In response to a discussion of the treatment of depression on alt.callahans, and in the spirit of "Free Advice Is Worth What You Pay For It," I hereby offer the following:
Top priority is to stay functional; it may not be sufficient, but it sure as hell is necessary. But speaking from (what I now realize to be long-term) experience with cyclic depression, (sometimes to the point of feeling suicidal), I've actually come up with a recipe that seems to work that doesn't require outside intervention. To that end, my philosopy is: use whatever works.
First, the preventives. These support the basic, physical aspects of strength and stamina, and will directly and conspicuously affect my perceived ability to cope. When I'm feeling "weak," even a trivial task can look insurmountable. Given an adequate physical foundation, the same task is hardly worth notice.
- Eat right! In my experience, ample leafy greens are the king-pin to a sanity-supporting diet. The basic FDA food-pyramid seems to be a good foundation to start with. Watch carefully for specific mood effects of different foods. This can be difficult to do, but fascinating when you get the knack of it. (Sidebar: watch out for food allergies and such. These can skew your results and produce the very effects you're trying to fix.)
Junk-out carefully: anything that forcibly horks around your bio-, blood-, or brain-chemistry will make mood management all the more difficult, like trying to stop a moving pendulum by pushing on it, rather than just letting it damp out. The results are usually a chaotic tumble, which is much harder to sort out. The list includes all the obvious mood-modifiers: recreational drugs, alcohol, caffeine, sugar, tobacco. Plus the less obvious ones: sleep-deprivation, work-(or any activity-)oholism, sleeping too much, compensation-eating, etc. (It amazes me that anything can be a drug....)
- Get enough sleep! There's been a lot of press lately about this one: most people try to run on two thirds to half as much sleep as they really need, with the mistaken idea that the extra time buys them more "productivity." In fact, they're actually impairing their effectiveness by being chronically depleted. Personal experience: I can get two to three times as much quality work done in a 8-hour work day after a full night's sleep than I can if I'm sleep-depped. The ratio gets worse the longer my sleep deficit lasts.
How to tell if you're sleeping enough:
If the answer to either is "yes," then you need more sleep. If you have insomnia, handy home remedies include:
- Do you have trouble waking up on time without an alarm?
- Do you konk right out when you go to bed?
- Go to sleep and get up on a consistent, regular schedule.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol intake. Don't drink caffeine for at least 6 hours before bed. Drinking alcohol may make you sleepy, but will erode the quality of your sleep.
- Get plenty of (especially aerobic) excercise.
- Excercise! Select a good variety of aerobic, weight-bearing, and stretching excercise. Start out gently if you're a beginner: if you injure yourself, not only do you delay your good effects, but you also induce frustration that c