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Published on October 8, 2021

Does Depression Make You Tired And How?

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Does Depression Make You Tired And How?

It’s a classic chicken or egg question, does depression make you tired, or does being tired cause depression? The simple answer to this question is yes and yes. Taking it a step further, I employ the “both/and” strategy, which is to say that they are both true and not mutually exclusive of each other. But that’s the simple part. The real question is how and why.

We all know that one of the most common symptoms of depression is fatigue. There are a few key reasons for that which include increased stress, sleep disturbances, and poor diet, among others. And when you are tired, you lack the energy to do the very things you need to do to kick the depression out of your life.

One of the ways I describe depression is a “low mood” that refers not only to your emotional state but also your overall energy levels, which is depleted and lacking the “get up and go” attitude needed to deal with depression. And so begins the vicious cycle between decreasing energy and increasing depression. How you interrupt this cycle will be the focus of this article. I will explain how depression makes you tired, and give you a few tips to help correct this problem.

The Relationship Between Sleep and Depression

One of the telltale signs of depression is poor sleep. It might be due to chronic insomnia or because life demands and choices have you putting sleep on the backburner, which translates into sleep deprivation. The mere fact that you are sleep deprived places you at greater risk of having depression either presently or in the future.

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Research has found that three-quarters of those who suffer from depression also have some form of sleep disturbance, meaning the links are undeniable. Additionally, the research has shown that those who are not depressed and suffer from insomnia have an increased risk of depression later in life.[1] Suffice it to say that poor sleep means a decreased quality of life and increased likelihood of experiencing depression.

I have heard it said too many times, “I will sleep when I am dead”, but the truth of it is that if you don’t have good sleep hygiene, then that eventuality of death might come that much sooner. Insufficient sleep over an extended period will cost you dearly. It might come in the form of depression or increased risk for accidents and chronic illness, such as high blood pressure and heart disease.[2]

Naturally, the busy, hectic pace of life forces you to cut out the things you think of as being dispensable or won’t cost you much at the moment. What if you saw sleep as “non-negotiable” as you see many other commitments in life? This is not meant to be harsh criticism, but it is meant to get you thinking about your life choices.

We have all been there. We’ve sacrificed sleep to accomplish a goal or task, but if you find yourself doing that too often, it might be time to re-evaluate your time management. Life is, after all, a series of choices, and the choices we make are driven by our priorities.

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Easy Strategies to Improve Sleep

Here are a few simple ways you can develop healthy sleep hygiene:

  1. Figure out how many hours of sleep you need to feel and be your best. You can do this by tracking some data. A simple note with the hours of sleep you get and how you feel the next day for a week or two can be very revealing.
  2. The next step is to count backward from the time that you need to wake up and figure out the time you need to go to sleep to get X number of hours per night. Make it your non-negotiable, fixed bedtime.
  3. If there is noise in your home environment, use a white noise machine or earplugs to help you get the hours of sound sleep you need. An eye mask can also be helpful if there are lights that could wake you up.

The Stress Factor

Of course, sleep and stress are related as well. When the body is stressed, there is an increased amount of cortisol flowing through your body, which means that you will not be able to sleep well as if you are stressed. The stress hormone, cortisol, is meant to give you the energy to survive. It puts you into the “fight, flight, or freeze” reaction. This stimulates your brain and many of the emergency response systems in your body that naturally prevents a restful state, as it is just the opposite of what is needed to survive.[3]

When living in chronically stressful situations, such as situations of abuse, financial strain, or with environmental factors, such as high crime rates and violence, the constant flow of cortisol will impact not just your overall functioning but brain function as well. We see this with students and the challenges in school when coming from unstable home and community environments.

Tips on How to Reduce Stress in Your Life

You won’t be able to avoid stress altogether in your life, but one thing you can do is to ensure that the coping skills are there to counter the stress, which boils down to a good self-care routine. Some simple examples are:

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  1. Make sure you get sufficient social and emotional support.
  2. Stay active. This doesn’t have to mean going to the gym regularly. Just a brisk walk can be enough to get some endorphins flowing, which will give you that natural good vibe feeling.
  3. Get enough outdoor time to help with increasing vitamin D in your body.
  4. Take a break throughout your day, i.e. taking your lunch.
  5. Treat yourself to something that you enjoy—a good massage, an evening with your faith community, or putting on a favorite movie.

Nutrition Is Key

Truer words were never said, “you are what you eat”. If you make healthy choices for your diet, you will have a better chance of feeling better physically, which will impact how you feel emotionally and therefore more energetic.

Additionally, foods that are higher in omega-3 fatty acids have been proven to support mental health. It is thought that it is in part due to it being an anti-inflammatory as well as the fatty acids, DHA, and EPA, which are found to be much lower in those who are depressed when compared to those who are not depressed. Omega-3s will not necessarily cure your depression, but they could be helpful, and they are known to be components of a healthy diet.

Following the rules of a good general diet will also benefit your energy levels, which will help you combat depression. Carbohydrates, sugars, trans fats, and saturated fats—yes, all the good stuff—will often leave you feeling lethargic, bloated, and generally blah Try your best to choose fresh fruits and veggies with the framework of a Mediterranean diet in mind, and see how you feel after a few days.

Tips on Eating a Healthy, Well-Rounded Diet

  • Make sure that the bulk of your food choices are raw, natural, or whole foods—foods that your grandmother would recognize and even prepare.
  • Plan your meals. If you don’t plan ahead, chances are you will resort to the convenient option, which often means less healthy, and if you do find a healthy option, it can be quite expensive. In a pinch, if you are grabbing a meal on the fly, try to go to a supermarket where you can grab some fruits or veggies to hold you over or opt for a whole-grain salad.

Summing It Up

If you want to kick the depression out of your life, and increases your energy, you can start by addressing sleep issues, reducing stress, and eating a diet rich in omega-3s. When all of these get better, depression is bound to follow.[4]

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Simply put, sleep well, eat well, and move your body, even when you don’t want to. Because believe it or not, even small changes can have a huge impact on your quality of life. A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, getting enough sleep, and taking care of yourself to decrease stress are all part of the regime that will help you to address the depression in your life.[5]

Sometimes, restoring energy is the opposite of what we might initially think, which is to rest—and yes, we do need rest—but getting out there and moving your body can be one of the best ways to find the energy you are lacking, which will address all three areas of your life: sleep, stress, and nutrition (when we are more active, we tend to eat better). So, you could say that to find energy, you need to spend it.

Next time you are feeling down and low energy, take a look at these areas of your life and see what tweaks you can make. It might just mean a more energetic and healthy feeling about your life.

Featured photo credit: Abbat via unsplash.com

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Reference

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Meredith Flanagan

Embracing a strengths-based approach to life, passionate about creating opportunity out of adversity.

Does Depression Make You Tired And How? How To Relieve Stress And Restore Energy Why Am I Depressed If My Life Is Fine? Can Coffee Cause Anxiety Or Depression? 10 Best Natural Sleep Aids to Help You Sleep

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Last Updated on November 8, 2021

How To Do Focused Meditation Any Time

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How To Do Focused Meditation Any Time

Do you often feel stressed for most of your day? Maybe you always feel a burden that you just can’t get rid of? Focused meditation might be your answer.

In this article, I’ll explore what focused meditation is, how it differs in the pool of many styles of meditation, and how to implement and start this practice today. Likewise, I’ll highlight the benefits of a focused meditation practice for your overall health.

What Is Focused Meditation?

Meditation is the practice of becoming self-aware through breath and attention to connect the mind, body, and spirit.[1] Meditation as a whole can change the structure and function of our brain. That being said, focused meditation or a guided meditation for focus is by far the best one. Meditation for focus and concentration can come in different forms. Experienced meditators use the following:

  • Mindfulness – this meditation involves us to be focusing on your breath and observing thoughts. This allows us to focus on our feelings without becoming too absorbed in them.
  • Concentrative – a meditation that gets us to focus on a particular point; be it a word, breath, object, or a point in the space you’re meditating. This is meant for us to pay attention to that point and prevent our minds from getting distracted.
  • Moving – this meditation involves gets us to focus on slow and repetitive movements similar to yoga or tai chi. The goal is again to be focusing on your breath while relaxing your body and mind with the movements.

Focused meditation, also known as concentrative meditation, is the practice of meditating and bringing your attention to one single object. This object can be something practical and tangible, such as a mandala painting or a candle flame. It can also be something abstract, such as a phrase (also known as mantra) or a sound (such as Om).[2][3]

Whatever you settle your attention on becomes the focal point. None of these object examples are better than others—they are simply choices depending on what you’re looking to get out of your practice. For example, practitioners will choose candle gazing to interpret the images the flame makes in the shadows while others will choose a mantra because that particular phrase or word empowers or heals them.

How Does It Differ From Other Meditation Styles?

All meditation styles and practices overlap and build on each other. Their basic foundation is the same: to bring the practitioner insight and introspection.

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There is no right or wrong way to meditate, however, the various types of meditation can enhance particular qualities. Based on your personality and needs, one type of meditation may be more useful to you than the other. The 9 types of meditation are:

  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Spiritual meditation
  • Focused meditation
  • Movement meditation
  • Mantra meditation
  • Transcendental meditation
  • Progressive relaxation
  • Loving kindness meditation
  • Visualization meditation

Focused meditation, specifically, is the practice of focusing on one single object for the duration of the practice. How this differs from other meditation styles is that it gives the practitioner something tangible to do: focus. It’s almost like giving your mind an action to perform—listen to this sound, repeat these words, watch this flame, etc. This is also one of the reasons why this particular meditation style is great for beginners!

One of the biggest challenges in any meditation practice is that the mind gets carried away and we lose ourselves to random thoughts. This “obstacle” is actually a style of meditation in and of itself called Vipassana.[4] However, in focused meditation, we give the mind something to do so that it’s not simply left to its own devices. This type of meditation is beneficial for beginners and for practitioners who prefer some structure and guidance to their meditations.

The Benefits of Focused Meditation

In this style of meditation, what you’re really doing is exercising your mental muscles. Your brain is highly affected by dedicated and concentrated meditation practice.

Scientists have performed countless studies on focused meditation and have found that active meditators have more gray matter volume in their brain and, therefore, offsetting the cognitive decline that comes with aging. So, not only does practicing focused meditation help you learn how to focus better on certain tasks, but it also improves similar functions, such as memory. [5]

Likewise, it helps in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety, which our society is currently crippled with.[6] By settling your attention on an object, you are essentially building your ability to observe your thoughts and sensations from a place of objectivity. This allows you to detach from negative self-talk that is often the breeding ground for depression and other mental illnesses.

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From a guided meditation for focus to practicing it yourself, daily meditation for focus comes with several benefits:

  • It’ll reduce stress
  • Help you to control anxiety
  • Enhance your self-awareness
  • Improve attention span
  • Helps you to focus on the present moment
  • Increase your creativity and imagination
  • And boost your patience and tolerance for things.

How to Practice Focused Meditation

Here are six tips to help you practice focused meditation. Based on your availability and interest, these tips may change and evolve. That’s the point: to create a structured practice that caters to your needs.

1. Find a Comfortable Seat

As with any meditation practice, comfort is truly key. The physical body responds to meditation practice by alerting you to whether it is comfortable and supported or stressed out and in pain. This is best observed in practitioners who tend to slouch and lose the tall, supported spine that is essential to meditation practice.

A simple rule in meditative sitting is to ensure that your hips are higher than your knees. Therefore, choosing to sit in a chair instead of on the floor may be a smart decision or perhaps propping yourself up on a cushion. For meditation techniques overall, it does not matter how you sit. All that matters is that you are supported and comfortable sitting for some time.

2. Choose Your Object of Focus

Every meditation training session is going to be different because no single day is the same for any one person. Therefore, experienced meditators know that choosing an object is more about listening to what you need at this time versus following any doctrine or “rule.”

If you’re not sure and have a hard time deciding, make focusing on your breath and pay attention to the inhale and exhale is a good option. Then, assign each inhale and exhale a number, and once you reach 10, start over. This is one of the simpler methods of keeping your mind occupied—by giving it a task. This also trains your mind, and over time and with practice, your mind will easily focus on an object without too much effort.

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3. Set Your Desired Time or “Go With the Flow”

If you have a structured routine and would like to stick to your schedule, by all means, set a gentle timer for how long you’d like your meditation to be. This is also your opportunity to throw out the notion that any meditation has to be a certain length of time to be correct—it does not.

Likewise, if you have the time, you can also listen to your body and come out of your meditation when you feel it’s right to do so. This is often a beautiful practice of listening and tuning in.

4. Relax Your Body as You Focus on Your Meditation

Typically, when we are focusing on something, we tend to tighten our body. Observe this next time that you’re concentrating on something: your jaw will tighten and your shoulders will squeeze up towards your ears.

As you sink into your meditation, keep this in mind and check in with your body every once in a while. Let your shoulders sink down your back and release any tension through your jaw and face. Lastly, relax your brow and let your eyes be heavy in their sockets. Then, return to your object of meditation. Observe if your meditation changes at all by relaxing your physical body.

5. Return to Your Breath and Object When You Get Distracted

Notice that I didn’t say “if you get distracted.” That’s because you definitely will drift off with random thoughts or get pulled away from your object of focus. In meditation, distractions are almost guaranteed. Therefore, it’s your opportunity to practice detaching yourself from feeling guilty or inadequate to continue.

Over time and with practice, you will find it easier to stay with your object of focus. In the meantime, however, notice when you get distracted. Pause and take a big breath in and out. Check in with your physical body and relax. Once you’re ready again, return to your object of focus. Meditation is simply one long cycle of wandering and coming back to yourself.

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6. Journal Your Experiences

When your meditation practice has ended, another powerful practice is to jot down any experiences that you felt. There may have been insights and “downloads” that you acquired during your session that you may want to record.

Likewise, you could write about any challenges that you faced. These are great lessons that will continue to show up for you, and it’s nice to keep a journal of them to see how they evolve and progress over time (and they will). Lastly, you can write about what works and what doesn’t, as far as picking your objects of meditation go. This way, you can learn what you most associate with and feel comfortable with.

While these steps are simple, it’s easier said than done. Whether you’re starting out with a guided meditation for focus, loving kindness meditation, or transcendental meditation, anticipating failure the first time you try these things is healthy. Furthermore, congratulate yourself for even making slight progress like noticing and returning to the present moment and noticing the sensations you experienced.

Final Thoughts

If practicing meditation causes you to feel distracted and unsupported, give focused meditation a go! With the help of an object to bring your attention to, it structures your meditation time and offers guidance and support.

Dedicating yourself to this style of meditation will help increase your memory, reduce stress and anxiety, and promote better cognitive function. Even though any style of meditation is a powerful way of taking care of your mental health, focused meditation gives your mind a tangible task with which to grow and strengthen.

More About Focused Meditation

Featured photo credit: Lua Valentia via unsplash.com

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