The ABC’s of Depression, Part 2: Analyzing Self-Management

What is self-management and what affects its effectiveness?

Self-management refers to habits and activities that are meant to improve the overall condition of clinically depressed individuals. Depressed individuals are encouraged to take the initial steps that will help them return to their normal lives.

Unfortunately, poor self-management is almost synonymous with mood disorders such as clinical depression. The perceived solution to this comorbidity problem is the establishment of a stronger support network and if possible, 100% compliance with prescribed psychiatric medications.

How can a depressed individual begin improving his/her condition?

If you’ve been diagnosed recently with clinical depression, it’s important that you focus first on improving your overall lifestyle. You cannot recover from a mood disorder if you are physically unhealthy and you continually neglect your basic physical needs. Your self-care plan should include the following items:

  1. Eating at least three times a day. No skipping meals or sleeping in all day. Your body needs adequate, nutrient-dense food to correct itself again. Not eating well will cause vitamin and mineral deficiencies and a host of imbalances which unfortunately includes mood swings.

The last thing that you need as someone with a mood disorder is additional mood-related problems. If you don’t know how to cook or feel demotivated to do it yourself, have someone cook for you or arrange for some food to be delivered to you twice or thrice a day. Fast food is better than no food in the case of a person with clinical depression.

  1. Adequate and proper sleep. The human body was designed to work early in the morning and sleep at night until the sun rises again. This is not a cultural or sociological thing. You have to head to bed early at night so you can wake up early the next day. Abnormal sleeping habits should be modified as soon as you can.

If you find yourself staying awake all night doing nothing and sleeping from early morning up to early evening, you’re doing your body and mind a big disservice. Adults should get an average of six to seven hours of sleep per night, no more, no less.

Many depressed individuals report chronic sleepiness. This may be due to a physiological constraint or this may be an adaptive feature of the mind as it tries to deal with low mood.

Whatever the case, do not allow yourself to “sleep in” on most days. This will likely cause you to miss work, social engagements, etc. If you genuinely want to sleep more, sleep earlier in the evening instead.

  1. Regular physical activity. Exercise in any form can help improve the chemical balance of your brain.

In addition to the obvious weight loss benefits of exercise, getting sufficient physical activity throughout the day will improve your overall outlook which help you cope with the rigors of having a mood disorder in the long term. Don’t underestimate the power of exercise.

Countless studies have already shown that exercise helps improve a person’s mood and even reduce physical pain caused by severe illness. It’s something that you have to do if you want to recover more quickly from your mood disorder. Of course, you still have to continue with your medication and regular psychotherapy. Proper self-care boosts the effectiveness of your primary treatments.

Can socializing help hasten a person’s recovery from a mood disorder?

The answer to this question is yes, it most certainly can! You see, lack of regular socialization is one of the key triggers of depression. If you don’t have anyone to talk to all day and you cannot find anyone to confide in, the pent up emotions may eventually trigger full blow depression.

You don’t have to start partying every night to see results. If you can reach out to someone once every few days that would already be an excellent start. The important thing here is that you’re keeping the lines of communication open and you’re willing to reach out first.

Reaching out first is a moot point for many depressed individuals for obvious reasons. However, there is no shortcut here because you can’t expect people to socialize with you if you’re unwilling to sustain the effort. The effects of socializing with others is immediate and believe it or not, talking to someone will boost your chances of enjoying a fast recovery.

As a parting tip, be sure to monitor your own mood so you become aware of your unique “mood DNA.” If you feel yourself reverting to old habits again, stop and simply change your direction, no matter how hard it may seem.