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How to recognize and treat depression amidst COVID19

The year 2020 will forever be remembered as the year that one of the worst pandemics made its appearance into all of our lives. Its name, COVID19 otherwise known as the Coronavirus.

In the beginning many were relatively calm about the situation. One infection was initially reported with few more every day after that. Nobody had died. The term “Mountain out of a molehill” was used by many people me included. I did, however, start a journal and as the numbers started to rise, I would obsessively jot down the newest number of infections every day. Needless to say, that as the weeks progressed and the infection rate started moving up into the thousands, I gave up writing the numbers down and came to the realization that this situation was going to get worse before it was going to get better.

Unfortunately, many of us are starting to feel the depression, stress and anguish associated with this pandemic and the many disruptions that it has brought into our lives. The question remains, how do we combat this depression without turning to prescribed medication that could turn us into walking zombies?

The definition of depression

Simply put, depression is a mood disorder that can affect how you think and feel and can lead to many behavioral, emotional and physical problems. It is caused by increased cortisol levels which ultimately slows down the production of neurons to the brain which then in turn causes depression. Extreme stress can cause a person’s cortisol levels to rise and reduce serotonin in the brain. Serotonin regulates moods and happiness and decreased levels may lead to depression. Unfortunately, depression does not choose who it affects. Men, woman, adolescents and children can all suffer from depression.

Recognizing depression

Depression affects all age groups differently. It is important to know how to recognize depression in adults as well as adolescents and children.

Depression symptoms in Adults

• Deep feelings of sadness

• Feelings of hopelessness

• Outbursts of anger

• Irritability and frustration

• No interest in any normal day to day activities.

• Insomnia or oversleeping

Depression symptoms in Adolescents

• Extreme tiredness

• No interest in any activities

• Feelings of guilt and worthlessness

• Insomnia or sleeping too much

• Inability to concentrate

• Agitation

Depression symptoms in Children

• Anger and irritability

• Feeling sad

• Socially withdrawn

• Change in appetite

• Insomnia or oversleeping

• Outbursts of anger or crying (usually vocal)

Natural remedies for depression

Supplements

• St John’s wort

This supplement is known to increase the production of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin, which is a feel-good chemical is low when people are dealing with stress and depression.

• Omega-3 fatty acids

Found in fish such as sardines, trout and salmon and available in easy to take supplement forms. Taking this supplement can increase brain chemicals that combat depression.

• Saffron

This is a spice that comes from a flower belonging to the iris family called the crocus. Research has shown that it can help to alleviate mild depression.

• Folate

Low levels of folic acid can be linked to depression. Taking a daily dose of folic acid is known to reduce depression.

• Zink

This supplement is linked to mental function and can enhance behavior and learning thus assisting in reducing symptoms of depression.

Remember to always consult a physician before taking any supplements especially if you are already taking other medications.

Exercise and activities

Exercise is beneficial and helps to keep your mind and body occupied. When we exercise endorphins are released. Endorphins are a feel-good chemical that affect the brain in a positive way and reduce depression as well as boost self-confidence. Playing games, doing crafts and cooking is a wonderful way to spend time with your child and encourage good emotions which can help to assist in combatting depression. Remember to be patient with your child as they tend to lash out when faced with depression. Building a positive relationship between parent and child can help to ease the symptoms.

Nutrition

A balanced diet is essential, and nutrients found in certain foods can go a long way in the fight against depression. Eating a healthy diet and getting enough nutrients can assist a person in feeling physically and emotionally stronger. Selenium which is found in various foods has been suggested by scientists to improve mood and reduce depression. Foods rich in Selenium include whole grains, brazil nuts, some sea food and liver.

Sleep

It is very important to get enough sleep. Lack of sleep can make it even more difficult to get through the day and stay motivated especially during bouts of depression.

Unfortunately, this can become quite complex when trying to overcome depression. Disrupted sleep can add to depression, and in turn depression can add to disrupted sleep.

Although complex, here are some tips on how to get a good night’s sleep:

• Keep noise down. If noise is unavoidable try to use ear plugs.

• Keep your room slightly cool and always make sure to have enough ventilation.

• Make sure you are sleeping on a comfortable mattress and that your bedding is suitable to add to a good night’s rest. Sleeping on a comfortable pillow as well as investing in a weighted blanket is always a good idea, it has countless benefits.

• Reserve your bedroom for sleeping only and turn off all electronic devices.

Let your feelings out

People fighting depression have a need to be heard and understood. It is important to talk to colleagues or friends in order to combat the feelings of isolation and loneliness. Remember that you are not alone and there are other people who may be going through a similar thing.

Keeping a journal is also an excellent outlet and can help you to work through the feelings and emotions that you are facing. Writing in a journal is a good tool and enables you to notice patterns in your moods on different days and differentiate between what activities or outside influences are adding to your depression. It is a good idea to take a break from social media which can cause negative feelings and add to depression.

Positive affirmations

In many cases adults and children alike need affirmation from others that they are not alone and that everything is going to be alright. It is important to remind people dealing with depression of the following: Life is a beautiful and amazing gift.

I am grateful to be alive.

I am strong and can overcome any obstacle.

I am worthy of being happy and I deserve to have an amazing life.

I choose to be in control of my happiness and emotions.

Uncertain times

Amidst this period of uncertainty, we have to make a personal choice to look after ourselves and our loved ones mentally, physically and emotionally. Show empathy towards people who are dealing with depression and try to support them in any way that you can. I doubt any of us ever even dreamed that the world would experience a pandemic like this in our lifetime. The masks, the sanitizing, the social distancing. The new normal they say…… but this is anything but normal.

“It’s not a terrible thing that we feel fear when faced with the unknown. It is part of being alive, something we all share”.

Pema Chodron