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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

How to Help a Friend With Depression Learn to Love Life Again

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How to Help a Friend With Depression Learn to Love Life Again

While there seems to be a ton of articles and advice available that is tailored for those who are struggling with depression, there doesn’t seem to be too many articles made for those who have friends that are struggling with depression. However, helping a friend through difficult times is just as important!

For those of you who are unfamiliar with depression, depression is a mental illness, and can be mild or severe in nature. It is characterized by a persistent somber mood and a lack of interest or excitement in life and activities.

Clinically speaking, depression can be mild, moderate, or severe in presentation. To be officially diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, as noted in the DSM-5, a person must consult with and be under treatment from a mental health professional. However, many people suffer the symptoms of depression regardless of whether they have an official diagnosis.

If you know someone close to you who is dealing with depression and needs some extra support in coping with symptoms of depression, here are some tips to help your friend cope and learn to love life again!

1. Remind Them That They’re Important and Loved

Depression has the ability to make someone feel as though they are not important or loved. This could not be further from the truth! However, those who are dealing with depression may not be able to see this.

The most important thing that you can do for your friend is let them know that you are there, and that you care about them immensely. Although this may not settle in immediately for your friend, this type of support reminds them that their contributions are important and will help them to find the motivation to seek out options for recovery.

Even more important, you must back up this emotional support with supportive actions. If your friend needs help with anything, make sure to go out of your way to prove that they can rely on you to help them out in their time of need.

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When your friend begins to see that they have the support of another person, they will begin to realize that they are worthy of love and happiness, which plays a big role in the recovery process.

2. Reintroduce Activities That They Used to Love

As was stated earlier in the article, depression often prevents a person from enjoying the activities that they used to love.

One of the biggest tips that health websites provide for those dealing with depression is to continue doing activities that previously enjoyed doing, even if it offers no joy at the moment.

When you have time, reach out to your friend and plan an event that you can do together at some point during the week. Ask them what they used to enjoy before they became depressed and take note of these activities so you can schedule more plans in the future.

These plans will help them to get out of the house, get back into their old lives, and guide them towards the realization that they are not alone and have people that they can rely on.

3. Provide a Safe and Secure Place to Vent Their Feelings

Not everyone understands depression and this lack of understanding can sometimes cause people to get frustrated with people who are depressed and who are struggling to be positive or find the light.

Patience is a virtue, however, and it is important that you remain patient and withhold judgment while your friend is going through this difficult time.

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Give them a secure place to vent their feelings and lend them an ear without attempting to give them unsolicited advice. Individuals who are dealing with depression just need someone to connect with and talk to. This can make a world of difference!

Of course, if they do ask for your advice and you think you have something to offer them, go for it! If you don’t know what to say, however, it is sometimes better to say nothing than to say the wrong thing.

You can even recommend that they seek help from a mental health professional if you feel that you are not equipped to offer the advice that they are looking for.

4. Offer Words of Encouragement and Positivity

There is nothing better than feeling terrible and hearing kind and uplifting words from your friend.

If you notice that your friend is beginning to experience self-doubt or starting to talk down to themselves when they are around you, offer kind words and remind them of who they are.

Depression often provides people with a view of themselves through a distorted lens. Treating depression calls for challenging negative thoughts, which can be hard if you’re coping on your own and do not have any reminders of who you used to be.

Lift your friend up when possible and reintroduce them to that older version of themselves so they can begin challenging those thoughts on their own.

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It is also important to note that you shouldn’t overdo it when it comes to encouragement and positivity. Not everyone dealing with depression has a high tolerance for these things and pushing positivity on someone could have the opposite effect desired!

5. Use Humor to Heal

They say that laughter is the best medicine. This is especially true when it comes to depression!

In fact, one study conducted by the Sapienza University of Rome found that laughter can actually improve your mood and lessen the effects of the symptoms that one experiences while dealing with depression.

Whenever you’re with your friend, make your best effort to make them laugh. No matter what they find funny, even if it is usually slightly inappropriate, take those jokes and use them to your advantage.

Just a simple giggle can have a huge effect on the way that your friend feels. Even if you only manage to alleviate their feelings for a second, that second can really improve their outlook of the future.

6. Show Them You Care by Doing Little Things

Yes, grand gestures of affection can certainly show someone that you care. However, it is often the little things that really make others light up and feel better about themselves and life in general.

Make an effort to show your friend you care about them and their happiness by doing little things that matter to them.

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For example, you could do something as simple as hiding small notes of encouragement around their house and belongings or by giving some of their favorite treats each day.

Whichever actions say “I care about you” to your friend, go out of your way to do those things and watch them light up in response.

7. Help Them Create a Valuable Support System

Here’s the truth: you aren’t going to be able to help your friend deal with everything on your own. They are going to need other people in their life and you are going to have to take breaks to take of yourself as well.

People who are dealing with depression need a solid support system to help them get on the road to recovery so that they can return to their happiness.

Reach out to other friends within your and your friend’s friend group and see what they can do to help your friend love life again.

By creating a solid support system, you will have an even easier time supporting your friend and helping to usher them back into the light.

Life is a truly beautiful thing, and those who are dealing with depression just need to be reminded of that. By using these 7 tips above, you will have no problem helping your friend find their happiness once again!

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Did you have any questions that weren’t answered in this article or did you need more in-depth information about depression? Take a look at more of the depression-related content posted within our Mental Strength section. 

Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

More by this author

Dylan Buckley

Dylan is Lifehack's Motivation Expert specializing in self-development, with extensive experience working for life coaches and startups.

9 Types of Motivation That Make It Possible to Reach Your Dreams 10 Reasons Why You’re Demotivated and How to Overcome It 25 Hard Work Motivational Quotes to Help You Achieve More How to Help a Friend With Depression Learn to Love Life Again Mastering The Art of Happiness (9 Tips to Get Started)

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Published on October 15, 2021

Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why?

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Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why?

When you think of anxiety, several scenarios may come to mind: the endless tossing and turning of a restless night, dread over potential future events, pandemic-related overwhelm, or full-blown panic attacks. Even if you’re not diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, you’ve likely experienced anxiety symptoms at some point in your life. In these situations, you might feel a queasiness in your stomach, racing heartbeat, excessive sweating, chest tightness, some tension in your jaw/neck/shoulders, or worrisome thoughts as you prepare for the worst possible scenario. But does anxiety also make you tired?

After experiencing these symptoms, you may indeed feel fatigued. The sensation could fall anywhere on the exhaustion spectrum, from feeling like you just ran a marathon and need to sleep for two days, to just a little worn down and wanting a quick nap to recover.

Below are 7 ways anxiety zaps your energy and how to restore it.

1. Stress Hormone Overload

Anxiety can make you tired via overloading your body with stress hormones. The “fight or flight” response is a key connection between anxiety and fatigue. In fact, this process is made up of three stages: Alarm, Resistance, and Exhaustion. Anxiety triggers our body systems to go into high alert. This is a natural, involuntary reaction that developed in the human brain for survival.

When humans lived with the real, imminent threat of being attacked by a predator, it made sense for our bodies to spring into action without much preparatory thought. Such dangers are rare in modern times, but our brains continue to respond in the same way they did thousands of years ago.

The hormones and chemicals that flood our bodies to prepare us for safety can both affect and be affected by several body systems, and this interaction itself contributes to exhaustion. Adrenaline and cortisol are the two most notable hormones to address here. First, adrenaline is sent out, tensing the muscles and increasing heart rate and blood pressure in preparation to run. Later in the stress response, cortisol is released, enhancing the brain’s use of glucose. This is one of our main fuel sources, so it’s no wonder this contributes to fatigue (see #2).

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You can regulate baseline levels of these stress hormones by regularly practicing yoga, breathwork, meditation, and/or engaging in aerobic exercise.[1] It’s easier to lean into these routines for relief during stress when you’ve already mastered using them during times when you feel calm.

2. Elevated Blood Sugar Levels

Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), which is shown to be associated with anxiety in diabetic patients.[2] Many people who experience hyperglycemia report feeling tired all the time regardless of their quantity or quality of sleep, nutrition, or exercise.

Although this connection has shown more prevalent and prolonged effects in diabetics, it also occurs with nondiabetics exposed to psychiatric stress.[3] In fact, for all people, the natural stress response elevates blood pressure and heart rate as well as cortisol levels, all of which increase blood sugar levels.[4] This means that anxiety causes a double-hit of exhaustion related to blood sugar fluctuations.

Instead of reaching for comfort foods like chocolate during times of stress, take a calming walk around the block. Gentle movement alone is a great stress reliever that incidentally also helps to regulate blood sugars.[5]

3. Negative Mindset

Anxiety can also make you tired because of repetitive negative thinking (RNT), which is a common symptom of anxiety. RNT involves continuous thoughts via rumination (dwelling on sad or dark thoughts focused on the past) and worry (angst regarding the future). Some researchers argue that having a longtime habit of RNT can harm the brain’s capacity to think, reason, and form memories.[6] While the brain is busy using its energy stores to fuel negative thought patterns, the energy available for these other more productive endeavors is thereby reduced.

Negative thoughts can also disrupt or prevent healthy sleep patterns, keeping our minds racing at night and effectively wreaking havoc on daytime energy. (See #7)

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Reduce these patterns by reframing your feelings over anxious thoughts. Instead of staying stuck on “what if,” focus on what you can do in the here and now. What activity can you engage in for five minutes (or more) that brings you joy? What are you grateful for, no matter what’s going on around you?

4. Digestive Issues

It’s common for people to experience both intestinal and mental issues simultaneously. This suggests a strong connection between the central nervous system and the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which is known as the gut-brain axis.[7] Simply put, what happens in our digestive tract (and as a result of what we eat) affects the brain and vice versa.

The gut microbiota is a complex population of GI tract microorganisms. When its balance is altered, the body can develop conditions that affect the gut-brain-endocrine relationship. The endocrine system produces and manages adrenaline, for starters. And the gut bacteria’s production of feel-good hormones (serotonin and dopamine—see #5) ties into this relationship as well.

GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) receptors are also found in gut bacteria. GABA is a natural brain relaxant that makes us feel good by helping the body to unwind after a stress-induced neurotransmitter release (e.g., cortisol and adrenaline). When GABA activity is low, it leads to anxiety, depression, insomnia, and mood disorders. These are just a few of the manifestations that demonstrate how gut bacteria influences behavior. All of these contribute to feeling both physically and mentally tired.

You can minimize the symptoms of depression and anxiety by keeping your gut microbiota balanced with probiotic-rich fermented foods. Yogurt with live cultures, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, kimchi, miso soup, and tempeh are great foods to include in your diet.[8]

5. Depression

Anxiety and depression often go hand in hand. Research continues to indicate a complex relationship between depression and decreased serotonin—a key neurotransmitter for regulating mood and feelings of wellbeing and happiness. Anxiety is also a direct symptom of serotonin deficiency. Serotonin helps with healthy sleep, mood, and digestion.

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Serotonin is produced in the gut, almost exclusively, at an estimated 90 percent. However, a small quantity is also produced in the hypothalamus, an area of the brain that is pivotal for transmitting energy balance signals. This small cone-shaped structure receives and relays signals transmitted via the vagus nerve from the gastrointestinal tract. It has a central role in mediating stress responses, regulating sleep, and establishing circadian rhythms. It senses and responds to a myriad of circulating hormones and nutrients, directly affecting our mood and energy.[9]

Dopamine is another mood-boosting neurochemical that is depleted in depression. It creates feelings of alertness and wakefulness and, when the body is operating normally, is released in higher amounts in the morning (allowing for daytime energy) and lower at night (preparing for healthy sleep). Stress is one factor that can deplete dopamine, thereby leading to depression, sleep disorders, and fatigue.

Studies show that dopamine levels in the brain can be elevated by increasing dietary intake of tyrosine and phenylalanine.[10] Both of these amino acids are naturally found in protein-rich foods like turkey, beef, eggs, dairy, soy, peas, lentils, and beans.

6. Breathing Problems

Breathlessness and anxiety are closely linked, and this is one of the ways anxiety can make you feel tired. Anxiety can lead to shallow breathing, which can cause shortness of breath while feeling breathless can exacerbate anxiety.[11] It’s a vicious cycle that often leads people to take rapid and shallow breaths, breathing into their upper chest and shoulders.

This type of breathing minimizes oxygen intake and usability. Despite comprising only two percent of the body, our brains consume 20 percent of the body’s oxygen supply. Oxygen is fuel for both mental and physical tasks. When breathing patterns compromise healthy oxygen levels, this can cause considerable fatigue.[12]

End the anxiety-fatigue cycle with focused breathing exercises. It’s important to practice this regularly while you’re not experiencing anxiety or stress, as this will help you to be prepared should a moment of breathless anxiety hit unexpectedly.

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There are several different styles of breathing exercises. There’s an easy one to try, called “Resonant Breathing.” Simply breathe in slowly through your nose as you count to five, then exhale for a count of five. Repeat this for a few minutes. It’s helpful to bring your awareness to any tension, deliberately relaxing your neck, shoulders, and jaw in particular.

7. Sleep Issues

Most of the elements we’ve already discussed inherently tie into sleep issues, which is often the reason why anxiety can make you feel tired. But it’s important to note that this is not always a directly linear cause-and-effect process. Much of it is cyclic. If we don’t get enough quality sleep, we increase our risk of excessive cortisol production, elevated blood pressure and blood sugar levels, depressed mood and mindset disorders, and dysregulation of appetite/craving hormones that affect our digestive health.

Sleep is obviously the number one antidote to feeling tired as a result of anxiety. But at the same time, many of these elements—including anxiety itself—lead to less-than-restorative sleep. We can improve our energy levels by addressing each element discussed here, as well as taking a proactive approach to our sleep health.

One simple habit to help recalibrate your circadian rhythm for healthy sleep patterns is to get outside in the morning. Sunlight exposure in the early hours of the day regulates melatonin production, helping us to feel sleepy at night.

You Don’t Have to Live Your Life Anxious and Exhausted

Times of extreme stress, like driving in heavy traffic or nerve-wracking situations like public speaking, can easily induce an anxiety response. Even “normal” everyday stressors, like feeling overwhelmed with work and home responsibilities, can build up to anxious feelings over time.

Our bodies’ response to stress and anxiety affects many of its functions in complex ways. When we unravel the interconnections of these processes, we can see how each part plays an intrinsic role in contributing to fatigue. By addressing each element individually, we can make simple lifestyle changes that resolve anxiety and diminish the ways it makes us tired as a result.

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More Tips on Coping With Anxiety

Featured photo credit: Joice Kelly via unsplash.com

Reference

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