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Physical Healing in Depression Recovery

Feeling depressed is not just a mental state.  Depression is a debilitating whole-body condition that must be addressed physically as well as mentally.  The whole-person approach accepts the body as a complex organism and looks for systemic reasons for depression.

As Dr. Robert A Anderson, founding president of the American Holistic Medical Association, says: “A definitive diagnosis of depression should not be made until physical conditions have been surveyed.” (1)

The body is not merely along for the ride into depression.  The body is an active participant, with the capacity to aggravate or improve symptoms of depression.  The first stop on the road to recovery from depression for many people is a physician’s office.  After all, they feel bad.  Whatever the factors leading to their depression, many will attempt to obtain a medical diagnosis for physical symptoms.

There are studies showing that addressing physical conditions can have a dramatic effect in overcoming depression.  Psychiatrist Richard Hall has found “evidence [of] dramatic and complete clearing of psychiatric symptoms when medical treatment for underlying physical disorders was instituted.” (2)

The body holds its own special key to overcoming depression.  Physical illnesses as well as physical conditions that may not be diagnosed or readily apparent can contribute to depression.  Yet even when blood work and medical examinations are done, the physical culprits involved in depression can be overlooked.  Like a detective, you need to be informed and persistent to discover the truth.  To begin, let’s examine several known contributors to depression.

Mental and Health Conditions:

  • Hypoglycemia.  This can cause weakness, mental dullness, confusion, and fatigue.  All of these symptoms, when taken together, can exacerbate depression.
  • Heart Disease.  Research has shown that one out of every five people who suffer a heart attack will become depressed.  Conversely, a link between depression and heart disease was found in a study at the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, which reported that depressed people were four times more likely to have a heart attack than people who were not depressed.
  • Anemia.  This is a condition in which the blood lacks iron.  Symptoms of anemia, similar to depression, include fatigue, weakness, and lethargy.
  • Sleep Apnea.  This is a condition where the air passages in the throat close off during sleep.  The resulting symptoms are fatigue, mental confusion, and lethargy — all associated with a state of depression.
  • Diabetes.  This is the body’s inability to regulate its own blood sugar.  The constant up-and-down stress of elevated versus low blood-sugar levels can compromise the body’s ability to regulate important nutrient absorption and hormonal levels which provide protection from depressive mood swings.
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  This depressive cycle — also known as the winter blues — is tied to the body’s secretion of melatonin, a hormone that regulates the body’s biological clock and coordinates the sleep-wake cycle.
  • Heredity.  Depression appears to run in families.  Educate yourself on the health background of your family, especially parents or siblings who have experienced depression, whether clinically diagnosed or not.
  • Dehydration.  Most people don’t drink enough water.  Dehydration impairs the body’s ability to perform vital functions, causing fatique, weakness, dizziness, and mental dullness.

For more information on mental and health conditions associated with depression, see Dr. Jantz’s new book, Five Keys to Dealing with Depression.

(1) Robert A. Anderson, Clinician’s Guide to Holistic Medicine (NY: MacGraw-Hill Publishing, 2001), 243.

(2) R.C.W. Hall, E.R. Gardner, M.K. Popkin, and S.K. Stickney, “Unrecognized Physical Illness Prompting Psychiatric Admission: A Prospective Study,” American Journal of Psychiatry 138, no. 5 (May 1981): 629-35

Being Intentional in Your Response to Depression

What do we do when life feels like it’s piling on top of us?  In depression, we bury our optimism, hope, and joy and react with anger, fear, or guilt, allowing overwhelming circumstances to knock us flat.  Emotional depression can become an automatic reaction to life’s trials.  Reactions are automatic, but responses need not be.  Depression does not have to be automatic.

Even if we may immediately react negatively, we can learn to intentionally reassert positive emotions.  This may not be our first reaction, but our first reaction doesn’t need to be our only response.  Albert Einstein once said, “You can’t solve a problem on the same level that it was created.  You have to rise above it to the next level.”  Our reactions are on one level, but we can learn to take our responses to the next level.

The next level above automatic reaction is intentional response.  You need to be intentional in your response to life and its circumstances.  You need to deliberately recognize, promote, and sustain optimism, hope, and joy.  In the midst of depression, the thought of sustaining even a modicum of positive feelings may appear overwhelming, a burden too heavy to bear.  But aren’t you already carrying around the weight of emotional baggage?  Think how much energy it takes to carry around anger, fear, and guilt.  When you begin to put those emotions down, you will find strength for optimism, hope, and joy.

Negative emotions may be part of your personal landscape.  If that is the case, you’ll need to intentionally seek out and rediscover optimism, hope, and joy.  Optimism, hope, and joy are responses that come from within you and are not necessarily derived from your outside circumstances.  Regardless of the circumstances, you determine to remain optimistic; you decide to have hope; you derive joy.

Intentionally choosing how to respond to life is not a trivial matter; this attitude can save your life.  In his book Man’s Search of Meaning, Holocaust survivor Viktor E. Frankl set forth to answer the question why some people lived through the Nazi Germany concentration camps and some did not.  He found that it rarely had anything to do with their physical state.  Some prisoners who were extremely debilitated or ill continued to live, while some others who were in much better physical shape died.  The difference, he found, was in their attitude to life.

Frankl discovered that in the final analysis, strength for living is found in the ability to choose your attitude — your response — to any given situation.  The situations he and others dealt with on a daily basis were deprivation, starvation, physical disease, and beatings.  Yet in the midst of the hell of the concentration camp, he and others intentionally chose to respond with optimism and hope.

Frankl, who could find positives in the midst of a Nazi concentration camp, demonstrates that each of us has the opportunity to find positives in our own situations.  We will not always have control over our circumstances, but we can determine to hold on to optimism, hope, and joy — to recognize them, promote them, and sustain them.  This is the challenge for those who are depressed.

Dr. Gregory Jantz is the founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE  and author of 30 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety, and others.

Managing Your Time

What do you think of when you hear the phrase time management?  If you are a go-getter, you may hear those words and think of how many tasks you can cram into a single day.  However, I didn’t say task management; I said time management.

Healthy time management, meant to reduce stress and increase quality of life, includes more than merely scheduling tasks.  Time management means incorporating times to accomplish tasks, yes, but also times of rest, reflection, recreation, and communication.  Each of these is needed daily to advance priorities and goals.

If you are a stay-putter, you may hear “time management” and think of how impossible it is for you to get anything done, no matter how much time you have.  For you, time management means incorporating effort, progress, completion, and accomplishment into each day in order to advance priorities and goals.

Time — no matter how much of it you have — needs to be harnessed and controlled: each morning (or even the night before), decide what you goals and priorities are for the day.  If the day is a word day, then arriving to work on time and being ready to actively participate are going to be main priorities.

However, most people don’t work sixteen-hour days, so there will be hours in each day for other activities.  Decide ahead of time what those activities should be based upon what you want to accomplish as well as on the type of person you want to be.

For example, as you’re on your way to work, you might decide to listen to music or an informative or informational podcast.  You might decide to spend the time in quiet reflection, meditation, or prayer, depending upon your mode of transport.  At lunch, you might send a quick text, or place a quick call, to a friend or family member.  On your way home, you might catch up on the news and take time to disconnect from your workday.  If you don’t intentionally plan your day, your day will plan you.

If the day is not a workday, then you will have more time to harness and manage.  There is a danger in thinking that you have all the time in the world over the weekend, but how many Sundays (or the equivalent) have you gone to bed, realizing that you didn’t get done half of what you wanted.  Instead of being satisfied with the goals accomplished, you’re distressed about tasks left undone.  Now not only do you have the week ahead, but you’re also playing catch-up from the week just ended.

When it comes to time management, the challenge for go-getters is to balance time with reflection.  The challenge for stay-putters is to balance time with achievement.

Dr. Gregory Jantz is the founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE  and author of 35 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety, and others.

Depression: Evaluating Your Activities

A familiar childhood fairy tale is “The Three Little Pigs.” Each pig builds his house out of a different material in order to protect himself from the huffing and puffing of the big, bad wolf. The house made out of straw is the one made of brick. Even though it takes more time and work, the brick house is seen as worth the effort because it provides lasting protection.

How does this relate to depression? By examining your life patterns and making positive changes requires your time and effort, but doing so is like building your personal house out of brick. By making changes, and understanding the need for those changes, you are construction—brick by brick—a strong, resilient house that can stand up to the huffing and puffing of life’s storms.

While constructing your house with brick, you’ll also need to remove some of the inferior materials you’ve used to patch weak spots. Remember, this restructuring process will not diminish you but make you stronger. Consider this process of taking stock of your life as your own personal remodeling project.

As you spend time thinking about the activities you are currently engaged in, and whether or not those activities are filling or draining, the key to these activities is in finding a healthy balance for you. This will depend upon your personality, your stage in life, and your unchangeable life factors. You may be the sort of person who simply needs more time to be inactive or still than others seem to need. Or you may be the kind of person who is energized by activity and interaction.

While it is possible to alter your personality to some degree, each of us has individual traits that we need to factor into our activities. We are not alike, and the same activity or activity level will affect us differently. Some of the many positive outcomes from overcoming depression can be a deeper understanding of your personality, insight into what characteristics you want to enhance and strengthen, and knowledge of what aspects you are ready to change or let go.

In balancing your activities, be aware of any that are negative and occur frequently. These are activities you will want to evaluate for change.

It may not be possible for you to completely eliminate a significant draining activity in your life, but it is possible to evaluate that activity and intentionally purpose to find ways to make that activity include filling moments. Sometimes the filling aspects of a draining activity come from the relationships you build with others as you go through that activity. Don’t overlook the silver lining of friendships in the storm clouds of life.

As you continue to evaluate your list of activities, look for filling activities that occur infrequently. Determine whether or not you are able to increase the frequency of these activities. Is there any way to engage in a similar activity that will also be personally filling? You may take an art class once a week that is personally rewarding but are not able to devote the time for another class. You can, however, get outside and walk through your neighborhood, letting nature’s canvas inspire you for that one class you can take. It is amazing how such small changes can add optimism, hope, and joy to your life. Moving forward doesn’t always happen in giant leaps. Sometimes, the most significant progress is made in a series of small steps.

If someone you know is suffering from depression, remember that it’s important to seek professional guidance when diagnosing and treating depression. For more information about depression treatment, fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today. The Center • A Place of HOPE was recently ranked as a Top 10 facility in the country for the treatment of depression, and our team is standing by to help you and your loved ones.

How a Good Night’s Rest Affects Depression

A good night’s rest is not something you do; it’s something you experience.   Depression interferes with the healthy production and operation of serotonin and melatonin, neurotransmitters used for the body’s sleep-wake cycle. As you work toward recovery from depression, you will want to assist your body in any way you can to achieve this restful sleep.

Try intentionally preparing for rest. This means allowing your body and your mind time to transition into sleep. Far too many of us carry on a stress-filled day right up to the time we climb into bed and then expect sleep to automatically arrive. This winding-down period could consist of listening to relaxing music, reading for enjoyment, listening to soothing natural sounds on an MP3 player or CD, or quiet meditation.

Give yourself enough time to get adequate rest. Eight hours, granted, is an average, but be aware of when your body might require more sleep. Anytime the body is under stress, physical or emotional, it will require more rest to rebuild and replenish. Five to six hours a night is probably not going to provide what you need. Resting adequately may require you to make choices about activities so you can establish a healthy routine of getting to bed on time.

Establish a set time to go to bed each night, whether weekdays or weekends. Studies show that it is far better for your sleep cycle to go to bed and get up each day at approximately the same time. You are helping your body to establish a biorhythm. If you swing from ten o’clock one night to two o’clock the next, your body is under stress having to adjust to wide swings of time. Do yourself a favor and find a time that works well for each day of the week, and then stick with it.

Cut out caffeine in the late afternoon and evening hours. Caffeine, as a stimulant, can interfere with your body’s ability to know when it is actually tired. Instead of drinking coffee or caffeinated soda at dinner, drink some of your water or an herbal tea.

Reduce the activity, noise, and light levels as you go into the evening hours. Televisions blaring, lights blazing, and people running around frantically at ten o’clock at night is not conducive to rest. Start turning off lights, turning down volumes, and putting away activities as the evening progresses.

Another way you can help your body relax and ease into sleep is by not eating late in the evening. Evening snacking leaves food in your stomach that must be digested, and your entire body cannot fully rest if your digestive system stays up late to process your ten o’clock snack. One exception can be a small cup of hot tea, the kind that promotes a calming emotional effect.

Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 29 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.

Healing Depression with Whole-Person Care

Applying the whole-person approach to recovery can individualize treatment for depression. This approach is based upon recognition of the unique components of an individual’s life and how they interweave to form the whole person. Below, we will explain each aspect of the whole-person approach and how, taken together, they can identify real answers to curing depression.

Emotional Influences

We are emotional beings, and we choose to acknowledge or express those emotions in outward forms. We are never far from our feelings and emotions. They trip us up when we are stressed or tired. They sneak up on us at unexpected moments. They support our expectations, fuel our disappointments, and energize our victories.

When depression settles into a person’s life, emotions become confused. A promotion at work may produce thoughts of despair and fear. Minor daily irritants can become major life hurdles. The joy of others can become a gloomy reminder of inner insecurities. Even if life appears to be going well, our emotional balance can become tilted toward depression.

Environmental Influences

We live in a world where complexity greets us every morning. What are we going to wear? What are we going to eat? How are we going to arrive at work? Which task are we going to complete? What call are we going to deal with first? Should we answer our cell phone, our home phone, respond to our e-mail, reply to our voice mail—and in what order? From the moment we awake, the assault begins. We are overwhelmed. The assault demands a response, and retreating into depression can be that response.

Relational Influences

We constantly use our personal relationships to determine our position in life. We observe the world and people around us, and we make decisions about who we are based on how we believe others perceive us. We define our position by the people with whom we interact. Then, we use this information to triangulate our state of well-being, factoring in what we’ve learned or observed in the past, a view of our present circumstances, and the potential outcome for our future.

Depending on our ability to reason truthfully, these relationships provide us with a sense of well-being or foreboding. The uniqueness of our circumstances and our relationships can either help or hinder our ability to deal with these ever-present thoughts and emotions.

Physical Influences

In the past, the answer to a broken-down spirit was a pharmaceutical fix that relaxed the physical body. But as we learn more and more about the interworkings of mind, body, and spirit, we are discovering that the potential exists for our bodies to act as a partner in recovery, instead of as an opponent.

Spiritual Influences

Wrestling with questions of worth and purpose is a spiritual issue. Who am I? What is my purpose? Where is joy? When will this be over? Why is this happening? How did I get this way? The spiritual component of a person’s life can provide direction toward both the right questions and the needed answers.

At The Center • A Place of HOPE, we look at each individual’s emotional, environmental, relational, physical, and spiritual history and health. Together, these elements provide keys to understanding why a person is depressed and opens a doorway to his or her recovery. Whole-person care is the foundation of our practice. If you or a loved one are suffering from depression and are ready to find true recovery and joy, fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today.