May is National Mental Health Month. Life can be stressful and sometimes we can feel “a little depressed” or “a little blue” which usually lasts a few days. On the other hand, depression is a condition that is long term and may reduce your quality of life. Now is a good time to assess our mental health for depression.
Depression often goes undiagnosed and those suffering with depression may fail to recognize the symptoms. Depression should be diagnosed by a doctor. However, there are quick evaluations available on the internet to determine if you should follow-up with a doctor based on your symptoms. Mayo Clinic offers a quick quiz and the link is attached below.
Signs and symptoms of depression may include feelings of sadness, irritability or angry outbursts, loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities, insomnia or excessive sleeping, changes in appetite, decreased ability to concentrate, remember or make decisions, loss of energy and tire easily, and unexplained physical problems such as headaches and back pain. Other symptoms may include working, playing sports, or abuse of alcohol or other substances. Additionally, some engage in excessive risk taking or uncharacteristic fits of anger, controlling, abusive or violent behaviors. Depression can also result in problems with school or work, and family conflicts.
Depression may occur as the result of certain life events such as the death or loss of a loved one, financial problems, high stress or early childhood traumatic events. It can also happen with changes in hormones such as occurs with childbirth and menopause, diagnosis of serious health problems, thyroid problems or living with chronic pain. Some medications such as blood pressure medications, sleeping pills, etc. may also increase risk for depression.
While depression should be managed by a health care provider, there are some coping strategies that can help. First step is to take good care of yourself by eating a balanced diet, drinking plenty of non-caffeine liquids, and getting 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week. Set a regular bedtime and routine. Engage in relaxing activities such as yoga, meditation, and reading, praying, or writing in a journal. Establish a daily routine and make lists to stay on task. Stay active with family and friends, and participate in social activities. Learn to say “no thank you” or “not right now” as needed to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Avoid making important decisions when you are feeling very depressed. Join a support group and attend meetings or use on-line support.
Finally, if you have been prescribed medications for any condition take them as directed. Medications used for depression may take a few weeks before you feel a difference. Avoid use of alcohol and illicit drugs. Consider family counseling to help everyone cope better when a family member is suffering from depression. Remember failing to care for your mental health may have a negative impact on your physical health. Your mental health is important to your quality of life!
-Kim Vickous, MSN, RN
Mayo Clinic Depression Self-assessment. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/depression/MH00103_D
United States Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.) National Institute of Mental Health. Depression. [NIH publication 11-35621]. Retrieved from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression/depression-booklet.pdf