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HEALTH INFO - Depression


Many of us feel life gets us down at points in our lives, but with depression there feels like there is no way out, & what's more you often don't see that there is much point in getting out and moving on. Similarly some people suffer from S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder) in the winter or when there has been very little sunshine. Some people only suffer a milder version of this during December, January and February. Both disorders can leave a person feeling helpless & without any inner strength to ask for help when they need it most. Some people don't even realise they are depressed, but feel more than usually overwhelmed, finding even the smallest of everyday niggles getting them down, leaving them tired and irritable. Thankfully there are some ways of counteracting some of the symptoms of S.A.D. or Depression without having to reach for the Prozac. However, if you have been diagnosed with any type of depression, it is best to let your GP know of any courses of treatment or action you undertake, & of any remedies or supplements you might take in order that your progress can be monitored & so you can receive the right support.


Sleep problems Experience an ongoing low mood; poor self esteem/low confidence
Low energy & difficulty carrying out daily tasks Consider/commit acts of self harm/suicide
Overeating: craving carbohydrates & putting on weight Negative thoughts, unable to enjoy usually pleasurable activities
Feeling sad, low, a failure, hopeless, despairing, apathetic Feeling numb, empty, despondent, more irritable/impatient
Feeling numb inside Blaming yourself/feeling guilty unnecessarily; pessimism
Anxiety, tension, inability to cope with everyday stresses Difficulty concentrating/making decisions & reduced energy
Loss of libido: not interested in sex/sexual contact Using more tobacco, alcohol or other drugs more than usual
Mood swings Sleep &/or weight or eating problems
  Loss of libido
  Difficulty asking for support/cutting off
  During the past month have you often been bothered by feeling down, hopeless or depressed?
  During the past month have you often been bothered by little interest in doing things?

-Try keeping a diary or marking on a calendar to record your moods. Also make a note of the weather that day. That way you can see if there is a correlation between the weather /season and your moods, & decide whether you have depression or S.A.D.

Try some of the following for a happier, healthier life.

-It is often hard to motivate yourself, but it is essential that you get out into the fresh air and get some natural sun/day light. Aim to do this every day, but force yourself to do it as often as possible; any natural daylight is better than none, & you will feel better afterwards. The reason for this is that sunlight helps us produce vitamin D, which is difficult to get in your diet & supplements have proven to be largely ineffective. We need to stock up on vitamin D on sunny days during the summer, & as often as possible in the winter when we get them.

-Special lights are available for people who suffer with acute forms of S.A.D., but these are expensive & sometimes difficult to obtain on the N.H.S.. However, many good art shops sell daylight bulbs for about £5 to £6. These are designed for artists who want to work into the wee, small hours, but still want the benefit of natural light to paint under. They can lift a mood & give you more energy. Try one & notice how quickly you become sleepy after you turn it off in the evening.

-Sitting in a light room near a window can also help S.A.D sufferers.

-Get yourself down to a beach or fast running water to get a regular intake of negative ions. These combat the positive ions which may be produced by computers. This is supposed to ease some depression if it is caused by an overload of positive ions.

-Although exercise is probably the last thing you want to do, if you can bring yourself to doing an easy routine regularly, it will give you more energy. Just 1-3 times a week for 5-20 minutes will help. Try some simple stretches. Sports, running, dancing, cycling, brisk walks help you produce endorphins making you feel better. Give yourself an incentive, get it out the way early in the day like I do, & start off with little steps, i.e. don't dive in the deep end & set yourself up to fail. It took me weeks to build up to a routine that suited me, & years to enrol in a Pilates class, after trying yoga first.

-Avoid too many sweets, sugars, chocolate, fizzy drinks, tea/coffee (&other caffeine drinks), processed & junk foods. They give you false short bursts of energy, leaving craving more & usually in a worse slump, often a sign of the sugar blues. This is why you often crave another cup or sugar hit 20-30minutes after you had your last one.

-Try eating more vegetables, wholegrains, seeds, nuts, turkey, fruit (especially bananas), to increase energy levels for longer. It's also good to vary your grains, i.e. not pasta all the time which can sap your energy. Try oatcakes, ricecakes, corncakes & ryvitas as alternatives to sandwiches. There are also a variety of pastas made from corn (nice!) & rice.

-Try eating 5-6 portions of fresh fruit & vegetables a day.

-Eat organic where possible. There is less likelihood there will be chemical residues on your food which may aggravate your condition.

-Remember alcohol, cigarettes & many drugs are actually depressants, so avoid them where possible & drink in moderation.

-Try your best to drink 3-5 pints of water a day. Many shops sell delicious flavoured waters. Alternatively, try adding a piece of lemon or fruit you like to it; add honey & lemon to hot water. Even if you start off with only a glass a day, it will be an improvement.

-Many essential oils have uplifting, anti-depressant qualities:-
sweet orange
rose otto
& may chang is known as aromatherapy's prosaic, because it acts like a beta-blocker & is reasonably priced too.

-Use these oils in your bath. Add 4-10 drops of the oils of your choice to ½ an eggcup of milk, & add it to your bath when the temperature is right for you. Swish the oils around, & soak in it for 20minutes. When you get out pat yourself dry to ensure you continue to absorb the goodness of the oils.

-Try putting some oils in a burner & burning them in water. Put some on your pulse points inside your wrists & on your temples to lift your mood. Never use them neat though, always use them in dilution.

-You can always add the essential oils to your shampoos, conditioners, shower gels, moisturisers, etc to make it part of your daily routine, & give yourself a boost.

-Try a relaxing treatment like massage, aromatherapy, shiatsu, reflexology, acupuncture etc. it is important not only to find the therapy that suits you, but also the therapist. Good therapists will give you support in working through your condition, often working with you to help change your diet & lifestyle if need be.

-Often homeopathy, counselling, psychotherapy, behaviour therapy, hypnotherapy or self help groups are useful in supporting you through difficult times & help change your outlook into a positive one.

-Some people have found St John's Wort is helpful. In Germany, they prescribe it to at least 70% of cases of mild to moderate depression. Some find it helps them with the winter months & it boosts immunity too. However, do check with your GP that it is safe for you to take, as there are some medical conditions that can be aggravated by this medicine, & some medications (especially Warfarin & Cyclosporin) are affected by it.

-Engage in pleasurable activities like spending time with children or animals; enjoy a hobby; or watching a funny video.

-With S.A.D. be ruthless & leave stressful tasks, or arrange stressful situations until the summer when you have the energy to tackle them, e.g. weddings, decorating, changing jobs (unless your job is depressing you!)

-S.A.D. sufferers could plan to take summer holidays abroad somewhere sunny in their worst months, i.e. January/February. However, be aware some people feel even worse when they come back to reality, so consult your medical professional for support.

-Pay attention to your personal appearance; its easier to feel good if you look food.

-Contact an organisation who can give you support:-
S.A.D. Association, PO Box 989, Steyning, BN44 3HG

Depression Alliance, 35 Westminster Bridge Road, London, SE1 7JB TEL:- 020 7633 0557

Fellowship of Depressives Anonymous, Box FDA, Self help Nottingham, Ormiston House, 32-36 Pelham St., Nottingham, NG1 2EG Tel:- 01702 433838

-not only is Cognitive Therapy (CT) free from the potential side effects of antidepressants, it also brings longer lasting benefits. One study looking at relapse rates with severe depression found that those who stopped medication were more likely to suffer a relapse than those who stopped CT. This suggests that the benefits of CT had a more enduring effect than antidepressants, so much so as to prevent recurrence. (Arch Gen Psychiatry, 2005; 62: 409-16) Look
in your Yellow Pages or ask your health practioner or GP for a referral for an accredited therapist.

The advice included on this site is not meant to replace any medicine or treatment you are receiving through your doctor, if you have any queries or concerns including compatibility with current treatment/medication, please contact us or speak to your GP ©2002

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