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May 04, 2004

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Dawn-Elise Snipes (Always) Thinking About Wellness
with Dawn-Elise Snipes

Dealing With Depression

If you listen to the TV commercials about the different medications on the market, you might be alarmed at how many problems you seem to have. If I took a drug for every "symptom" I've felt, I'd be a prime candidate for Paxil, Zoloft, Buspar, Prozac, Wellbutrin, Zyrtec and Prilosec. But I'm not ... And you're probably not, either.

Take depression for instance. The list of symptoms that characterize clinical depression can be caused by a lot of different things that are part of everyday life. You probably don't need medication unless you're feeling hit hard by several symptoms at once for more than two weeks or just feel "blue" most of the time for more than 6 months.

Consider these symptoms of depression:

  • Changes in sleeping habits
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Feelings of restlessness or anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Lack of pleasure in most activities most of the time for more than two weeks
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • A sense of hopelessness

When you're worried about your kids, things at work, or finances for example, you well might get anxious, irritable, unable to focus or enjoy life, or have trouble sleeping. If you're exhausted or are avoiding dealing with life because you are overwhelmed, you might respond by sleeping too much or binging on comfort foods. Deal with the problem and, amazingly, your symptoms usually will go away.

Personal Strategy:
If you're feeling 'blue' consider some of the most common culprits that may lead you to feel that way. Pick one or two things to change, and see how easy it is to start feeling better.

1. Pessimism.
Be an optimist. OK, now that you've slapped the Pollyanna attitude right out of me, consider focusing on the positive side of what you're being negative about. If you're down on your job, for example, start thinking of it as a way to pay the bills, or as a source of income and experience until you find your ideal job.

2. Stress.
Make a list of what's stressing you out. Figure out what you can't change and wellSaccept that. Then make plans to change the things you can. For example, you may not be able to change your supervisor, but you can transfer so you have a different supervisor. Start each plan with an action word and end with a deadline. Example: Apply for two new jobs each week.

3. Losses
(person, pet, job, moved to a different place) in the last year. You need time to grieve and get used to the changes---usually about a year for major losses---so take it. Then it is time to start living again S. See resources below.

4. Anxiety or being high-strung.
That's like sitting in your parked car with the engine revved as high as it will go. Eventually the engine block cracks, and so will you! My mother always told me to set my priorities and continually ask myself, "What's the worst that will happen if I don't get this done right now." Believe it or not, you'll find there are very few things that MUST be done.

5. Being overwhelmed.
Time management's the key to this one! List everything that takes your time or energy (yes, include sleeping, eating, commuting and bathing). Prioritize the list into "must dos," "would like tos" and "if I get tos." Eliminate anything that wastes your time or energy (including friends who are draining). Delegate anything you can and then combine activities. For example: When I empty the dishwasher, my 3-year-old sorts the silverware. I get help; he gets extra time with mommy. Cook dinner while you're doing laundry. Walk the dog (and your significant other) for exercise.

6. Ruts.
Ask yourself where you want to be one year or five years from now. That's the goal. Now make plans for how you'll achieve that goal. Voila. Suddenly you have direction and drive! (Remember to start each task with an action word and create a realistic timeline for accomplishing each.

7. Sugar and caffeine.
Watch a kid at Halloween -- first the sugar-caffeine buzz, then the crash and burn. The same thing happens to grown-ups. Moderation is the key. Don't cut out, cut back. Have one Hershey's Kiss instead of a whole chocolate bar.

8. Dehydration.
Lack of water leads to sickness, headaches, lethargy, irritability, confusion and YIKES---reduced weight loss. Keep a water bottle handy always. And remember, caffeine and alcohol are diuretics -- drink more water if you consume them.

9. Cabin fever:
Most people feel blue if they haven't seen sunshine for a few days. Bright lights are better than a dimly lit room, but they're not the same as sunshine. Get outside for 20 minutes a day and you'll feel the difference.

10. Lack of good sleep.
Caffeine stays in your system for 12 to 24 hours, so don't drink espresso at noon if you don't want to toss and turn that night. Noise, temperature and stress also affect your sleep. You can avoid those troubles by making a cool, dark, comfortable den to drift off in. Oh, and don't nap for more than 45 minutes during the day or I may make it difficult to fall asleep that night.

11. Isolation.
Think of things you enjoy - hiking, reading, playing scrabble -- and contact a group that does them. Or think of things you'd like to learn about and find a community education class that fits your interest. You may have to push yourself out the door the first time or two, but you'll soon find that you are feeling more relaxed and have made a new circle of friends.

Resources
Affordable Wellness: www.affordablewellness.com
Grief: griefnet.org
Finances: www.practicalmoneyskills.com
Any of the "For Dummies" series, on Fitness, Nutrition, Parenting, Relationships etc.

Note:
If you feel like committing suicide, are hearing voices or are having hallucinations, you must contact your local crisis hotline, emergency room or call 911 immediately so you can be evaluated.

About the author


Add your comments to the discussion on Dawn Elise Snipes' column in the Wellness Issues forum.

Contact Dawn-Elise: wellness@policeone.com







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