Your Wellness with NorthBay Health Experts

Your Wellness is a blog focused on general health topics and information from NorthBay's excellent cadre of health care professionals.

Tips To Keep The Blues At Bay

May 03, 2018

The sun is out, flowers are blooming and spring has sprung. So why are you still in a funk?

Maybe it's time for a little spring cleaning for the mind and soul - it can do wonders.

Since May is mental health month, it's a good time to talk about how depression can take root and be overwhelming. But there are little things you can do to keep the blues at bay, said licensed clinical psychologist Amber Stirlen.

Dr. Stirlen, based at the Center for Primary Care in Green Valley, works with patients coping with depression, bipolar disorder, work-related stress, sleep issues and more, offers the following tips:

  • Get outside and enjoy the sunshine. According to the Mayo Clinic, decreased sun exposure has been associated with a drop in serotonin, which can affect mood. What's more, exposure to ultraviolet-B radiation can generate vitamin D., which plays a role in bone health. So while too much of the sun's rays can be harmful to your skin, the right balance can lift your mood. Just use a little sunscreen.
  • Exercise. That can be as simple, or as complex as you like. Join a class. Visit the gym. Or just take a walk - around the neighborhood or the mall.
  • Unclutter a space in your home. That can be your bedroom, a hobby room, or a reading chair. It can even be a spot on the patio, where you can get a little sunshine. Then use the space to wind down and relax.
  • Breathe. Try a deep breathing exercise, both when you wake up in the morning, and five minutes before going to sleep.
  • Practice mindfulness and meditation. Turn off your phone and tune out for 10 minutes. Ten minutes of meditation a day is known to extend life expectancy. There are both free and affordable apps that can walk you through deep breathing and/or meditation. Consider: Insight Timer, Calm and Headspace.
  • Good nutrition. Be hydrated and eat a balanced diet. If that seems too overwhelming, start small, by adding more water and a piece of fruit or a vegetable a day. Avoid sugar and processed foods. Although sugary foods may please your sweet tooth, they tend to cause people to be moody and lethargic.
  • Try monotasking. Instead of juggling a dozen tasks at a time, try just focusing on one, even if it means talking yourself through the task). It's amazing what you can accomplish when you're focused.
  • Get plenty of sleep. Quality sleep can greatly improve your mood. Have trouble falling asleep? Start by putting the phone away! Why not charge your battery while you're recharging your cell phone's battery? Then you can practice mindful breathing and meditation in peace.
  • Do something fun. Plan an activity for your family, whether it's watching a movie, playing a game, taking a walk.

"You can do all these or any one of these to see improvement," said Dr. Stirlen. "You can even do several of these at once. The key is to plan to incorporate these tactics into your schedule. Get a partner for the gym, which will make you accountable and will increase the likelihood of your participation. Invite someone else to take a walk, so you won't back out."

Whatever you do, don't put it off, she advises. "Be committed and set a specific times in your schedule."

Depression can sneak up on a person, so know the signs: Extreme fatigue; sadness; insomnia; irritability; restlessness; loss of interest in things once pleasurable; overeating or appetite loss; aches pains, headaches or cramps that won't go away; feelings of guilt, worthlessness, pessimism and hopelessness; trouble concentrating, remembering details or making decisions.

"If you've tried these tips and are still struggling, see your doctor. Know that if you're in need, there's help available," said Dr. Stirlen.



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