Why It’s So Important to Fight Depression

Being emotionally healthy is essential for those who have RA and for their family — it can alter the course of the disease and supports better pain control.

“Emotional Wellness Helps RA” is the title of a recent post on PsychCentral that caught my eye:

http://psychcentral.com/news/2009/08/05/emotional-wellness-helps-ra/7550.html

The incidence of depression among people with RA is twice that of the general population.  An additional study found that when spouses and partners of those with RA are depressed it correlates with a poorer prognosis for the person with RA.

Being emotionally healthy is essential for those who have RA and for their family — it can alter the course of the disease and supports better pain control.

So how do you become “emotionally healthy”?

What the studies look at is depression — that feeling of hopelessness, powerlessness and the sense that things will never change.  Other symptoms of depression can be persistent anger, sleeplessness (or always wanting to sleep), or an overall grey feeling — nothing seems good or worth looking forward to.

These feelings can creep up and subtly worsen over time.  Early intervention is the best way to stave off a more serious bout of depression.

Yet most people don’t treat depression.  They hope it will just go away.  They don’t want to be whiners, or feel “weak.”  Many folks also don’t want to take more pills or feel like they have another disease, so they just try to ignore those downbeat thoughts.  They try to “act” cheerful or okay.

The bad news is that this strategy doesn’t work.  And depression is wily and tenacious once it takes hold.

Dealing with it early is the most effective approach.  Here are a few ways to start if you find yourself regularly feeling blue or blah:

Talk to Somebody

Find a neutral, supportive person who can listen.  It is best to rely on someone who knows something about depression — a religious leader, or a medical support person like a nurse or therapist.  Many communities have free or low-cost clinics that can be a great place of help and hope.

Talking to a professional can help you put your concerns in the hands of someone who is an expert in these matters.  You will get lots of good advice and perspective.

Physical Movement

This is free, easy, and one of the most researched tools to combat depression.  I didn’t say exercise because that can connote a huge program that feels too overwhelming before you even begin.  What helps is just getting your body in motion.  A short walk every day.  Moving some parts of your body — stretching, breathing, whatever you can do.

The more often you get your self moving each day, the more it helps.

Humor

OK, you don’t find very much funny.  But laughing out loud or a good chuckle lifts your spirits and shifts your brain chemistry.  What tickles each of our funny bones is very individual, so you may have to experiment.  Is it a silly spot on YouTube?  An old movie like When Harry Met Sally?  Jokes from the Reader’s Digest?  Jon Stewart?

Give yourself the prescription of two funny contacts a day.

Create Community

Who is in your tribe?  Pain and depression lead to isolation, which makes pain and depression worse.  Where are your friends?  To whom do you talk?  Facebook friends and chat rooms are a good place to begin, but be willing to move on to real-time relationships.  Invite someone for coffee.  Go out for breakfast after church or temple.

I know, you don’t feel like doing this.  It’s hard.  I get it.  Your cave feels safe.  But you need to get into the world and be around people.  Set a goal.  One outreach in two days.  Then you can build from there.

One of my favorite blogs is The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  The other day she had this great line:  “The absence of feeling bad isn’t enough to make you feel good — you must strive to find sources of feeling good.”

As always, you are in charge, and your sources of feeling good are particular to you.  Remember it is an active process — not a passive one.  Follow the practice of identifying what these sources of feeling good are.  You have to be willing to act on what you know and feel.

Depression is tough — but I know you can take the first step towards healing.

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