How to relieve depression in 11 simple steps

When I started this blog I knew nothing about blogging so I looked for resources to help. One of the best I found was the ProBlogger Podcast by Darren Rowse- and it is free.

(This post uses several affiliate links to Darren’s website and other affiliates-these are ways for you to support this blog at no cost to you. )

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. He is active on TwitterFacebookGoogle+ and LinkedIn.

I loved listening to his Australian accent (which I rarely hear living in Oklahoma), appreciated his easy to understand instructions, and connected with his genuinely friendly attitude.

First, mid-life crisis

In 2018 Darren extended his influence through a Facebook group called Find Your Spark, which is for

people who have the common goal of finding their spark in life.

Darren Rowse


That year Darren wrote an article for Medium explaining how he was experiencing a mid-life crisis. The Facebook group started as a place for people who read Darren’s ‘sparks article’ and wanted to take part in the resulting 30-day challenge. Now anyone is invited to join the group.

Then, depression

Early in 2019, Darren shared in the group that he had been dealing with depression several months before. By that time he was doing better, and after receiving much positive feedback in the group he wrote another article for Medium explaining what had helped him manage the depression.

I appreciate the first thing he said was “I am not a doctor so I am not giving advice.” But he thought what helped him might help others, and since I am a doctor and I agree that these things are helpful, I am going to share them with you and add my thoughts on each. Of course, if you want to go straight to Darren’s article, that’s fine too. Here is the link-

11 Things That Have Helped Me With Depression

1. Talking to my Doctor

Not everyone with depression needs to see a psychiatrist; there may not even be one near where you live. Family physicians receive extensive training in depressed mood, as well as the physical problems that can precipitate or result from depression, like sleep problems, weight gain or loss, chronic pain, and fatigue.

2. Medication

Not everyone needs antidepressant medication, but when they do, it can make a dramatic difference. Medication needs adequate time and dosage to be effective, and once that is reached should be continued long enough for the depression to stay in remission.

3. Exercise.

I routinely recommend that depressed persons exercise; actually, I recommend it to everyone. Done properly, it almost never causes a problem, and is known to improve depression, anxiety, insomnia, and chronic pain.

Here’s a post that offers you some motivation to move more with confidence and purpose.

4. Getting a dog

Probably any type of animal contact helps lift one’s mood. I found this true myself this summer when my husband was recuperating from an ankle fracture. Since he was non-weight bearing in a cast, he was confined to home except trips to the doctor so I stayed home with him other than work. During this time, we took care of a friend’s cat while he was out of town. We had not had an animal in our home in a long time but we quickly bonded with the kitty and found her entertaining and calming. Her presence took our minds off the pain and uncertainty about my husband’s injury.

In this post I explained how animals can help people heal .

People Whisperers

5. Telling friends and family

I agree with this as long as those friends and family are supportive. I would start with those closest, who probably already realize something is wrong. You do not need people who will blame you for your depression, tell you to “just snap out of it”, or advise unsound treatments.

6.Improving my diet

Like exercise, this one is universal. Even people who aren’t depressed can benefit from eating more plant based whole foods, like the ones I discussed in this previous post.

7. Journalling

Whether you call it a diary, journal, or blog, expressing ourselves in writing can be therapeutic. Or for some people it may be another form of writing, like poetry, essays, short stories. Other forms of expression like the visual and performing arts, photography, crafting, sewing, and needlework can be soothing, calming, and satisfying.

Digital Photography School Resources : Photo Nuts and Shots

8. Reading

Obviously, you’re a reader, although you may not be doing it to treat depression. I think this can help 2 ways.

First, by reading books and other media specifically about depression to learn more about its causes and treatment.

Second, by providing an outlet for fun, humor, reflection, learning, thinking, growing- all of which can deflect depressive thoughts and attitudes.

Come Read with me-Tyndale Rewards.com
Reader Rewards Club

9. Creating new projects

Much of this I alluded to in #7, but consider taking on new work projects, community activities, and family events. People with depression often feel overwhelmed, so don’t rush this one, so as not to aggravate those feelings.

Digital Photography School Resources

10. Volunteering

Depressed people often feel isolated and lonely and may avoid other people. Volunteering can make it easier to connect-unlike social events, volunteering usually has a set agenda so you know what you’re going to do and even say. That can take the pressure off trying to make small talk and be sociable when you don’t yet feel so. Sharing with others who need our help makes our own problems seem less intense.

Your community likely offers numerous opportunities to volunteer. Also check out this list for other opportunities to get involved in helping others.

Sharing the HEART of health

11. Prayer/meditation

Sometimes it has become almost a cliche to say to someone who is hurting, “I’ll keep you in my prayers.” But I think if we say that, we should mean it. Sometimes it can be hard to pray for oneself or to ask others for prayer, it may seem selfish or weak.

But prayer is an integral part of most faith traditions that I know of; Christians are encouraged to “pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) Thinking and meditating on scripture and other words of “faith, hope, and love” can counteract the negative thinking that usually drives depression.

You’re not alone.

Darren and I want to assure you there is hope for depression and you do not have to suffer alone. Start with your doctor and check out any other resources in your community and on-line. As Darren said at the end of his article,

if you know someone with depression who needs to read this — please pass it on.

Dealing with suicidal thoughts

Depression sometimes leads to suicidal thoughts, which may progress to plans, attempts, and loss of life. In a future post I’ll share how one well known woman faced and survived suicide. Read more now in this article by psychiatrist Dr. Melissa Welby

Suicidal thoughts and suicide prevention

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255

watercress words- exploring the HEART of mental health

In an upcoming post, I’ll share about a woman entertainer and author who also confronted depression and won.

I appreciate all of you who follow this blog; there are numerous other blogs to choose from so I am honored you chose to spend some time here. A special welcome to all my new followers from this past month.

To start following Watercress Words , use this form to get an email notification of new posts . Please find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn. Thanks so much.

                              Dr. Aletha 

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Simple and effective ways to manage chronic pain -part 2 of a series

In a previous post I talked about non-drug methods to manage pain in the spine-neck and back. You may want to review it now, but reading  this one first is fine. This post will focus on other painful conditions.

While people often discover methods to relieve pain that work for them, I am focusing here on treatments that are supported in the medical literature or recommended by knowledgeable professionals. For this post, I reviewed many articles which summarized current studies.

Finding trustworthy medical information

How do doctors know what works and what doesn’t? Since medical knowledge has changed since we went to medical school , how do we know what is current information?

We read literature pertinent to our fields on a regular basis, attend conferences, and talk to other doctors. But when we need a specific question answered , we do what you do-we Google it.

shelves in a library with adjacent computers

the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Library, located on the organization’s campus, in Atlanta, Georgia. The CDC collections span the field of public health. Print and electronic resources cover such topics as disease prevention, epidemiology, infectious diseases, global health, chronic diseases, environmental health, injury prevention, and occupational safety and health. The main library in Atlanta and selected branch libraries are open to the public. used courtesy CDC/ Emily Weyant; MSLIS; ORISE Fellow

One of the most frequently reviewed is PubMed listing  more than 28 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books. The service is free and anyone can use it. PubMed is a service of  the National Library of Medicine, the largest biomedical library in the world ,located in Bethesda, Maryland,

Another major reference is the Cochrane Library, a collection of databases in medicine and other healthcare specialties ; a fee is charged to use this service.

Basic points about complementary treatments for pain management

We should use medication and surgery when appropriate, but when these can’t be used or are not helpful, we can consider alternative methods, or what I and other doctors prefer to call complementary or integrative treatment.

This post focuses on symptom relief, not necessarily curative treatment.

Herbals and supplements are drugs and can be effective for certain conditions, but this post will discuss non-drug treatments only.

Many cases of pain improve spontaneously with no specific treatment.

Almost everything works sometimes.

There are few if any down side to any of these treatments. Used under supervision they are unlikely to have adverse side effects or result in long term complications.

The most important ingredient in managing a chronic or persistent condition is having a therapeutic relationship with your physician and other healthcare professionals- physical therapist , mental health counselor, nutritionist.

SIMPLE AND EFFECTIVE WAYS TO MANAGE CHRONIC PAIN-WATERCRESSWORDS.COM

Migraine

Migraine is more than just a bad headache; it is a disorder of the brain which causes pain as well as other common symptoms including nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and noise.  Dizziness, numbness, and  loss of vision occur less frequently.

diagram of the human brain.

The major parts of the brain, including the pineal gland, cerebellum, spinal cord, brain stem, pituitary gland, and cerebrum are labeled. I photo courtesy of Source: National Cancer Institute Creator: Alan Hoofring (Illustrator)

Most people with migraine require some type of medication for relief, but non-drug treatments can supplement meds and can be helpful for prevention. Integrative treatments that work according to studies include

  • acupuncture
  • biofeedback
  • CBT-cognitive behavioral therapy
  • exercise
  • meditation
  • relaxation training
  • yoga

Fibromyalgia

I mentioned fibromyalgia in my post about back and neck pain, but  include it here  since it causes pain in other body areas.

Fibromyalgia seems to be a disorder of nerves which makes them super sensitive, leading to diffuse muscle and joint pain that can become disabling. Complementary treatments recommended include

  • Mind-body-guided imagery, hypnosis, biofeedback, mindfulness meditation , relaxation
  • Tai chi
  • Hydrotherapy, balneotherapy

Osteoarthritis of the knees (degenerative arthritis)

It is likely that arthritis in other joints responds to these therapies but there aren’t enough large studies to confirm.

  • Acupuncture,
  • tai chi
  • walking and  strengthening exercises
  • Balneotherapy-bathing in hot water mineral baths

people in a gym exercising

photo courtesy Amanda Mills, CDC.gov, Public Health Image Library

 

 

 

 

Tessa Frank  discusses how she became frustrated when increasing doses of opioids didn’t relieve her chronic pain, and what she’s doing now to manage her pain.

How I’m Managing My Chronic Pain Without Opioids

“While I no longer use opioids, I do use non-opioid prescription medications and a spinal cord stimulator to provide pain relief for my CRPS, complex regional pain syndrome, a chronic, debilitating neuropathic pain condition.

I’m also hyperaware of how stress triggers my increased feelings of pain, so to mitigate stress, I personally have found relief in meditation, relaxation and yoga among other approaches.” (excerpt)

 

 

 

 

If you didn’t read it earlier, here’s a link to the previous post about treating pain, along with a brief excerpt.

Surprising effective ways to relieve back pain

“Pain in the spine results from many medical conditions, ranging from minor to life threatening. Most cases are due to routine or excessive physical activity or a minor injury causing strain of the muscles, tendons, and ligaments, and will go away with no or minimal intervention in less than 12 weeks.”

 

 

The affiliate product links in this post are for illustration and information only, and do not imply endorsement.

I am grateful when you like and share this post on social media.

Please consider helping support this blog by using my affiliates. You’ll find links in the side bars, on the home page, and on the resource page.

In a future post I will talk about  non-drug treatments for other conditions.

always exploring the HEART of health with you.

                       Dr. Aletha  WATERCRESSWORDS.COM-exploring the HEART of health

Surprising effective ways to relieve back pain

What is the most common disability world wide? What most commonly causes workplace absence?

Would you be surprised that it is low back pain?

Pain in the spine, including the neck and back, affects 85% of people at some time. I’ve had it, my husband has had it, and likely you have too. Low back pain causes $7.4 billion in lost revenue from lost or decreased workplace productivity. Add to that the health care costs and it exceeds $100 billion.

Let’s explore  what causes back pain, and what we can do about it, focusing on non-drug non-surgical methods.

 SURPRISING EFFECTIVE WAYS TO RELIEVE BACK PAIN -WATERCRESSWORDS.COM

 

 

BASIC POINTS

This post will explain some of the treatments which are backed by medical studies and recommended by medical experts.

We should use medication and surgery when appropriate, but when these can’t be used or are not helpful, we can consider alternative methods, or what I and other doctors prefer to call complementary or integrative treatment.

This post focuses on symptom relief, not necessarily curative treatment.

Herbals and supplements are drugs and can be effective for certain conditions, but this post will discuss non-drug treatments only.

Many cases of back pain improve spontaneously with no specific treatment.

Almost everything works sometimes.

There are few if any down side to any of these treatments. Used under supervision they are unlikely to have adverse side effects or result in long term complications.

The most important ingredient in managing a chronic or persistent condition is having a therapeutic relationship with your physician and other healthcare professionals- physical therapist , mental health counselor, nutritionist.

doctor holding a patient's hand

I do not recommend you pursue any of the treatments mentioned in this post without first consulting a qualified health professional about your condition.

What causes back and neck pain

Pain in the spine results from many medical conditions, ranging from minor to life threatening. Most cases are due to routine or excessive physical activity or a minor injury causing strain of the muscles, tendons, and ligaments, and will go away with no or minimal intervention in less than 12 weeks.

a human skeleton

The spine connects the head to the rest of the body. It extends from the skull to the pelvis and legs, and along the way attaches to the shoulders and rib cage.

Some cases are due to serious but treatable conditions like

  • Infection
  • Major injury, causing broken bones (fractures) or more severe injury to the muscles and nerves.
  • Cancer of the spine, which may have started somewhere else in the body and spread to the bones, called metastasis.
  • Various forms of arthritis- degenerative, rheumatoid, psoriatic
  • Disorders of the intervertebral discs, the soft jelly like cushions between the bones of the spine, the vertebrae
  • Fibromyalgia– a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain processes pain signals.

 

Managing pain in the neck or spine

The first step in treating back pain is to identify the underlying cause and treat that appropriately, which might involve anti-inflammatory medication, antibiotics, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and/or injections.

But sometimes pain persists after these treatments, or none of those treatments are appropriate or effective.

Medications for back pain

Patients often expect, and doctors have traditionally turned to pain relieving medications starting with the non prescription drugs like acetaminophen (Tylenol) and the anti-inflammatories called NSAIDS. A muscle relaxer might be added if muscle spasm is present. If those are not sufficient, the next step was often narcotics or opioids.

But we know that the benefit and effectiveness of these drugs do not always outweigh the side effects and risks so we look harder at non-drug methods to relieve pain. And studies comparing them indicate they can be as effective if not more so than drugs.

More about this at my related post

7 overused drugs

 

 

Integrative medical treatments for back pain

 

Lifestyle changes

Back pain sufferers should start by avoiding or modifying activities that cause or aggravate back or neck pain .

  • In  the workplace- more frequent breaks, limits on lifting, a different chair, adjusting the height of a desk or computer monitor or keyboard.
  • At home- changes in performing chores like vacuuming, mopping, gardening, laundry.
  • Smoking may not cause back pain, but use of tobacco seems to increase the risk of developing back pain. Another good reason to not start or to stop if you already start.     7 surprising reasons to be smoke free
  • Excess weight also contributes to back problems,maybe by putting more stress on the spine, or by limiting physical activity. Losing those extra pounds or kilograms may decrease pain. Obesity and pain- you can lose both this year

 

sign says NO smoking, wilderness area

When walking, wear proper shoes; and NO smoking.

 

 

Physical activity/Exercise for spine pain

All guidelines for back pain treatment encourage continued physical activity rather than bedrest, and agree than any activity is better than nothing.

a bed in a room

Rest in bed only for severe pain and for short intervals.

Some of the frequently recommended activities include

Meditative movement therapies are exercises that include body movement or positioning and focus on breathing and relaxation. Examples include Tai chi and yoga.

Other types of exercises which involve a combination of stretching and strengthening, as well as aerobic conditioning. This includes Pilates and other exercise, walking, jogging, dancing, swimming, and many sports.

jogging trail sign

Get up and move more.

When using any exercise to treat back pain you should consider working with a certified instructor who is aware of your condition. Don’t do any positions or movements that cause or aggravate the pain.

 

 

 

 

 

Topical therapies

    • Heat and/or ice applications
    • Hydrotherapy or aquatics – the use of water or an aquatic environment (includes exercise in water)

 

 

 Manual therapy

  • Massage
  • Spinal manipulation, osteopathic or chiropractic

 

 

Acupuncture/Acupressure

Acupuncture, a staple of traditional Chinese medicine, which is becoming more popular in the Western world, uses very fine needles to stimulate various pressure points around the body and re-shift the body’s balance of energy. The practice is also thought to improve blood flow and increase levels of the body’s natural pain-relieving chemicals. Acupressure uses the same principle with pressure instead of needles.

 

 

An acupressure mat (affiliate link)

 

 

Dr. Michelle Ramirez explains more about  acupuncture and its uses at this link.

A look at acupuncture

 

 

 

Mindfulness based stress reduction/CBT(cognitive behavioral therapy)

Does the way you think affect pain? Apparently so. Studies show that “mind-body” approaches that reduce stress and enhance relaxation can reduce functional limitations and distress from back pain.

WebMD explains how this works-

“Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of talk therapy that helps people identify and develop skills to change negative thoughts and behaviors.

CBT says that individuals — not outside situations and events — create their own experiences, pain included.

And by changing their negative thoughts and behaviors, people can change their awareness of pain and develop better coping skills, even if the actual level of pain stays the same.”

Managing Chronic Pain: A Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Approach

 

 

 

 

 

The North American Spine Society offers

10 Tips for a Healthy Back

feet in sports shoes

Don’t let back pain keep you from  being active and enjoying life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The product links in this post are for illustration only, and do not imply endorsement.

Please share this post on social media and follow this blog.

In a future post I will talk about how to manage other types of pain, and use of non-drug treatments for other conditions.

exploring the HEART of health with you.

    Dr. Aletha  

 

 

 

I’m pleased to share this post at

Encouraging Hearts and Home

a link up of family friendly blog posts every Thursday

 

 

This affiliate link can help you get fit at home on your own terms. I am enjoying working out with the Aaptiv trainers. Give it a try.

Health lessons from the Women’s World Cup

I watched the final game of the Women’s World Cup between Japan and the United States.  Tuning in a few minutes late I was stunned to see I  missed the first 2 goals! Believe me, I paid attention the rest of the game and was not disappointed. I admired the skill, talent and energy of both teams and with other Americans cheered the United States team’s victory  clinching the world champion title 5-2.

Besides enjoying the action I was more impressed by  the class and grace demonstrated by both teams as winners and as losers. That is the greatest lesson we can teach children and I hope parents used that as a “teachable moment”.

2015-07-06 08.02.56

I observed the superb fitness level of these and the other participants in the World Cup. Running up and down a field , kicking a ball and outmaneuvering opponents for 90 minutes is exhausting, but they made it look almost easy.  We can’t all be world class athletes  but we can be physically active in some way.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend 

  • moderate-intensive physical activity for 150 minutes or more per week

  • vigorous-intensity activity for at least 75 minutes per week

  • engaging in muscle strengthening activity at least twice per week.

 

Medical studies show that exercise can prevent or improve many chronic health conditions and lack of exercise contributes to many diseases.

  • Physical activity may reduce the risk of cancers of the breast, colon, uterus, prostate and pancreas.

  • Regular exercise may help prevent diabetes and heart disease.

  • Exercise can relieve joint and back pain due to arthritis.

  • Depression is treated with physical activity successfully

 

With proper guidance, anyone can perform some exercise or other physical activity regularly. I stay active with walking, bicycling, ballroom dancing, gardening and have recently tried yoga

 

ballroom dancing

dancing in a competition with my pro instructor

I have more energy and stamina when I am active regularly, and get sluggish if I don’t.

What do you do to stay active, fit and moving? please share and encourage someone else.

More information here

Physical Activity Basics from the CDC