detrimental to it. Two very helpful (and eye-opening) books are Eat This, Not That! and Restaurant Confidential.
If you're aren't already exercising, consider beginning some sort of exercise regime. You already know all the reasons it's beneficial for your physical health. But it's also beneficial for your mental health. Strenuous exercise causes your body to produce a natural mood lifter called endorphins, also known as a "runner's high." I've never exercised strenuously enough to notice this myself, but I have always found that depression seems to lift when I'm exercising regularly.
I've found that being stressed out increases my susceptibility to bouts of depression, and from what I've heard and read, this is fairly common. Obviously, it's impossible to completely avoid stress, especially in a recession, but what you can do is keep the stress from affecting your body. Try exercise, yoga, meditation or some other stress relief method.
Sleep really is the great healer. If your depression made you sleep too much, you may be reluctant to spend too much time in bed. But you need to make sure that you are getting sufficient sleep. Everyone is different, so experiment till you find the optimum number of hours per night for you.