Managing Depression

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Take a few moments to be mindful, or learn more in-depth mindfulness skills with an online course.
MoodFx Tip: week of April 17, 2017

You may have heard about mindfulness as an evidence-based practice that can help you deal with depression, anxiety, and everyday stress. But what is mindfulness, and is it something that might work for you?

Mindfulness is an approach to our thoughts, emotions, physical experiences, and life in general that involves paying close attention to how we feel, without judging those feelings.  By promoting self-awareness and self-compassion, mindfulness can in turn increase our ability to manage difficult situations and make wise choices.

Mindfulness is also a skill that needs to be learned and practiced like any other. If you want to learn more about incorporating mindfulness into your wellness skill set, check out these online resources:

mindfulness

 http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/content/assets/PDF/publications/motg.pdf?view=Standard – a quick information pamphlet with quick tips and easy mindfulness exercises

http://www.freemindfulness.org/ – a website compiling free mindfulness meditation exercises for download, mindfulness apps, and other resources

9-great-mindfulness-courses-you-can-take-online – a compilation of mindfulness courses, both paid and free, from around the web

www.BeMindfulOnline.com – an online mindfulness course (cost: £60; $95 in the across the United States and Canada) developed by researchers at Oxford University and the UK’s Mental Health Foundation

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Make yourself a cup of tea or grab a glass of water and take a few moments to focus on a few deep breaths–something mindful you can do right away.

 


Join the MoodGYM!
MoodFx Tip: week of March 20, 2017

MoodGYM logo

Have you visited the MoodGYM yet?

Developed by the National Institute for Mental Health Research of Australia, the MoodGYM is an interactive training program that teaches you Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) skills for coping with and preventing depression.  It’s 100% free and a great way to access CBT techniques and skills that you can work through at your own pace.

Using flash diagrams and online exercises, MoodGYM will guide you through 5 modules, plus an interactive game, anxiety and depression assessments, downloadable relaxation audio, a workbook and feedback assessment.

It demonstrates the relationship between thoughts and emotions, and also addresses dealing with stress and relationship break-ups, as well as teaching relaxation and meditation techniques.

Read more or sign up here.


 

Antidepressant Skills Workbook
MoodFx Tip: week of January 16, 2017

The Antidepressant Skills Workbook (ASW) is an excellent free online resource that gives an overview of depression, explains how it can be effectively managed according to the best available research, and gives a step-by-step guide to changing patterns that trigger depression.

Antidepressant Skills Workbook cover  Check it out here.


 

 

Holiday Stress and Depression
MoodFx Tip: week of December 23, 2016

The winter holidays can be a challenging time of the year, with increased obligations such as big dinners, parties, and travel; pressure to wrap up for work or school and other disruptions to everyday routines; not to mention shorter, darker days and often cold, rainy, or snowy weather.  No matter your end-of-year traditions, it can be a stressful time; for those people also managing depression, the added expectations of the season can make things particularly difficult.  Here are 10 strategies you can try to manage holiday stress and depression this year from the Mayo Clinic Staff.

Stress, Depression and the Holidays: Tips for Coping

We found these helpful tips in an article on coping with holiday-season stress by the Mayo Clinic.  Check out the entire piece here.

Tips to prevent holiday stress and depression

  1. Acknowledge your feelings.
  2. Reach out.
  3. Be realistic.
  4. Set aside differences.
  5. Stick to a budget.
  6. Plan ahead.
  7. Learn to say no.
  8. Don’t abandon healthy habits.
  9. Take a breather.
  10. Seek professional help if you need it.

Take control of the holidays

Don’t let the holidays become something you dread. Instead, take steps to prevent the stress and depression that can descend during the holidays. Learn to recognize your holiday triggers, such as financial pressures or personal demands, so you can combat them before they lead to a meltdown. With a little planning and some positive thinking, you can find peace and joy during the holidays.

For more holiday tips, also check out this article at PsychCentral: Tips for Busting Holiday Depression.


 

What Helps, What Hurts: Helping loved ones know how to support you best
MoodFx Tip: week of December 5, 2016

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Image credit: What Helps, What Hurts; Mood Disorders Association of BC

Do you have loved ones who want to learn more about how to be supportive of you, or anyone who is dealing with depression or low mood?  Try sharing this resource, developed by the Mood Disorders Association of BC and Here to Help: What Helps, What Hurts.

You can also download and share the PDF of their four-step guide or read it online here.

 

          


 

Active coping – a prerequisite self-management strategy for depression
MoodFx Tip: week of October 30, 2016

Last month, we featured several self-management tips contributed by people with lived experience of depression. These strategies were compiled as part of a study aimed at better understanding the kinds of self-management strategies that real people with depression find helpful for managing depression in their everyday lives.

To recap, participants generated nearly 100 unique self-management strategies, which the researchers were then able to categorize into 6 broad domains:

  1. Awareness that depression needs active coping
  2. Active coping with professional treatment
  3. Active self-care activities, structure, & planning
  4. Free time activities
  5. Social engagement
  6. Work-related activities
people girl alone theatre dark stage spotlight shadow

Photo credit: Thorn Yang, stocksnap.io

 

This week, we focus in on the strategies included in the first two domains, Awareness that depression needs active coping, and Active coping with professional treatment. These strategies are presented in order of how helpful participants perceived them to be, with starred strategies being the most likely to be helpful.

 

Awareness that depression needs active coping

What is “active coping?” Active coping entails being aware of a stressor—in this case, the various symptoms of depression and depression itself—and taking steps to reduce the negative effects or outcomes of that stressor. Those of you who are reading this week’s tip are probably already well aware that actively coping with your depression, anxiety, and other mental health stressors is an important part of getting better, maintaining your well-being, and improving your quality of life. After all, that’s why you’re here! MoodFx tips aim to suggest a variety of active coping strategies that you can try out and adopt when they prove helpful for you.

The following are the overarching strategies participants identified relating to this theme.

  • Take the signals of my depression seriously**
  • Acknowledge that depression is a disease**
  • Start to make more and more decisions myself again
  • Engage in a structured form of meditation (e.g. yoga, mindfulness)
  • Do my best not to avoid issues
  • Take my medication at a fixed place and/or time
mountain nature landscape sky clouds sea ocean water pathway bridge people girl woman relax

Photo Credit: Paola Chaaya, stocksnap.io

 

Active coping, with professional treatment

Several participants brought up active coping strategies that involve working with a qualified health professional.  One particularly important aspect of this was finding a professional with whom they had a good working relationship.

  • Maintain long-term professional support**
  • Find a doctor/therapist with whom I feel a connection**
  • Find the type of treatment that suits me best
  • Take warnings from others about increasing symptoms of my depression seriously, even if I do not notice it myself
  • Make sure I have telephone support when needed from family/friends/an organization
  • Find further information about my depression as needed
  • Make sure I have professional support when using my medication
  • Ask my doctor/therapist for explanations about my medication
people crowd men girls sitting talking family bench mall floor

Photo credit: Josh Wilburne, stocksnap.io

 

In upcoming weeks, we will review the final two self-management strategy categories, so stay tuned! In the meantime, you can read the abstract and access the original article at the link below:

Rosa A van Grieken, Anneloes CE Kirkenier, Maarten WJ Koeter, & Aart H Schene. Helpful self-management strategies to cope with enduring depression from the patients’ point of view: a concept map study. BMC Psychiatry 2014, 14:331.

 


Active self-care activities, structure, & planning
MoodFx Tip: week of October 3, 2016

Photo credit: Luis Llerena

Collaborating with people with depression, researchers from the University of Amsterdam recently conducted a novel study to learn about the self-help strategies people use to cope with symptoms of depression, and which strategies people found to be the most helpful.  We will expand on the results of this important study in the upcoming weeks, so stay tuned!

The researchers asked 25 people with depression to share their self-management strategies and rate them according to how helpful they thought they were.  Participants generated nearly 100 unique strategies, which the researchers then grouped into 6 broad strategy categories:

  1. Being aware that depression needs active coping
  2. Active coping with professional treatment
  3. Active self-care activities, structure, & planning
  4. Free time activities
  5. Social engagement
  6. Work-related activities

This week, we share the pragmatic strategies from category 3: Active self-care activities, structure, & planning. Some of these have also been featured in previous MoodFx tips.

Active self-care activities, structure, & planning for depression:

  • Get enough rest to avoid exhaustion through over-exertion
    • Don’t be afraid to give yourself the time for rest you need.
    • Be realistic about the responsibilities you can take on at the moment; it’s okay to say “no” when your plate is full.
  • Set realistic, short-term goals
    • Rather than aiming for overwhelming, unspecific goals like “clean my place this weekend,” break large tasks into more manageable, realistic ones.
    • Schedule the smaller aspects of a task so that you have a concrete time frame for getting it done, one step at a time.
    • Make your goals SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-bound, & Evaluated
  • Establish a proper day/night rhythm
    • Go to bed around the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning, even on weekends/your days off.
    • Avoid bright artificial light after sunset, especially on electronic devices like computer screens.
  • Ignore the tiredness associated with depression.
    • Despite your best efforts to stay well-rested, it’s not uncommon to still feel fatigued when you are dealing with depression. Some people in this study found it helpful to push themselves to do the activities they would normally or had planned to do despite this fatigue. You might even feel your energy return once you start something; this can be especially true with exercise.
  • Get dressed every day.
    • Although staying in pajamas can be tempting, make an effort to get dressed and ready to go outside.
  • Engage consciously in relaxing activities.
  • Make an adjusted activity schedule.
  • Keep a diary.
    • Writing down your thoughts and feelings can help make them more concrete and less overwhelming. It can also help you to see your thoughts in a more objective manner.
  • Take a shower every morning.
    • Similar to getting dressed every day, participants likely found this strategy helpful as it is part of a personal care routine that prepared them to accomplish their other daily activities.
    • A morning shower can also help you to wake up and can be an enjoyable and relaxing physical experience.
  • Eat healthfully.
  • Make sure you will be awakened every morning.
    • Set an alarm clock, even on your days off, to make sure you wake up at a reasonable time. This also helps to maintain a proper sleep/wake cycle.
  • Make plans for the future.
    • Plan something you can look forward to, be it a night out with your partner, a concert or theatre show, a day’s excursion to someplace new, or a personal indulgence like a long, hot bath or time to read a good book.
    • For bigger plans and longer-term goals, remember to make them Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound.
  • Take every opportunity to tidy the house.
    • Even if it’s just a small task, like doing the day’s dishes or putting away your clothes, doing a little bit each night or whenever you have a few moments to spare will help prevent clutter from accumulating—which can easily feel overwhelming.

You can read the abstract and access the original article by following the link below:

Rosa A van Grieken, Anneloes CE Kirkenier, Maarten WJ Koeter, & Aart H Schene. Helpful self-management strategies to cope with enduring depression from the patients’ point of view: a concept map study. BMC Psychiatry 2014, 14:331.


 

 

Mental Health M.A.P. (My Action Plan) – Excellent online resource and step-by-step guide to working through common mental health issues
MoodFx Tip: week of August 29, 2016

If you haven’t already, check out the Mood Disorders Association of Ontario‘s  excellent online resource for working through common mental health struggles such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar depression.  Mental Health: My Action Plan (Mental Health M.A.P) is “is all about you and what you can do to have the best possible mental health,” helping you to plan and enact your own journey to recovery and wellness.  Its features include:

  • 11 step-by-step lessons to help you create a personalized plan for recovery and wellness, from starting your journey and getting help to maintaining your preferred healthy lifestyle and staying well once you feel better
  • the ability to share your personalized plan with the people supporting you in your journey
  • a large collection of resources that include personal stories of mental health difficulties and recovery success, expert insights, and other contributions from people with lived experience of mental illness

You might find this an excellent addition to your toolkit of free, self-led interactive programs for mental wellness.  Others we’ve featured through MoodFx have included Working Through It, Walkalong (with a focus on youth and young adults), and MindShift from AnxietyBC.  If you have other online resources you’ve found helpful, feel free to send them to info@moodfx.ca so we can share them with the rest of our users.

 


 

The Importance of Sleep: Getting a better night’s rest
MoodFx Tip: week of July 31, 2016

bed, bed sheets, bedroom, sleep, covers

Photo credit: Krista Mangulsone, stocksnap.io

Check out these doctor-recommended strategies you can try to improve the amount and quality of your sleep.  Often called “sleep hygeine,” these are specific behaviours that can promote a better night’s rest.

  • Allow enough time for 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night, the normal range needed for healthy adults.  Everyone’s different: some people function well with only 7 hours, whereas others need at least 9 hours of sleep to feel refreshed.  If you need to, schedule your sleeping hours in your calendar the way you would any other commitment and stick to it.  Sleep is a wise investment and should be a priority.
  • Maintain a regular sleep schedule.  This means going to bed and waking up at around the same time each day, including weekends. Over time, your body will adapt to your schedule, making it easier to both fall asleep and wake up.
  • Limit your time in front of bright screens late at night, including computers, tablets, and phones, to help you wind down and sleep better. Read traditional paper books, eReaders, or use nighttime settings on other electronics.
  • Maintain a sleep environment that is dark, comfortable, cool, and quiet. Try using blackout curtains or an eye shade and earplugs if your room is too bright or noisy.  Turn down the heat and open a window for some fresh air while you sleep.
  • Avoid heavy meals and alcohol and reduce your intake of caffeine (e.g., in tea, coffee, or soda) and other stimulants several hours before bedtime.  You might set new limits on your caffeine consumption, for example, having only one cup of coffee in the morning and no caffeine after 1pm.
  • Aim for 20 to 30 minutes of cardio exercise five to six hours before your usual bedtime, but make sure to avoid exercise immediately before bed. Regular cardio exercise offers a multitude of benefits; 4-5 times per week for at least 30 minutes has also been shown to boost mood.
  • In the winter, try waking up with a dawn simulator or light alarm clock.  Many retailers now carry a variety of brands that gradually wake users with increasing light and sound.  You can also check out this article by Dr. Lam in the Globe and Mail on dawn simulator alarm clocks and seasonal depression.
  • Try a few relaxation exercises just before bed, such as deep breathing, stretches, or easy yoga.
  • Avoid working on or dealing with tasks and problems that cause stress or distress soon before bed.  Try tackling these the next morning, when you will have more energy to think clearly and enact solutions.

If you continue to have significant trouble sleeping, talk to your family doctor; specific sleep difficulties or disorders may require particular treatments.


 

Find time for pleasurable activities each day
MoodFx Tip – Week of July 18, 2016

house, home, residential, windows, panes, potted, plants, sun, light, rays, leaks, view, yard, garden, gazebo

Photo credit: Olu Eletu, stocksnap.io

 

With a busy schedule and many obligations, it can be difficult to find the time to do something just for your own enjoyment.  When you are dealing with low mood and depression, it’s also common to lack the motivation or interest to do the fun or pleasurable activities you used to enjoy.  However, engaging in regular pleasurable activities can help you feel better. It’s important to do fun, restorative activities when you can, even if you don’t feel like it—in time, your enjoyment will return.

For inspiration, it can help to build a list of activities you would normally enjoy that you can consult when you are feeling down. Include a variety of activities you can do in different settings and circumstances, including short breaks if you don’t have a lot of time, and activities you can do on your own.

Some examples might be:

  • Phone a friend or talk to a family member face-to-face
  • Listen to music
  • Go for a short walk around your neighborhood
  • Spend some time in nature, such as a local park
  • Read a good book
  • Watch a funny or engaging movie or TV show
  • Take a long, hot bath or shower
  • Spend some time playing with a pet
  • Cook your favorite meal for dinner
  • Visit a local landmark or attraction

 This tip has been adapted from www.helpguide.org, a non-profit resource for people dealing with mental and other health issues.

 


 

Help others understand what it’s like to live with depression with this interactive online game
MoodFx Tip – Week of March 21, 2016

Help your loved ones understand more about clinical depression with an interactive online game that simulates what it’s like to manage everyday life when the illness takes hold. Or, play for yourself to remember that you are not alone, and that many others have experienced depression, too.

Screencaps of an encounter in Depression Quest

Developed by Zoe Quinn, Patrick Lindsey, and Isaac Shankler, Depression Quest is

an interactive fiction game where you play as someone living with depression. You are given a series of everyday life events and have to attempt to manage your illness, relationships, job, and possible treatment. This game aims to show other sufferers of depression that they are not alone in their feelings, and to illustrate to people who may not understand the illness the depths of what it can do to people.

Support from family and friends is an important part of managing depression, and understanding more about the condition can help your loved ones better support you.  This true-to-life, interactive game is a unique and powerful medium through which to share the experience.


 

10 Tips for Reaching Out and Building Relationships
MoodFx Tip: week of February 15, 2016

dog, cat, animals, love, romance, cute, grass, cuddle, cuddling

Close, caring relationships can help us fight off depression. Photo by Krista Mangulsone, stocksnap.io

Close, caring relationships and social connectedness are essential human needs that can also be powerful in preventing and alleviating depression and anxiety.  While depression can cause even the most social among us to lose interest in spending time with friends and loved ones, it’s important to push yourself to maintain and cultivate these relationships.

The following tips for staying connected are provided from HelpGuide.org, a free not-for-profit initiative to help people from all walks of life improve their health and well-being.

  1. Talk to one person about your feelings
  2. Help someone else by volunteering
  3. Have lunch or coffee with a friend
  4. Ask a loved one to check in with you regularly
  5. Accompany someone to the movies, a concert, or a small get-together
  6. Call or email an old friend
  7. Go for a walk with a workout buddy
  8. Schedule a weekly dinner date
  9. Meet new people by taking a class or joining a club
  10. Confide in a clergy member, teacher, or sports coach

To read more helpful strategies for managing depression and low mood, visit the HelpGuide website here.

Helpguide Logo


 

Try an online psychotherapy course
MoodFx Tip: week of January 25, 2016

laptop, computer, typing, working, business, hands

Online psychotherapy programs are affordable, flexible, and easily accessible. Photo by Tomasz Bazylinski, stocksnap.io

 

For many people with depression and anxiety, talk therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Behavioural Activation, and interpersonal and supportive therapies are effective, first-line treatments.  However, it can sometimes be difficult for people to access these treatments, often due to financial barriers, long wait lists, or lack of providers, especially in smaller towns and rural areas.

The Internet, however, might just be able to address some of the issues around affordability and access to proven psychotherapies.  Currently, there are a handful of high-quality, evidence-based online psychotherapy programs developed and tested by mental health care professionals and patients, many of which are free to access.

Two evidence-based programs worth highlighting are MoodGYM and This Way Up.  Both are non-profit initiatives developed by clinicians and researchers based in Australia. MoodGYM provides a free cognitive behaviour therapy training program for preventing and coping with depression and anxiety. This Way Up is another interactive self-help program providing several CBT courses, each tailored to specific mental health conditions.  This Way Up does require a fee to cover operating costs ($69 for each 6-lesson course), and international users require a “prescription” from a health care professional who will monitor your progress. Still, both are evidence-based options that allow users to acquire useful CBT skills in a flexible, affordable way.

Check out their webpages to learn more.

 

MoodGYM logo   THIS WAY UP Logo


 

Consider speaking to your doctor about light therapy
MoodFx Tip: week of December 21, 2015

Light770Light therapy devices emit full-spectrum white light, mimicking the sun’s rays.

Light therapy has long been known to be an effective treatment for winter depression, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD.  New research recently published and conducted by Dr. Raymond Lam and colleagues at the University of British Columbia has provided strong evidence that light therapy can also be an effective treatment for non-seasonal clinical depression.  In this randomized controlled trial, patients who used a light therapy device alone and in combination with the standard antidepressant fluoxetine had greater improvements in their symptoms than those who used the antidepressant alone, or a placebo.

Light therapy is usually well-tolerated and can be used with other treatments for depression, such as psychotherapy and medications.

Consider speaking to your doctor about whether light therapy might be a good option for you.  Note: It is important to always consult with a doctor before starting any kind of light therapy, as it may not be safe or appropriate for everyone.

To read more about the study, check out the press release here.


 

Make a list of fun fall and winter activities
MoodFx Tip: week of November 30, 2015

samsung, galaxy, phone, mobile, screen, picture, photograph, photographer, hands, hat, jacket, winter, woman, girl

Photo credit: Sylwia Bartyzel, Stocksnap.io

 

With their colder days and darker nights, the fall and winter months can be an especially difficult time to stay active and social–and as the seasons change, so too must the activities we do for fun.

That’s why this week, try making a list of both solo and social activities (aim for 3-5 of each) you would like to try or do regularly this winter.  Winter can be a great time of year to devote some time to a new hobby, skill, or activity you’ve been meaning to try.  For example, you might want to sign up for a community pottery class, join an amateur evening sports team, get into photography, or start hosting a few friends for dinner each month.

Once you’ve made your list of activities, pick one and take one concrete step to make it happen.  For example, you might research some local classes online, or send out invites to a few friends for dinner and games.

If you need more fun winter activity ideas, check out these articles with lots of suggestions, or find other ideas on the web:

 

snowman, scarf, hat, buttons, toy, stuffed animal, winter

Photo credit: Alexey Topolyanskiy, Stocksnap.io

 


Assess and Cultivate your Positive Mental Health
MoodFx Tip: week of November 9, 2015

Everybody has positive mental health–strengths that can help you cope with challenges and enjoy the positive aspects of your life.  This is true regardless of whether you have a mental illness or not.  Some aspects of positive mental health include:

  • The ability to enjoy life – Finding joy in the things that are going well
  • Resilience – Being able to cope with stressful events and life changes
  • Balance
  • Self-actualization/personal growth
  • Flexibility

The Canadian Mental Health Association has a Mental Health Meter, a short questionnaire that helps you explore your positive mental health strengths and weaknesses.  Take the assessment here.

You can then read about activities and tips you can do to improve your positive mental health: Mental Health for Life.

 

Canadian Mental Health Association

About the CMHAA nation-wide, voluntary organization, the Canadian Mental Health Association promotes the mental health of all and supports the resilience and recovery of people experiencing mental illness.


 

Tips to promote mental fitness, from the Canadian Mental Health Association
MoodFx Tip: week of October 19, 2015

Positive mental health is something to strive for; feeling optimistic, calm, and content can help you to cope with the inevitable stresses and challenges of life. This week, we share some tips from the Canadian Mental Health Association that can help you to boost your mental well-being:

  • Daydream – Close your eyes and imagine yourself in a dream location. Breathe slowly and deeply. Whether it’s a beach, a mountaintop, a hushed forest or a favorite room from your past, let the comforting environment wrap you in a sensation of peace and tranquility.

Photo credit: Micah Hallahan

  • “Collect” positive emotional moments – Make it a point to recall times when you have experienced pleasure, comfort, tenderness, confidence, or other positive emotions.
    • Note: it can be particularly helpful to write down these experiences, rather than simply recall them.  Use a small notebook you can keep with you, and take a minute or two to brainstorm a list of these positive experiences when you feel negative or overwhelmed.
    • Gratitude is also powerful in boosting positive mental health. Writing down a list of all the things you are grateful for in your life, or even just that morning or day, can help to shift your perspective.

Photo credit: Luis Llerena

  • Learn ways to cope with negative thoughts – Negative thoughts can be insistent and loud. Learn to interrupt them. Don’t try to block them (that never works), but don’t let them take over. Try distracting yourself or comforting yourself, if you can’t solve the problem right away.
  • Do one thing at a time – For example, when you are out for a walk or spending time with friends, turn off your cell phone and stop making that mental “to do” list. Take in all the sights, sounds and smells you encounter.

Read the full list of tips here.

 

Canadian Mental Health Association

About the CMHAA nation-wide, voluntary organization, the Canadian Mental Health Association promotes the mental health of all and supports the resilience and recovery of people experiencing mental illness.


 

Strategies for dealing with stress
MoodFx Tip: week of September 27, 2015

This week, check out these tips for coping with stress, from Here to Help’s Stress & Wellness Module:

There is no right or wrong way to cope with stress. What works for one person may not work for another, and what works in one situation may not work in another situation. Below, you will find common ways to cope with stress and maintain wellness.

busy hallways

There are many sources of stress in our lives.  Fortunately, there are also many ways to cope successfully. Photo by José Martín.

Focus on what you can do:
There is usually something you can do to manage stress in most situations.

  • Resist the urge to give up or run away from problems—these coping choices often make stress worse in the long run

Manage your emotions:
Feelings of sadness, anger or fear are common when coping with stress.

  • Try not to bottle your emotions up. Try expressing your feelings by talking or writing them down
  • Try not to lash out at other people. Yelling or swearing usually pushes people away when you need them the most
  • Many of the coping strategies listed below are useful ways of managing your emotions

Seek out support:
Seeking social support from other people is helpful—especially when you feel you can’t cope on your own.Family, friends, co-workers and health professionals can all be important sources of support.

  • Ask someone for their opinion or advice on how to handle the situation
  • Get more information to help make decisions
  • Accept help with daily tasks and responsibilities, such as chores or child care
  • Get emotional support from someone who understands you and cares about you

Focus on the positives:
This is one of the hardest things to do when coping with stress. At times, it can seem impossible. Dwelling on the negatives often adds to your stress and takes away your motivation to make things better.

  • Focus on strengths rather than weaknesses—remind yourself that no one is perfect
  • Look for the challenges in a situation by asking, “What can I learn from this?” or, “How can I grow as a person?”
  • Try to keep things in perspective
  • Try to keep a sense of humour
  • Remind yourself you are doing the best you can given the circumstances

Make a plan of action:
Problem-solving around aspects of a situation that you can control is one of the most effective ways to lower your stress.Try breaking a stressful problem into manageable chunks.Think about the best way to approach the problem. You may decide to put other tasks on hold to concentrate on the main problem, or you may decide to wait for the right time and place to act.

  • Identify and define the problem
  • Determine your goal
  • Brainstorm possible solutions
  • Consider the pros and cons of each possible solution
  • Choose the best solution for you—the perfect solution rarely exists
  • Put your plan into action
  • Evaluate your efforts and choose another strategy, if needed
Self-care:
Taking good care of yourself can be difficult during stressful times, but self-care can help you cope with problems more effectively. The trick to self-care is to look for little things you can do everyday to help yourself feel well.Here are some self-care activities to try. Try to think of other activities that might help!
  • Eat healthy foods and drink lots of water throughout the day to maintain your energy
  • Try to exercise or do something active on a regular basis
  • Try to avoid using alcohol or drugs as a way to cope
  • Explore relaxation techniques like meditation or yoga
  • Try to balance work and play—too much work can eventually lead to burnout
  • Spend time on things you enjoy, such as hobbies or other activities
  • Get a good night’s sleep

Take care of your relationships:
Family, friends and co-workers can be affected by your stress—and they can also be part of the problem. Keep the feelings and needs of others in mind when coping with stress, but balance them with your own.

  • Be assertive about your needs rather than aggressive or passive. Being assertive means expressing your needs without hurting others
  • Try not to confront others in a mean-spirited or antagonizing manner
  • Accept responsibility, apologize or try to put things right when appropriate
  • Talk to others who are involved and keep them informed about your decisions

Spirituality:
People who engage in a spiritual practice often experience lower levels of distress. If community is part of a spiritual practice, it may also offer helpful social support.

  • Consider spiritual practices that fit with your beliefs, such as prayer or meditation
  • Spend time at your place of worship or get together with others who share your beliefs
  • Talk with a respected member or leader of your spiritual community

Acceptance:
There may be times when you can’t change something. This can be the most challenging aspect of coping with stress. Sometimes, all you can do is manage your distress or grief.

  • Denying that the problem exists may prolong your suffering and interfere with your ability to take action
  • Acceptance is a process that takes time. You may need to remind yourself to be patient
  • Death, illness, major losses or major life changes can be particularly difficult to accept
  • Try not to get caught up in wishful thinking or dwell on what could have been

Distraction:
Distraction can be helpful when coping with short-term stress you can’t control, such as reading a magazine while getting dental work done. Distraction can be harmful if it stops you from taking action on things you can control, such as watching TV when you have school or work deadlines to meet. Distraction by using drugs, alcohol or over-eating often leads to more stress and problems in the long term. Distraction by overworking at school or on the job can easily lead to burnout or other problems, like  family resentment. You can do many things to take your mind off problems, such as:

  • Daydreaming
  • Going for a drive or walk
  • Leisure activities, exercise, hobbies
  • Housework, yard work or gardening
  • Watching TV or movies
  • Playing video games
  • Spending time with friends or family
  • Spending time with pets
  • Surfing the Internet or sending e-mail
  • Sleeping or taking a short nap

Work through the entire Stress and Wellness module here.

 

Managing depression: Tips for the fall
MoodFx Tip: week of September 6, 2015

fall colorful trees

The start of fall can be a stressful time of year: students head back to school, offices perk up after coworkers’ summer vacations, and the daylight hours start to wind down.  But the fall is also a particularly beautiful time of year, during which we can take stock and settle in to new routines.

Here are some tips for managing depression that may come in handy as the new fall season approaches:

  • Stay active.  Incorporate some indoor activities into your routine to get you through colder, rainy days. Try an at-home workout with free online videos (YouTube has something for everyone, from aerobics to yoga). Or, join a weekly fitness class or community sports team.
  • Seek out fresh air and the sun when you can.  Take breaks and lunches outside when the weather allows.
  • Plan fun activities with family and friends.  Try a weekend hike or nature walk, which can be especially beautiful when the leaves start to turn.  Also check out local tourism websites and newspapers for seasonal activities going on in your city–new cultural events, festivals, and entertainment often take over as the seasons change!

 


Summer-specific tips for depression
MoodFx Tip: week of June 14, 2015

summer beach

Summer is just around the corner (in the northern hemisphere, at least): the sun is shining, the weather is warm, and the daylight seems (almost) never-ending. Lots of people tend to feel especially bright and energetic during these hot and sunny months, but—as with every new season—the changes in our routines and the unique challenges the season brings can be a source of stress. Here are some depression management tips that may especially apply in the summer months.

Keep a solid routine that includes enough sleep and physical activity. The generally good weather and longer days can make it easier to get outside; try walking instead of driving when you need to run an easy errand.  Just remember to protect yourself from the sun by wearing sunscreen and a hat and staying cool. It’s also as important as ever to get enough sleep. Avoid looking at bright screens in the evening, and try heading to bed with the waning light. In the morning, use effective blinds and curtains to avoid waking up too early. Or, if you tend to oversleep, try leaving your blinds open at night to see if the natural light helps you wake up.

Stay hydrated. Even mild dehydration can alter your mood for the worse, lower your energy, and make it more difficult to think clearly, according to research.

Make time for the summer activities you enjoy. Even if you don’t feel like it in the moment, gently push yourself to plan and engage in the summer activities you enjoy most. This could include going to the beach, an outdoor pool, playing seasonal sports (outdoor tennis, badminton, lawn, and water sports are especially popular this time of year), or go for a hike.

Get the support you deserve. Ask your family members or friends to help you get out and about, or to help you relax. Share any concerns you might have about the summer season with those you trust. And don’t forget to speak with your mental health care provider if your symptoms of depression or anxiety worsen.

For more information and tips for summer depression, check out this article.

 


 

Antidepressant Skills Workbook
MoodFx Tip: week of May 11, 2015

The Antidepressant Skills Workbook (ASW) is another free online resource that gives an overview of depression, explains how it can be effectively managed according to the best available research, and gives a step-by-step guide to changing patterns that trigger depression.

Check it out here.

Antidepressant Skills Workbook cover


 

Active coping – a prerequisite self-management strategy for depression
MoodFx Tip: week of April 12, 2015

Last month, we featured several self-management tips contributed by people with lived experience of depression. These strategies were compiled as part of a study aimed at better understanding the kinds of self-management strategies that real people with depression find helpful for managing depression in their everyday lives.

To recap, participants generated nearly 100 unique self-management strategies, which the researchers were then able to categorize into 6 broad domains:

  1. Awareness that depression needs active coping
  2. Active coping with professional treatment
  3. Active self-care activities, structure, & planning
  4. Free time activities
  5. Social engagement
  6. Work-related activities

This week, we focus in on the strategies included in the first two domains, Awareness that depression needs active coping, and Active coping with professional treatment. These strategies are presented in order of how helpful participants perceived them to be, with starred strategies being the most likely to be helpful.

Awareness that depression needs active coping

What is “active coping?” Active coping entails being aware of a stressor—in this case, the various symptoms of depression and depression itself—and taking steps to reduce the negative effects or outcomes of that stressor. Those of you who are reading this week’s tip are probably already well aware that actively coping with your depression, anxiety, and other mental health stressors is an important part of getting better, maintaining your well-being, and improving your quality of life. After all, that’s why you’re here! MoodFx tips aim to suggest a variety of active coping strategies that you can try out and adopt when they prove helpful for you.

The following are the overarching strategies participants identified relating to this theme.

  • Take the signals of my depression seriously**
  • Acknowledge that depression is a disease**
  • Start to make more and more decisions myself again
  • Engage in a structured form of meditation (e.g. yoga, mindfulness)

sun med

  • Do my best not to avoid issues
  • Take my medication at a fixed place and/or time

Active coping, with professional treatment

Several participants brought up active coping strategies that involve working with a qualified health professional.  One particularly important aspect of this was finding a professional with whom they had a good working relationship.

  • Maintain long-term professional support**
  • Find a doctor/therapist with whom I feel a connection**
  • Find the type of treatment that suits me best
  • Take warnings from others about increasing symptoms of my depression seriously, even if I do not notice it myself
  • Make sure I have telephone support when needed from family/friends/an organization

People on a railway

  • Find further information about my depression as needed
  • Make sure I have professional support when using my medication
  • Ask my doctor/therapist for explanations about my medication

 

In upcoming weeks, we will review the final two self-management strategy categories, so stay tuned! In the meantime, you can read the abstract and access the original article at the link below:

Rosa A van Grieken, Anneloes CE Kirkenier, Maarten WJ Koeter, & Aart H Schene. Helpful self-management strategies to cope with enduring depression from the patients’ point of view: a concept map study. BMC Psychiatry 2014, 14:331.

 


 

Active self-care activities, structure, & planning
MoodFx Tip: week of March 16, 2015

Collaborating with people with depression, researchers from the University of Amsterdam recently conducted a novel study to learn about the self-help strategies people use to cope with symptoms of depression, and which strategies people found to be the most helpful.  We will expand on the results of this important study in the upcoming weeks, so stay tuned!

The researchers asked 25 people with depression to share their self-management strategies and rate them according to how helpful they thought they were.  Participants generated nearly 100 unique strategies, which the researchers then grouped into 6 broad strategy categories:

  1. Being aware that depression needs active coping
  2. Active coping with professional treatment
  3. Active self-care activities, structure, & planning
  4. Free time activities
  5. Social engagement
  6. Work-related activities

This week, we share the pragmatic strategies from category 3: Active self-care activities, structure, & planning. Some of these have also been featured in previous MoodFx tips.

Active self-care activities, structure, & planning for depression:

  • Get enough rest to avoid exhaustion through over-exertion
    • Don’t be afraid to give yourself the time for rest you need.
    • Be realistic about the responsibilities you can take on at the moment; it’s okay to say “no” when your plate is full.
  • Set realistic, short-term goals
    • Rather than aiming for overwhelming, unspecific goals like “clean my place this weekend,” break large tasks into more manageable, realistic ones.
    • Schedule the smaller aspects of a task so that you have a concrete time frame for getting it done, one step at a time.
    • Make your goals SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-bound, & Evaluated
  • Establish a proper day/night rhythm
    • Go to bed around the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning, even on weekends/your days off.
    • Avoid bright artificial light after sunset, especially on electronic devices like computer screens.
  • Ignore the tiredness associated with depression.
    • Despite your best efforts to stay well-rested, it’s not uncommon to still feel fatigued when you are dealing with depression. Some people in this study found it helpful to push themselves to do the activities they would normally or had planned to do despite this fatigue. You might even feel your energy return once you start something; this can be especially true with exercise.
  • Get dressed every day.
    • Although staying in pajamas can be tempting, make an effort to get dressed and ready to go outside.
  • Engage consciously in relaxing activities.
  • Make an adjusted activity schedule.
  • Keep a diary.
    • Writing down your thoughts and feelings can help make them more concrete and less overwhelming. It can also help you to see your thoughts in a more objective manner.
  • Take a shower every morning.
    • Similar to getting dressed every day, participants likely found this strategy helpful as it is part of a personal care routine that prepared them to accomplish their other daily activities.
    • A morning shower can also help you to wake up and can be an enjoyable and relaxing physical experience.
  • Eat healthfully.
  • Make sure you will be awakened every morning.
    • Set an alarm clock, even on your days off, to make sure you wake up at a reasonable time. This also helps to maintain a proper sleep/wake cycle.
  • Make plans for the future.
    • Plan something you can look forward to, be it a night out with your partner, a concert or theatre show, a day’s excursion to someplace new, or a personal indulgence like a long, hot bath or time to read a good book.
    • For bigger plans and longer-term goals, remember to make them Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound.
  • Take every opportunity to tidy the house.
    • Even if it’s just a small task, like doing the day’s dishes or putting away your clothes, doing a little bit each night or whenever you have a few moments to spare will help prevent clutter from accumulating—which can easily feel overwhelming.

In upcoming weeks, we will focus on the other categories of self-help strategies, so stay tuned! In the meantime, you can read the abstract and access the original article by following the link below:

Rosa A van Grieken, Anneloes CE Kirkenier, Maarten WJ Koeter, & Aart H Schene. Helpful self-management strategies to cope with enduring depression from the patients’ point of view: a concept map study. BMC Psychiatry 2014, 14:331.

 


 

Mental Health M.A.P. (My Action Plan) – Excellent online resource and step-by-step guide to working through common mental health issues
MoodFx Tip: week of February 16, 2015

This week, check out the Mood Disorders Association of Ontario‘s  excellent online resource for working through common mental health struggles such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar depression.  Mental Health: My Action Plan (Mental Health M.A.P) is “is all about you and what you can do to have the best possible mental health,” helping you to plan and enact your own journey to recovery and wellness.  Its features include:

  • 11 step-by-step lessons to help you create a personalized plan for recovery and wellness, from starting your journey and getting help to maintaining your preferred healthy lifestyle and staying well once you feel better
  • the ability to share your personalized plan with the people supporting you in your journey
  • a large collection of resources that include personal stories of mental health difficulties and recovery success, expert insights, and other contributions from people with lived experience of mental illness

You might find this an excellent addition to your toolkit of free, self-led interactive programs for mental wellness.  Others we’ve featured through MoodFx have included Working Through It, Walkalong (with a focus on youth and young adults), and MindShift from AnxietyBC.  If you have other online resources you’ve found helpful, feel free to send them to info@moodfx.ca so we can share them with the rest of our users.

 


 

The Importance of Sleep: Getting a better night’s rest
MoodFx Tip: week of January 19, 2015

Star trails and Star tails. by Joe Dsilva, under a Creative Commons license

 

Getting the right amount of sleep for you each night is not only important to maintain good health, but also to help you regulate your moods during the day and maintain the resilience you need to face life’s daily challenges. However, as many people with depression and/or anxiety can attest, it can often be even more difficult to get the kind of high-quality sleep you need when you are experiencing these symptoms. Depression and anxiety can affect all stages of your sleep schedule, making it more difficult to fall and stay asleep at night and wake up feeling refreshed.

Check out these doctor-recommended strategies you can try to improve the amount and quality of your sleep.  Often called “sleep hygeine,” these are specific behaviours that can promote a better night’s rest.

  • Allow enough time for 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night, the normal range needed for healthy adults.  Everyone’s different: some people function well with only 7 hours, whereas others need at least 9 hours of sleep to feel refreshed.  If you need to, schedule your sleeping hours in your calendar the way you would any other commitment and stick to it.  Sleep is a wise investment and should be a priority.
  • Maintain a regular sleep schedule.  This means going to bed and waking up at around the same time each day, including weekends. Over time, your body will adapt to your schedule, making it easier to both fall asleep and wake up.
  • Limit your time in front of bright screens late at night, including computers, tablets, and phones, to help you wind down and sleep better. Read traditional paper books, eReaders, or use nighttime settings on other electronics.
  • Maintain a sleep environment that is dark, comfortable, cool, and quiet. Try using blackout curtains or an eye shade and earplugs if your room is too bright or noisy.  Turn down the heat and open a window for some fresh air while you sleep.
  • Avoid heavy meals and alcohol and reduce your intake of caffeine (e.g., in tea, coffee, or soda) and other stimulants several hours before bedtime.  You might set new limits on your caffeine consumption, for example, having only one cup of coffee in the morning and no caffeine after 1pm.
  • Aim for 20 to 30 minutes of cardio exercise five to six hours before your usual bedtime, but make sure to avoid exercise immediately before bed. Regular cardio exercise offers a multitude of benefits; 4-5 times per week for at least 30 minutes has also been shown to boost mood.
  • In the winter, try waking up with a dawn simulator or light alarm clock.  Many retailers now carry a variety of brands that gradually wake users with increasing light and sound.  You can also check out this article by Dr. Lam in the Globe and Mail on dawn simulator alarm clocks and seasonal depression.
  • Try a few relaxation exercises just before bed, such as deep breathing, stretches, or easy yoga.
  • Avoid working on or dealing with tasks and problems that cause stress or distress soon before bed.  Try tackling these the next morning, when you will have more energy to think clearly and enact solutions.

If you continue to have significant trouble sleeping, talk to your family doctor; specific sleep disorders may require particular treatments.

 


 Managing stress and depression over the holidays
MoodFx Tip: week of December 20, 2014

Holiday lights

Photo: Copyright peddhapati; http://www.flickr.com/photos/peddhapati/

 

The winter holidays can be a challenging time of the year, with increased obligations such as big dinners, parties, and travel; pressure to wrap up for work or school and other disruptions to everyday routines; not to mention shorter, darker days and often cold, rainy, or snowy weather.  No matter your end-of-year traditions, it can be a stressful time; for those people also managing depression, the added expectations of the season can make things particularly difficult.  Here are 10 strategies you can try to manage holiday stress and depression this year from the Mayo Clinic Staff.

Original Article:  http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/stress/MH00030

 

Stress, Depression and the Holidays: Tips for Coping

We found these helpful tips in an article on coping with holiday-season stress by the Mayo Clinic.  Check out the entire piece here.

Tips to prevent holiday stress and depression

  1. Acknowledge your feelings.
  2. Reach out.
  3. Be realistic.
  4. Set aside differences.
  5. Stick to a budget.
  6. Plan ahead.
  7. Learn to say no.
  8. Don’t abandon healthy habits.
  9. Take a breather.
  10. Seek professional help if you need it.

Take control of the holidays

Don’t let the holidays become something you dread. Instead, take steps to prevent the stress and depression that can descend during the holidays. Learn to recognize your holiday triggers, such as financial pressures or personal demands, so you can combat them before they lead to a meltdown. With a little planning and some positive thinking, you can find peace and joy during the holidays.

For more holiday tips, also check out this article at PsychCentral: Tips for Busting Holiday Depression.

 


Pleasurable activities
MoodFx Tip – Week of November 23, 2014

When you are dealing with low mood and depression, it’s common to lack the motivation or interest to do the fun or pleasurable activities you used to enjoy. However, continuing to engage in regular pleasurable activities can help you feel better. It’s important to do fun, restorative activities even if you don’t feel like it—in time, your enjoyment will return.

For inspiration, it can help to build a list of activities you would normally enjoy that you can consult when you are feeling down. Include a variety of activities you can do in different settings and circumstances, including short breaks if you don’t have a lot of time and activities you can do on your own.

Some examples might be:

  • Phone a friend or talk to a family member face-to-face
  • Listen to music
  • Go for a short walk around your neighborhood
  • Spend some time in nature, such as a local park
  • Read a good book
  • Watch a funny or engaging movie or TV show
  • Take a long, hot bath or shower
  • Spend some time playing with a pet
  • Cook your favourite meal for dinner
  • Visit a local landmark or attraction

 This tip has been adapted from www.helpguide.org, a non-profit resource for people dealing with mental and other health issues.

 


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