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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

5 Ways to Help You Get Through Depression

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5 Ways to Help You Get Through Depression

Don’t let the feelings you feel and thoughts you think overtake your well being. Easier said than done, right? In general, we have control over only so much. But the question is, how to not be depressed?

In life, you need to process things authentically but not get stuck in them. That means it’s okay to feel what you feel as long as you don’t stay there forever. That’s the goal of emotional regulation, but many people get stuck. They stay there in negative or difficult emotions. They can start to fall into a depression

Depression can feel like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders. You might even feel a heaviness in your chest. It can show up for people differently.

There’s high functioning depression where on the outside, you appear okay, but in reality, you are falling apart. And then there’s the debilitating depression where it’s hard to get out of bed. How not to be depressed may come up in your mind many times if you’ve been in this state.

The answer is that for everyone, it’s a little bit different. Overall, it’s sadness or even a numbness from emotional overload that simply won’t go away.

According to American Psychiatric Association,[1]

“Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or loss of interest in activities once enjoyed.”

For a formal diagnosis of depression, it must last at least two weeks.

But anyone can have depressed days. It can happen to people of all different lifestyles, backgrounds, attitudes and more. Attitude, in fact, has nothing to do with it. It’s not about the will power. It’s about resilience. You can’t just will yourself out of depression, but you can seek treatment and find ways to get through it.

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Here are five ways on how to not be depressed:

1. Understand It’s Not Your Fault

Being “normal” or “perfect” is a myth. We all experience difficult times and difficult emotions. But when experiencing depression, one can feel isolated in their thoughts and feelings which if unchecked or untreated can lead to suicidal ideations. That’s why depression is so important to act upon rather than let linger.

Negative feelings will always come up. No one can walk around full of sunshine and happiness 24/7. We all get worn down. We all experience losses. We all need rest.

But when negative feelings overtake you, when you can’t face the real world because of the sadness or difficult emotions you are feeling, that’s when it can turn into depression.

We are a society that wants instant gratification. With that “fix it now mentality” we find it even harder to overcome our depression and find instead that we are masking our own feelings. It doesn’t just go away. There’s no quick fix on how to not be depressed, as much as we want there to be one.

There are many causes of depression and many misconceptions about it as well. Namely, people think it’s an attitude thing or ungratefulness towards life. But there are many factors like genetics, chemical imbalance, stress, loss, trauma and more. “Snapping out if it” is not always possible. Read this article to read more about other factors that affects depression: Why Do I Feel Depressed Every Once in a While for No Reason?

2. Self Care Instead of Spiral

It’s time to invest in yourself. Maybe you’ve been pouring it all into others, into your duties, your activities, your efforts for success. Maybe you’ve just kept going, white-knuckling as you go rather than processing to feel or think or simply be. That’s why scheduling self care in your life is so important.

When you’re feeling depressed, you also are feeling disconnected. Most of all, you’re feeling disconnected from yourself. You suffer in silence so the world will not judge you for it. But when you start to love yourself, you start to grow.

Self care can be many things. It can be walking the dog, taking a shower, writing in a journal, expressing yourself in any way or helping someone else in need can even be a way back to loving yourself.

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Make a list of things you can do that are simple, that can help you how to not be depressed by connect with yourself when you feel detached, lonely, isolated and drained, the many symptoms of depression. This plan will help how to not be depressed and to adopt self care in the face of struggle rather than to spiral.

If you have to start somewhere, start in self love. That’s what self care is really all about. You are showing up to face the day because you love yourself. Because you matter. This doesn’t mean you have to face everything. You don’t have to figure it all out. You just have to meet yourself where you are and simply show up.

Put yourself first. Self advocate your needs whether it be with friends, family or a mental health/medical provider. This is where you need to stand tall the most because only you know what you’re going through. Only you know what it means to be you.

3. Know You’re Not Alone

What you’ll find when you practice self advocacy is that people actually want to help. Ask for help in these times. It doesn’t mean everyone is trained to handle your struggle, or that they can relate or that they are emotionally equipped to respond. But you can assess your needs and theirs and see if someone can simply be a support. You can also research support groups that may more appropriately fit your needs.

Reach out to a professional on how to not be depressed. You may be able to meet with someone who is trained in order to help you. They are meant to help you and are able to handle the emotional depth of what you are struggling with.

Someone who has high functioning depression may be harder to track for depression. But open conversations make it possible to figure out the signs that anyone could be experiencing. Speaking out about it may even deepen current relationships. It may lead to transparency and a renewal of a relationship.

If anything, talking to a trained professional or crisis line may help you navigate how to not be depressed the most. For example, The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.

When you feel it is on the verge of taking over, come up with a crisis plan and contacts in preventative measures. In advance, come up with a list of people you trust or someone who could even take you to the Emergency Room if you are starting to spiral to suicidal ideations.

Write down a list of signs and symptoms you have experienced when feeling depressed, to help communicate this to others. Rate your mood on a scale of one to ten on a daily basis to gauge what you are feeling generally. This will help you communicate to a doctor the level of severity you are experiencing depression and help you navigate whether it is a crisis.[2]

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4. Get Proactive Rather Than Reactive

Reactivity is when you act on impulses and over identify with your emotional state. Alternatively, you may be acting productive to cover the painful emotions and thoughts to detach, but that is not the same thing as being proactive. Being proactive means you process things better and decide to be positive despite the negative experience. That’s because of the mindset you choose.

Become solution oriented. Become gratitude driven. Become someone who focuses on the good.

Use what is happening for something greater than yourself, whether it be a project, a personal connection or a new path that you can find purpose in. You don’t have to necessarily “fix it” overnight. But you can use it.

Create something that brings light into your darkness. Tell someone you love them. Do a small act of kindness. Figure out what your needs are and seek to meet them. Learn to listen to the silence and meditate rather than avoid it. Be present, be mindful in actions taken. When you are doing simple acts such as cleaning, take deep breaths and meditate. In any activity, you can become mindful. You can become awake.

Become purposeful in what you think about. Think about what you look forward to tomorrow. And be kind to yourself while you’re at it. Trust your instincts. Know that you are good, you are worthy. Depression does not have to define you. Nothing that happens to you defines you. What defines you is your character, your attitude, your will, the way you treat others. When you understand that, you can move forward.

5. Honor Your Truth

There is something sacred about sharing and honoring your story. Bring light to the darkness by speaking up. Your voice matters. Being here matters. Putting it out there relieves you of shame and removes the influence of stigma from your self discovery journey. It is here that we can truly find ourselves at peace: Acceptance.

Cheryl Strayed says,[3]

“Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be. Sometimes you’ll put up a good fight and lose. Sometimes you’ll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go. Acceptance is a small, quiet room.”

You are not stuck here. This isn’t the end, this just the beginning. While it’s good to accept your feelings as valid, it’s also important to recognize when they may be misleading you. You can use your situation to shed light on mental health issues and use it to connect yourself to others too who may need your insights.

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Kevin Hines struggles with bipolar disorder, and he found a way how to not be depressed and use his story of a suicide attempt to spread awareness of mental illness. He also advocates for changes in the mental health system and strategies we use.[4]

You can rise again too. Today isn’t your last day. Reach out. Ask for help. Do good so you can feel good. And let yourself be seen. You can still feel fulfilled and appreciate life when experiencing a difficult time. The step on how to not be depressed takes courage. That is what will pull you through. That is what resilience looks like.

Final Thoughts

How to not be depressed is not about repression or masking one’s feelings. It’s about processing your reality in such a way that you can cope with it. It starts with self love and acceptance.

The worst thing you can do when depressed is judge yourself for it. You are human. You are going to feel. When those feelings take over, you need help. It’s not your fault. If depression doesn’t pass, it’s time to reach out for help. The work on yourself how to not be depressed is lifelong and should be a profound and powerful process.

You are brave, you are a survivor, you are worth saving. Hold space for yourself and others with feelings that are difficult. As you would just listen and not judge someone else, do this for yourself. Then, you find that the days get lighter and the life you had returns to you.

Honor your feelings, but do not detach from life. It is worth it to stay. It is worth it to be here. It is worth it to know you in this life, so stay.

Featured photo credit: Cristian Newman via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Sarah Browne

Sarah is a speaker, writer and activist

5 Simple Steps to Cultivate a Positive Mental Attitude 10 Self-Exploration Practices to Discover Your True Self 14 Personal Goals for a Better You Next Year 7 Self-Soothing Techniques for Stress and Anxiety Relief 5 Ways to Help You Get Through Depression

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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

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