What to Expect as You Overcome Major Depression

Learn what to expect as you go through treatment and recover from major depression.

After a bout of major depression, it’s a relief when you start to feel like your old self again. Overall, you’re improving as you go through treatment for major depression, “but it’s often two steps forward and one step back,” says Shoshana Bennett, PhD, a clinical psychologist. “It’s rarely a straight line up.” Just knowing to expect some bad days with the good can help you be more patient with yourself. “These are dips, not relapses,” Dr. Bennett says.

A risky time during depression recovery is when you start having several good days in a row. It’s easy to think that — since you’re not having symptoms — you don’t need treatment for depression anymore, but going off medication or quitting therapy for depression too soon can lead to symptoms coming back.

American Psychiatric Association guidelines recommend that people with depression who have been successfully treated with antidepressants keep taking them for at least four to nine months, and sometimes longer. Similarly, people with depression who have fewer symptoms with talk therapy should talk with their therapist about how long to continue treatment.

Keeping Depression Symptoms Away Besides sticking with your depression treatment, you can take steps to keep symptoms under control. Connecting with friends and family, thinking positively, staying active, eating well, and getting enough sleep all help, but there’s a catch, says Jon Allen, PhD, senior staff psychologist at the Menninger Clinic in Houston: “The nature of depression makes it difficult to do those things.”

Don’t be surprised if these healthy steps feel unnatural at first. Depression fosters hopeless thinking, so you may have trouble believing that they’ll ever get easier. “They will,” Dr. Allen notes, “as you pull out of depression.”

Friends and family might see a change in your depression symptoms and depressed behavior before you do. “It’s remarkably common,” Allen says. “People will say, ‘Gosh, you look better,’ or ‘You sound better,’ and the depressed person is thinking, ‘Well, I still feel terrible.'” It can be very frustrating for the depressed person, who ends up feeling that other people don’t understand how tough things really are.

Building a Depression Support Network A support group is one place to find other people who know what you’re going through because they’ve had depression themselves. To locate in-person and online depression support groups, call the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (800-826-3632).

If you pulled away from friends and family while depressed, now is the time to start rebuilding those bonds. Allen suggests making concrete plans; for example, to meet a friend for coffee. “By making that commitment to someone else, you may feel obligated to show up,” he says. It’s added motivation to get out and rejoin the world. Friends and family can also be a source of encouragement on days when depression symptoms or worries about symptoms get you down. Gradually, you’ll start to feel more hopeful, too.

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15 Simple Ways to De-stress

Hypnotize Yourself

Brow furrowed? Pulse galloping? Barely able to breathe? It’s time to relax. We’ve gathered easy strategies to keep tension from taking over.

Forget swaying pocket watches and deep trances. “Hypnosis is a state of highly focused attention,” says David Spiegel, the director of Stanford School of Medicine’s Center on Stress and Health. If done properly, hypnosis can clear your mind, lower your heart rate, and decrease muscle tension. Close your eyes and picture a movie screen with something stressful, like rush-hour traffic, on the left side. Now, visualize a solution playing out on the right, like discovering a new route with no traffic. Eventually, you’ll feel a moment of intense absorption, he explains, like when you’re so caught up in a good movie that you forget where you are. Try doing this for five minutes, three or four times a day.

(Really) Forgive Someone

Although it may be tempting to rehash the details of how your sister’s boyfriend snubbed you, letting go of negative feelings really does lower stress. “When our minds keep rehearsing troubling interactions, the body’s calming system becomes impaired,” says Charlotte vanOyen Witvliet, a psychologist at Hope College in Holland, Mich. A cursory hug won’t do, though. You have to sincerely replace your anger toward the wrongdoer with an attempt to understand the reasons behind his actions. “Forgiveness helps you see more of the truth, not less. When we are upset, our vision is limited in scope,” says Witvliet.

Open the Window

Just looking out your window can have a relaxing effect. In a study led by Peter Kahn, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Washington in Seattle, participants in an office were shown one of three views: a natural setting, a digital display of the same scene, and no view. When stress levels were artificially increased, those looking at the real natural scene returned to their normal heart rate more quickly. Those who looked at the digital display did no better than those looking at a blank wall, suggesting the brain is not easily fooled. “We do best mentally and physically when we’re connected to nature,” says Kahn.

Send Yourself Flowers

“Without question, stress is mitigated by nature,” says Mehmet C. Oz, coauthor of “You: Stress Less” (Simon & Schuster). Scientists at Harvard University delivered flowers to one group of women and gave candles to a second group. Within a week, the first group felt less anxious and depressed, perhaps because humans are comforted by vegetation—a means of survival in caveman days. Oz suggests keeping a plant on your desk and cut flowers at the dinner table.

Pucker Up

A kiss (or two) a day can keep the stress away. You’ll feel less isolated, which is a common source of anxiety. According to Laura Berman, a professor of obstetrics-gynecology and psychiatry at Northwestern University, women in particular respond to locking lips by releasing endorphins. She recommends at least one ten-second kiss a day — deep and emotional, but not necessarily sexually arousing. “Just enjoy the physical connection,” she says.

Take a Time-Out

You don’t need to slip into bed to get the benefits of a good rest. Kate Hanley, author of “The Anywhere, Anytime Chill Guide: 77 Simple Strategies for Serenity” (Skirt!), suggests a simple exercise you can do at your desk that is just as refreshing as a nap:

  • Keeping both feet on the floor, stack your forearms on the edge of the table.
  • Scoot back in your chair so your spine is extended.
  • Rest your forehead on your arms for a minute or two.

This opens the neck and shoulders, where physical tension commonly builds up, and creates space in your rib cage for deep breathing. Visualize your next task going well, or simply focus on your heartbeat. Either way, this exercise gives you a break.

Take it Easy

Working out is a great way to take a bite out of tension—but think twice before you sign up for a boot camp. “When you are mentally tired, intense exercise adds to the stress you are feeling,” says Samuele M. Marcora, a physiologist at the University of Kent in England. After a draining day, he suggests a moderate-intensity workout, like walking or light running. “It won’t improve your fitness level, but it is good for the mood.”

Say ‘Om’

Yoga is a proven stress buster, but not all poses give the same relief. Inverted stances, such as back bends and headstands, may have a greater effect on your mood and anxiety, say researchers. The part of the nervous system that relaxes the body and mind may be stimulated when the spine is bent, explains Chris Streeter, a professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine.

Go Into the Light

“Stress can be triggered when our bodies don’t know what time it is,” says Julie Holland, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine. “Exposing your retina to sunlight resets your circadian rhythm so your brain is on a schedule.” Take a walk outside without sunglasses for 20 minutes a day, three times a week. Phototherapy lamps and vitamin-D supplements also help.

Watch a Tearjerker

If you’re still crying your contacts out on your 100th viewing of “Blue Valentine,” try watching it a 101st time with a new outlook: A recent study suggests that thinking positively while watching a sad movie may help you cope with setbacks in the real world. Women who had experienced stress were shown sad scenes from movies such “I Am Sam” and “Fatal Attraction” and asked to come up with happy endings and good advice for the characters. Test subjects who were best at this showed fewer signs of depression than women who watched the movies passively, says Allison S. Troy, a researcher at the University of Denver. Solving other people’s problems is always easier, she says. Practicing as you make your way through your Netflix queue may sharpen your skills.

Treat Your Allergies

Itchy eyes and a runny nose aren’t the only plagues of allergy season: Stress may rise with the pollen count. Alvaro Guzman, a psychiatrist at the National Center for the Treatment of Phobias, Anxiety and Depression in Washington, D.C., says research shows that patients with seasonal allergies often report stress, mood dips, and depression when symptoms flare. “When we have an allergic reaction, chemicals are produced in our blood that can aggravate mood changes,” he says. If you notice your stress levels peaking when the weather is changing, Guzman suggests getting tested for allergies.

Drop an F-Bomb

Saying what you really think about the boss over a couple of martinis has its advantages. After observing groups in various workplaces, Yehuda Baruch, a professor of management at Rouen Business School in France, found that people swear as a coping mechanism to release stress. When upset with a difficult customer, one test subject pretended to carry on a conversation as if the client were still on the phone, but with profanity to describe exactly how she felt. In the real world, Baruch warns to use common sense. “Stay professional and never swear in front of someone who would be offended.”

Get Busy

You’re sitting on the couch watching The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills reruns — just like last weekend. And instead of becoming absorbed, part of your brain stays focused on the looming deadlines that have been nagging at you at work. Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, a professor of psychology at Yale University and the author of “Women Who Think Too Much” (Henry Holt), says, “Overthinking without being able to resolve anything draws us deeper into a feeling of being overwhelmed.” A pastime that requires you to pay attention or engage with other people—like tackling a new recipe, taking a foreign-language class, or playing tennis—lets you escape from your own spinning head and break the cycle.

Surround Yourself With Beauty

Admiring a photo of a model or a movie star just as you would a work of art could relieve tension. Half a group of people who viewed photos of females wearing makeup said they were less stressed afterward, according to a study at the University of Louisville in Kentucky. The other half did not report the same benefit, but they didn’t feel any worse, says Patrick Pössel, a professor of psychology who conducted the study.

Be a Pescatarian

Battling stress can be as simple as ordering fish at a restaurant. On “The Truth About Food,” a program on the Discovery Health Channel, researchers measured hormone levels in London cabdrivers, who have highly stressful jobs. When put on a diet of four portions a week of oily fish like mackerel, a source of omega-3 fatty acids, the drivers produced less of the stress hormone cortisol and more of DHEA, a hormone the body cranks out to combat stress. “When the body sees omega-3 fatty acids, it feels calm,” says Oz. Walnuts, flaxseeds, and tofu are other excellent sources.

Filter Out Distractions and Interruptions to Improve Memory

Filter Out Distractions and Interruptions to Improve Memory

By Mehmet C. Oz, MD, and Michael F. Roizen, MD

Feeling scatterbrained? If you’re having difficulty focusing on a good book, the nightly news, or even your spouse because the kids, pets, phone, TV, flashing e-mail, and more are driving you to distraction, don’t blame the interruptions. It turns out that a prime reason for midlife concentration lapses and late-life memory problems is an increasing inability to filter out the clutter — both human and digital distractions.

A growing stack of studies shows that although 30-something brains can focus on a topic with laser-beam precision while ignoring multiple distractions, older brains have frayed mental filters that let other information in, no matter how hard they’re trying to concentrate. It’s like looking at the world (or at least that pile of paperwork) through a wide-angle lens that also sees the unwashed dinner dishes, the beautiful sunset, the accountant’s memo, or the article you’ve been meaning to read.

Try This 4-Step Meditation Plan for Sharper Focus

American and Canadian researchers stumbled onto this concentration issue while using MRIs to scan people’s brains as they performed memory-related problem-solving tasks. Older people in the study couldn’t concentrate inside the banging, clanging MRI machines, even when wearing earplugs. Their brain scans revealed the extra mental effort used as they tried to filter out the distracting noise, tipping off researchers to the mental challenges of concentrating.

Here’s how to both minimize age-related distraction problems when you need to focus and how to put them to use when you need to think and see the big picture:

  • Turn off distractions. You can recapture much of your sharp focus by removing distractions when you have to do mental work. Don’t pay bills while watching TV. Turn off the radio when you’re starting an important conversation with your spouse or when you’re loading new software onto your computer.
  • Clear your desk, organize your house. Visual clutter can slow down your mental capacity so that decision-making takes more time and effort. Give your brain cells less to ponder by sweeping unnecessary stuff from your workspace, cooking area, computer desktop, closets, and even your car.

Banish Interruptions: 7 Steps to a More Organized Life

  • Turn distractibility into a mental asset. Harness your well-seasoned brain’s ability to retain lots of information by giving “multisensory learning” a whirl. That’s when you use several senses at once to enhance learning and memory. Instead of reading a long magazine article about the growing list of presidential candidates, watch an in-depth TV show about them. Getting the audio and the visual is an asset in this case.
  • Enjoy seeing the forest, not just the trees. Having a more flexible mental filter in place means you take in more pleasure, too. Whether you’re walking in the woods, biking on the boardwalk, or people-watching, chances are you’re noticing more than you did in your 20s and 30s. Savor it!

Quick Steps to Effortless Creativity

This post, by Belle on March 27, 2012, “Quick Steps to Effortless Creativity” really helped me with my creativity maybe you will find it helpful as well.

We are, by our very nature, creative. Creativity flows through us constantly. Yet when we strain and struggle to be creative, we’re only creating strain and struggle.

So sit back, relax, breathe.

The key to effortless creativity is simple: stop resisting it.

Creativity is as easy as breathing. Surrender to this and you allow your creative nature to shine through. And when you’re straining or stuck again, remember these steps:

3 Quick Steps to Effortless Creativity:

1. Know that you are inherently creative.

“Living Enlightenment is being intense in every moment and responding intuitively to achieve your limitless potential for creativity and joy.” -Paramahamsa Nithyananda

If we begin to believe we’re not creative, then that’s what we’re expecting and creating in our lives. Return to the truth of your inherent creativity. Feel the creative power surging through your veins at every moment. The fact is? There is no atom in your being that is not creative!

2. Don’t judge your creativity. This is the cause of so many of our “blocks.” We think we have to create in a certain way, to a certain standard, with certain tools on certain days! We’re very picky. Instead, accept whatever comes through you without judgement, only love. When you love what comes through for you, when you accept it and welcome it, you remove the blocks and enter the powerful flow of creativity.

You might find yourself getting creative about dinner- and if you let it flow, it’ll flow right through dinner and on to your canvas later. Or, you might find yourself inspired to create a treasure hunt- which will make your writing glitter with unexpected gems.

Don’t limit the ways in which your creativity longs to express itself, and you’ll find it overflowing in all areas of your life.

3. Get playful. If you’re laughing and having fun, your judging, ego nature takes a back seat. Ask yourself, “What’s the most fun and unexpected way I can approach this?” Then take yourself for a wild ride!

The trick here is to do something odd, different, or just plain immature for the sake of having fun! I promise if your first priority is to have fun, your creativity will be a wild horse you can barely keep up with. Turn dinner into a food fight, skip backwards on your way to a stuffy business appointment, make a necklace out of bubblegum “beads”- you get the picture!

“Creativity is intelligence having fun.”  ― Albert Einstein

Happiness Secrets: Feel-Good Tricks for Blah Days

I think it was the Cosmopolitan where I came across the following article.  Since I had found the article some tips have proven benefitial to me maybe you find some benefit was well.

1. Take an iPod time-out. Put in your ear buds, and lose yourself in your favorite tunes. A slower tempo will relax you, but music that’s heavy and throbbing will let you work through anger or annoyance so you can get those negative emotions out of your system quickly, explains Los Angeles psychologist Yvonne Thomas, PhD.
2. Slick on red lip gloss. Red lips exude confidence and sex appeal. The reaction you get from others will help replace your bad mood with sexy self-assuredness.
3. Crack up in front of your computer. It’s impossible to feel bad when you’re laughing, so download a video from funnyordie.com or collegehumor.com.
4. Switch on your desk lamp. Harsh overhead lighting can amplify stress and irritation, while a softer glow can help soothe you.
5. Surround yourself with yellow and orange. Studies show that people become more joyful in these warm, bright colors, explains Leatrice Eiseman, author of More Alive With Color, possibly because they remind us of the sun. If you don’t have a yellow or orange garment to wear, pick up flowers in these hues.
6. Visualize your happy place. Maybe it’s a tropical beach or your childhood bedroom. Whatever the location, close your eyes and conjure up the image. Changing your mind’s wallpaper to a place you adore will make you happy, says Thomas.
7. Have a quickie. If sex isn’t possible, reveling in the memory of a sack session also will flood your system with blissful sensations, says life coach Martha Beck, PhD, author of Finding Your Own North Star.


8. Put on clothes you look hot in. Every chick has something in her closet that nets her positive feedback from friends, coworkers, and random strangers. Change into it — even if it’s just a pair of sex-kittenish heels — and enjoy the ego boost.
9. Snack on citrus fruits. They can improve your mood, says psychologist Dale Atkins, PhD, author of Sanity Savers. And because they take time to peel, you’ll likely eat slowly and not end up pigging out.

10. Breathe away bad vibes. Inhale slowly and deeply for five seconds, then exhale for five. You’ll breathe yourself into a more affirmative mind-set, says Atkins.
11. Be a nature girl. Eat lunch in a park. Lie on the grass in your backyard and watch birds fly overhead. Exposure to the outdoors will lower your heart rate and defuse a pessimistic outlook, says Atkins.

95 Questions to Help You Find Meaning and Happiness

post written by: Marc

95 Questions to Help You Find Meaning and Happiness

Questions to Help You Find Meaning and Happiness

At the cusp of a new day, week, month or year, most of us take a little time to reflect on our lives by looking back over the past and ahead into the future.  We ponder the successes, failures and standout events that are slowly scripting our life’s story.  This process of self-reflection helps us maintain a conscious awareness of where we’ve been and where we intend to go.  It is pertinent to the organization and preservation of our long-term goals and happiness.

The questions below will help you with this process.  Because when it comes to finding meaning in life, asking the right questions is the answer.

  1. In one sentence, who are you?
  2. Why do you matter?
  3. What is your life motto?
  4. What’s something you have that everyone wants?
  5. What is missing in your life?
  6. What’s been on your mind most lately?
  7. Happiness is a ________?
  8. What stands between you and happiness?
  9. What do you need most right now?
  10. What does the child inside you long for?
  11. What is one thing right now that you are totally sure of?
  12. What’s been bothering you lately?
  13. What are you scared of?
  14. What has fear of failure stopped you from doing?
  15. What will you never give up on?
  16. What do you want to remember forever?
  17. What makes you feel secure?
  18. Which activities make you lose track of time?
  19. What’s the most difficult decision you’ve ever made?
  20. What’s the best decision you’ve ever made?
  21. What are you most grateful for?
  22. What is worth the pain?
  23. In order of importance, how would you rank: happiness, money, love, health, fame?
  24. What is something you’ve always wanted, but don’t yet have?
  25. What was the most defining moment in your life during this past year?
  26. What’s the number one change you need to make in your life in the next twelve months?
  27. What’s the number one thing you want to achieve in the next five years?
  28. What is the biggest motivator in your life right now?
  29. What will you never do?
  30. What’s something you said you’d never do, but have since done?
  31. What’s something new you recently learned about yourself?
  32. What do you sometimes pretend to understand that you really do not?
  33. In one sentence, what do you wish for your future self?
  34. What worries you most about the future?
  35. When you look into the past, what do you miss most?
  36. What’s something from the past that you don’t miss at all?
  37. What recently reminded you of how fast time flies?
  38. What is the biggest challenge you face right now?
  39. In one word, how would you describe your personality?
  40. What never fails to frustrate you?
  41. What are you known for by your friends and family?
  42. What’s something most people don’t know about you?
  43. What’s a common misconception people have about you?
  44. What’s something a lot of people do that you disagree with?
  45. What’s a belief you hold with which many people disagree?
  46. What’s something that’s harder for you than it is for most people?
  47. What are the top three qualities you look for in a friend?
  48. If you had a friend who spoke to you in the same way that you sometimes speak to yourself, how long would you allow that person to be your friend?
  49. When you think of ‘home,’ what, specifically, do you think of?
  50. What’s the most valuable thing you own?
  51. If you had to move 3000 miles away, what would you miss most?
  52. What would make you smile right now?
  53. What do you do when nothing else seems to make you happy?
  54. What do you wish did not exist in your life?
  55. What should you avoid to improve your life?
  56. What is something you would hate to go without for a day?
  57. What’s the biggest lie you once believed was true?
  58. What’s something bad that happened to you that made you stronger?
  59. What’s something nobody could ever steal from you?
  60. What’s something you disliked when you were younger that you truly enjoy today?
  61. What are you glad you quit?
  62. What do you need to spend more time doing?
  63. What are you naturally good at?
  64. What have you been counting or keeping track of recently?
  65. What has the little voice inside your head been saying lately?
  66. What’s something you should always be careful with?
  67. What should always be taken seriously?
  68. What should never be taken seriously?
  69. What are three things you can’t get enough of?
  70. What would you do differently if you knew nobody would judge you?
  71. What fascinates you?
  72. What’s the difference between being alive and truly living?
  73. What’s something you would do every day if you could?
  74. At what time in your recent past have you felt most passionate and alive?
  75. Which is worse, failing or never trying?
  76. What makes you feel incomplete?
  77. When did you experience a major turning point in your life?
  78. What or who do you wish you lived closer to?
  79. If you had the opportunity to get a message across to a large group of people, what would your message be?
  80. What’s something you know you can count on?
  81. What makes you feel comfortable?
  82. What’s something about you that has never changed?
  83. What will be different about your life in exactly one year?
  84. What mistakes do you make over and over again?
  85. What do you have a hard time saying “no” to?
  86. Are you doing what you believe in, or are you settling for what you are doing?
  87. What’s something that used to scare you, but no longer does?
  88. What promise to yourself do you still need to fulfill?
  89. What do you appreciate most about your current situation?
  90. What’s something simple that makes you smile?
  91. So far, what has been the primary focus of your life?
  92. How do you know when it’s time to move on?
  93. What’s something you wish you could do one more time?
  94. When you’re 90-years-old, what will matter to you the most?
  95. What would you regret not fully doing, being, or having in your life?

Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.  And of course, check out our sister site, Thought Questions, for more thought-provoking questions like these.

Photo by: Hartwig HKD

How Stress Affects Major Depression

Stress can trigger clinical depression, but taking steps to reduce stress is an important part of getting better.

Without some stress, we’d be little more than slugs (minus the motivation to do the things that enrich our lives), but too much stress can affect our health and even contribute to major depression (also known as clinical depression, major depressive disorder, or MDD). “If prolonged, stress can lead to headaches, muscle aches, fatigue, and gastrointestinal problems,” says Simon Rego, PsyD, director of psychology training at Montefiore Medical Center and assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, N.Y. “It can also affect appetite, sleep, and mood, generating anxiety and depression.”

For people predisposed to depression — especially major depression — or who are already depressed, stress can be overwhelming, triggering a downward slide. “Depression is like kindling on the forest floor,” says Daniel Buccino, MSW, clinical supervisor and assistant professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University. “Stressors can sometimes be the spark that ignites the vulnerability to depression.”

In part that’s because chronic stress may change behavior in ways that fuel clinical depression, Rego says. “For example, people who are stressed tend not to go out as much or sleep as well, or they may overeat or drink too much. Those things can generate symptoms of depression.”

Try these strategies to help reduce stress and overcome major depression:

  • Recognize what causes your stress. “Each person needs to know [his or her] particular vulnerabilities to certain kinds of stress,” Buccino says. Maybe too little sleep or too many commitments at work put you over the edge. “Figure out your limits and then try to manage them,” Buccino says.
  • Exercise. Moderate-intensity exercise, such as walking at talking speed, can help lift people out of anxiety, stress, and depression, Rego says. Exercise isn’t a substitute for medical treatment for major depression, but it can help support your recovery.
  • Tap into social support. “People who are stressed and depressed tend not to use social support networks,” Rego says. “Reaching out to friends or trusted colleagues can buffer stress and offer an outside opinion on stressors, and connections can create a sense of belonging, which lessens depression.” Connections don’t always have to be in person: Start out with a text or an e-mail, or Skype.
  • Challenge your perspective. “When people stress, they tend to see only threatening information,” Rego says. “Examine your thoughts to see if they’re as negative as you think.  For instance, if you’re stuck in a traffic jam, instead of thinking you’ll never arrive on time, ask yourself, ‘What’s the worst that can happen if I’m late?'”
  • Sign up for therapy. If you have clinical depression, psychotherapy is probably part of your treatment. It’s a great tool to treat major depression and address stress, Buccino says. “You’re forming a useful working alliance with another person, whether to gain insight or make changes.”