Did you know that depression affects approximately 18.8 million American adults in a given year? The holidays can be particularly difficult. Those who have struggled with depression say that they'd rather be physically sick than depressed, those who've never been depressed should count their blessings! But I can guarantee that you still have felt its icy fingers of impact, because someone you love is probably suffering from depression right now.
One of the fastest-growing markets for anti-depression medication is for preschoolers, it is estimated that at least four percent of preschoolers-that is over one million-are clinically depressed. It's as if they are catching a virus of depression from their teachers, parents, older siblings, or caregivers. The rate of increase in depression among school-age children is even more astonishing at 23 percent.
Just last week I was sitting on the couch looking at my Christmas tree. I wanted one more look before I started to take it down, so I turned on the lights and sat there for a few minutes. It's just an artificial blue spruce, about six feet tall, with tiny white lights and white garland. It really is nothing but a bunch of "bling."
I thought about my older daughter's question on Christmas Eve. We'd gone to her house and the first thing she asked was, "did you put up a tree?" What a strange question for a grown daughter with a family who has two trees in her own big house, why would she wonder if we'd put up a tree?... And then I'd remembered my younger daughter's question earlier in the month, she was checking on our house while we were away and she wanted to know if she could turn on our Christmas tree lights. She, too, has a lovely family with their own tree. So, what was so important about their parents having a Christmas tree?
I continued to think about the tree and all the memories it conjured up. I really do have an excuse to be a little depressed, I thought. I've lost my job, a job I really loved, and I miss my friends and associations from that job, and the income. But, in spite of the memories, and no assurance for the future, I feel joyful; it's explainable only in the fact that I have faithfully followed my eight-question depression-busting plan. Using these questions to check my attitude and behavior I put myself back on track every time I feel the slightest twinge of depression.
Eight-Question Depression-Busting Plan
1. Nutrition, am I eating the right things? Things to avoid are sugar, preservatives, and highly-processed food. These foods may y let you down, leaving you with food cravings, and feelings of guilt for eating too much.
2. Exercise, am I getting enough exercise? Exercise gives your brain an opportunity to rejuvenate. This actually will elevate your mood and give you a sense of well being.
3. Water, am I drinking enough water? Water carries necessary nutrients to all parts of your body and flushes out toxins.
4. Sunlight, am I getting enough sunlight? You may be a borderline seasonally-affected depressant; it is hard in the winter with shorter days to get enough sunlight. Taking additional vitamin D and using a light; box may help.
5. Temperance, am I being temperate in all that I do? Another word for temperance is balance. Am I being balanced in all that I do? Am I working too hard? Am I eating too much? Avoid harmful substances altogether.
6. Air, am I getting fresh air? Air that is full of mold spores and dust can precipitate illness, which leads to cold remedies and pain killers; it is now believed that acetaminophen may cause feelings of depression.
7. Rest, am I getting enough rest? Sleep, often hard to come by in our fast-paced lives, maybe the most important activity you're missing. Known to help control appetite, you can loose weight just by getting enough sleep. So avoid too much stimulus (exercise, exciting TV shows, caffeine), and establishing a bedtime routine, even if you don't sleep, stay there for eight hours.
8. Trust in your Higher Power, am I spending time in the word? Am I filling my soul with faith or fear food? Until you make feeding your spirit the same priority as feeding your body you will struggle with depression. It is a natural response to the unpredictable world in which we live.
Try this plan and you too, can stop the spread of depression.
References and Further Reading
National Institute for Mental Health, The Numbers Count: Mental Illness in America, Science on Our Minds Fact Sheet Series
Study published in Psychiatric Services, April 2004. Reported in our health news archive: Pill-Popping Pre-Schoolers and Even Toddlers Get the Blues.
Harvard University study reported in Harvard Mental Health Newsletter, February 2002.