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Dealing with depression is awful.
(Thanks Captain State-The-Obvious)
No but really it is.
I suffered badly from it for around three years.
I have been suicidal, had times where I just didn’t function and times where life was so overwhelming I couldn’t cope.
I still get bad days of course, but I would firmly say I’m in recovery, or even that I have overcome the worst of my depression.
I’ve worked seriously hard to get my depression to a stage where I can actually live my life. So I thought I would share the 6 things that made my depression a billion times better because these 6 things might help you too!
Disclaimer time: If you think you have depression, or know you have depression make sure you go see your Doctor.
And run anything passed your Doctor that you’re trying out so they’re kept up to speed on your situation and can let you know if something is safe to try or not.
I’m not joking go see your Doctor. Even if you don’t want to take antidepressants (I didn’t) just make sure you’re checking in with your Doc.
Now, ready to find out what really helped my depression? Let’s go!
I found out about 5HTP when I was going through a particularly bad patch, in fact I said I would try one last thing and if that didn’t help then I would go on antidepressants.
(There are lots of reasons why I didn’t want to take antidepressants mainly due to previous family medical history. Please if they work for you then take them and never feel shame for taking medication for your medical condition!!!)
At the time my Mum was reading a book about Big Pharma. One of the stories in the book was that prior to the invention of Prozac, people would be take a Tryptophan supplement and that worked really well with no side affects. However Big Pharma had lobbied to make Tryptophan super difficult to get hold of in the USA, saying it was dangerous and unregulated, so they could sell Prozac instead.
Now I have no idea if this is true or not, but I decided that I would do some research and it seems Tryptophan was something used to help with depression and it had a good track record.
So I went to my local, very knowledgeable, health food shop and asked them about it. They say that Tryptophan was great, but 5 HTP was better as it was what Tryptophan would become in the body. You see Tryptophan is a amino acid your body uses to make serotonin, so 5HTP is one step closer to serotonin for your body.
So I went away with my bottle of 5HTP 100mg capsules and started taking it once a day. I eventually had to up my dose to three times per day and was taking it for around 6 weeks before I noticed a difference.
But wow what a freaking difference it was.
I can honestly say that 5HTP has made the biggest difference to my depression out of everything, so if your Doctor says you can take it I would definitely recommend everyone with depression giving it a go.
In case you were wondering I took Higher Nature’s 5HTP which you can get from Amazon.
*Make sure you check with your doctor before taking 5HTP just because it can’t be taken if you’re also taking antidepressant medication.
2) The Big Six
Something I really noticed was how easily my depression could be triggered. Like I would be having an acceptable day and suddenly I would feel a bit rough and bam, a full-blown depressive episode would happen.
So not cool.
My boyfriend realized that these were most common when I was trying to deal with a situation (like a problem at work or cleaning the house) alongside when I had neglected to fully look after myself.
In other words I had neglected The Big Six.
See I could do a lot of stuff (hello high functioning depression) like dealing with work issues, just not when I had neglected The Big Six as well.
I bet you really want to know what those Big Six are right? Well they are pretty obvious…
– Eating enough actual food
Not junk food. No human being ever has felt well from eating a load of junk food. At one point my Mum helped me set up a super easy meal plan, which I could just follow without having to think about it and thsi was amazing for my mental health.
– Drinking enough
This was a particularly big one for me as I get migraines as well and a migraine combined with a depressive episode is so not good.
Oh yeah and drink water. Not juice, squash, tea, coffee, soda, just drink loads of water. You can have the other stuff as well but you need to get your 2 liters of water in first.
– Sleep enough
Get enough sleep, it’s so so so so so so so important. My best nights sleep length is between 8 and 10 hours!
Also if you have trouble sleeping make sure you aren’t looking at any electronic screens (mobile, laptop, tablet, TV) two to three hours before bed. Trust me it makes a massive difference.
– Exercise everyday
Don’t feel you have to go crazy. Just get moving for 30 minutes each day; a walk is great! Although if you love the gym or classes then do that!
– Get outside at some point
I know it sounds stupid but at the end of the day we are animals. We come from a more natural world and just getting outside, even if it’s just to put the bins out is a big help.
You could always combine your exercise with your outside time by going for a walk outside…
(Captain State-The-Obvious speaks again…)
– Socialize with an actual person
Humans are social animals. I know us introverts find this very hard to believe but it’s true.
Just find a couple of minutes out of your day to have an actual conversation with someone, even if it’s just about the weather!
So that’s The Big Six. I know they sound crazy obvious, but when your feeling super down it’s easy to neglect one or all of them, and things always fall apart quicker when you do.
Interestingly after realizing these basic but important things were so crucial to my happiness I read this book which talks about the importance of a few very similar things and is well worth a read!
3) I quit my job that I hated to pursue something I cared about
I get not everyone can do this, especially if you have kids or financial commitments. But quitting the job I hated gave me such a huge lift and improvement on my depression I couldn’t leave it out.
Assess your life and check whether your depression could be firmly rooted in your environment.
- Are you in the wrong relationship?
- Job you dislike?
- Live somewhere that doesn’t bring you happiness?
Or anything like that? I think we often underestimate how much our environment affects our mood. Even though it seems very obvious.
So just make sure you aren’t doing too much of something you hate, or even just doing too much of something you don’t really enjoy, because that could have a profoundly negatively affect on your mental health.
4) I de-cluttered my house
My Mum and I had recently read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, which had made me consider just how much my ‘stuff’ might be weighing me down, and that gave me the oopmft I needed to join the minimalism trend and declutter my home.
There is strong evidence that a tidy environment, and a more minimalist approach to your possessions can have a positive effect on your mental state and I really can attest to that. Because for me it’s had a fantastically positive effect on my mood!
Plus that massive overwhelm I use to get when faced with having to tidy up (which when you have depression can get so so bad) is pretty much non-existent now.
I know it sounds a bit weird to suggest de-cluttering as a viable way of helping your depression but it really did work for me. In fact it worked so well that I wrote an entire blog post on the ten ways minimalism can help you overcome anxiety and depression!
5) I massively reduced decision fatigue
Decision fatigue is a big thing. There is a reason why super successful people will often have the exact same morning routine every day or wear similar clothes (think Mark Zuckerberg wearing that same grey t-shirt each day).
It’s because they don’t want to ‘spend’ their decision-making energy on thinking and making choices about things that just aren’t important.
You see we all have limited brain energy each day before we have to veg out and recharge. Some people can only do a couple of hours while others can do ten plus!
But at some point we just run out of steam. This is when we start making bad decisions, like a takeaway or nothing for dinner, or deciding to watch Netflix until 4am. We just didn’t have the energy to make decisions anymore, or at least good decisions.
This is why routines and good habits are so important. They stop you from having to decide what you are going to do next.
I mean imagine how exhausted you would be if you consciously thought through every decision related to your morning shower.
- What time should I get in the shower?
- How warm should I have the water?
- How much water should I have come out?
- How long should I stay in the shower?
- Shall I wash my body or not?
- Which shower gel should I use?
- How much shower gel should I use?
- How long should I spend washing?
- How long should I spend rinsing?
- Should I wash my hair?
- How much shampoo should I use?
- How long should I spend washing?
- How long should I spend rinsing?
- Should I condition as well?
- How much conditioner should I use?
- How long should I leave the conditioner on?
- How long should I spend rinsing?
Phew and the showers not even finished yet.
Now imagine doing that for every task you complete each day. You would be completely exhausted!
Considering how hard it is to make decisions when you’re depressed, every choice just seems to be so difficult, you can understand why reducing decision fatigue can really help depression!
Three of the ways I reduced my own decision fatigue:
- Having a meal plan so I didn’t have to decide what to eat, ever.
- De-cluttering really reduced the amount of clothes I owned making it much easier to pick something to wear each day.
- Writing a to-do list for each day the night before, so I can just complete the tasks without have to decide what to do and when. This really increases productivity.
See where you seem to get ‘stuck’ in your own life and then create an automation for that area.
For example, perhaps you find mornings and getting ready a massive struggle. If so create a morning routine checklist so you literally just do the next task on your list until you’re done without having to think!
6) I followed a meal plan.
I have touched on this a few times but it deserves it own spot because it did make such a massive difference to my depression when it was really bad.
Eating the right food is really important when you are unwell so having that process kind of automated for me was incredible.
Also having an eating disorder means that meal times can be fraught with panic and indecision, couple that with the depression and the meal plan was a life saver.
Now I’m feeling a lot better I am enjoying not having a meal plan in place and being a little more creative and fun with my food.
Although saying that I do plan my all dinners at the beginning of the week and have a few different breakfasts and lunches that I kind of rotate through. So really I am still meal planning, just in a slightly less regimented way.
But that strict meal plan was brilliant when I needed it and I wouldn’t hesitate to use it again if my depression relapsed.
So there you have it, the top 6 things that actually helped my depression:
1) Took 5HTP
2) Did not neglect The Big Six
– Eat enough good food
– Drink enough water
– Get enough sleep
– Get 30 minutes of exercise each day
– Go outside
– Socialize with at least one person
3) Quit a job I hated, so changed the negative in my environment
5) Reduced decision fatigue
6) Followed a meal plan
I know some of them seem a bit random but honestly I credit these six things to my depression improving. You may as well give them a try, I mean the worst that will happen is they won’t work for you.
But they could be the things that do!
If this post has helped you, please could you share it on Pinterest? It would really help me out!