Being healthy means feeling your best. To mark Mental Health Month, we are going to chat & chew about feeling your best mentally and emotionally—not just physically. Our mental health affects our physical health and vice versa. While there are many causes behind depression—you have always felt this way, or experienced a life event that contributed—one of those triggers can be a sign of a health condition. Up to 33% of heart attack patients end up developing some degree of depression1, and diabetes doubles the risk of depression2.
What is Depression?
Everyone feels sad sometimes, or has a bad day. These minor ups and downs in emotions are normal. Depression is more than that, and is a serious medical condition, just like diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease. Symptoms of depression can include:
- Feeling sad, hopeless or worthless
- Having a negative outlook
- Experiencing little or no energy
- Lack of interest in things you normally enjoy
- Eating or sleeping less / more than usual
- Having trouble remembering or making decisions
It is possible to feel a wide range of emotions after a major health event—such as being anxious that it may happen again or worsen, feeling sad that your condition prevents you from engaging in activities you enjoy or feeling hopeless that you will not be able to make the necessary lifestyle changes. A condition coupled with depression can increase the risk of complications and worsen health outcomes3.
Coping with Symptoms of Depression
As stated earlier, depression is as serious as heart disease and diabetes, so to get better you should seek treatment just as you would for any illness or injury. Effective treatments for depression may include behavioral health counseling or medication prescribed by a doctor, or a combination of both, which we will discuss later this month—stay tuned!
If you are experiencing minor sadness, there are small things you can do to help boost your mood:
- Quiet your mind. Try meditating, mindfulness or yoga.
- Find time to play. Games and hobbies are not just for kids—find time to do what you love.
- Keep a diary. Let off steam by writing down your feelings in a journal.
- Enjoy the company of a furry friend. Even petting a neighbor’s pet can help.
- Soak in the sun. Aim for at least 15 minutes of sunlight a day.
- Get a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow is a new day.
A doctor or behavioral health counselor can also help provide coping mechanisms to address symptoms and help you feel better. Examples of coping strategies include:
- Set goals for daily activity. Plan the activities you are going to engage in at different times during the day and try to stick to this plan as closely as possible.
- Avoid comparing the way you are behaving or feeling while depressed with the way you used to behave or feel and/or the way others around you act.
- Reward yourself for your efforts. At the end of the day, think about all of the positive things you accomplished which helps train your mind to not focus on the negative.
- If a task seems too difficult, do not despair. Break the task down into easier steps and start again more slowly.
If you are experiencing signs of depression, the most important thing is to seek help as early as possible. The Compass Rose Health Plan covers diagnosis and treatment by licensed professional mental health and substance abuse practitioners such as psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical social workers, licensed professional counselors or family therapists.