It’s a very strange time for our world right now. We’re being mandated to not go to work, avoid social interactions, and only leave the house for essential needs. Basically, we’re all in a massive time out.
Just because this happens to be a crucial step to keep the coronavirus pandemic from overrunning our hospitals, overwhelming our healthcare workers, and saves the lives of those at high risk of critical illness, it doesn’t make it any easier to forego the regular routines and activities that keep our minds and bodies healthy. As social isolation is further extended, this lack of community can seep into our hearts and minds.
Even if you aren’t prone to depression, under these extreme circumstances, it’s very possible that you may begin to experience depressive feelings or an aggressive lack of motivation.
This doesn’t take into consideration that even without stay-at-home, shelter-in-place, and quarantine orders, “depression affects an estimated one in 15 adults (6.7 percent) in any given year … and one in six people (16.6 percent) will experience depression at some time in their life.”
That’s why it’s more important than ever to be aware of your mental state and, even more important, to have the resources and tools to boost your mood when need be or seek the necessary help from the comfort of your own home.
Understanding the Range of Depressive Feelings
First and foremost, it’s important to know how to identify what you’re feeling. We’ve all got a lot of time on our hands right now and that can oftentimes lead to overanalyzing and panicking. Yet, when it comes to a depressive disorder versus feelings of depression, there is slight differentiation that can help you pin down what’s happening in your head.
With that said, it’s always, always, always recommended to reach out for help, even if you’re experiencing mild feelings of depression or a lack of motivation.
Feeling the need to reach out? Visit the National Network of Depression Centers for a plethora of online, phone, and even texting resources that you can access immediately.
What is a Depressive Disorder?
A major depressive disorder “is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act.” With a depressive disorder, you’ll generally have “feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed … and, [if left untreated] can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function.”
When it comes to understanding the feeling of a depressive disorder, per the American Psychiatric Association, these feelings and physical manifestations of depression will linger for at least two or more weeks and may include more severe symptoms such as sleeping too much, increase in purposeless physical activity, — referring to “hand-wringing or pacing” — slowed movements and speech, difficulty thinking, — as well as, difficulty concentrating or making decisions — feeling worthless or excessively guilty, and thoughts of death or suicide.
If you believe you’re suffering from a depressive disorder, it’s important to reach out for help, whether that be a counselor or therapist, a friend or family member, or even a helpline such as SAMHSA — the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration — at 1-800-662-4357.
Mild Depressive Feelings
While it’s still important to take action and reach out when you’re experiencing mild feelings of depression or an aggressive lack of motivation, there are steps you can take on your own to help bring your mood back.
Yet, how do you know the difference?
Mild depressive feelings can vary depending on the person, yet they generally include feeling sad, a loss of interest or pleasure in things you used to enjoy, changes in appetite, — possibly associated with weight loss or gain — trouble sleeping, and increased fatigue, — generally associated with a feeling of “loss of energy.”
5 Ways to Immediately Tackle Feelings of Depression
Lucky for you, even within the confines of your own living room, there are tips and tricks to enact immediately to help alleviate those feelings of depression. Per the American Psychiatric Association, “there are a number of things people can do to help reduce the symptoms of depression,” from getting active to improving your sleep regimen to eating healthy.
Here are a few ways to naturally boost your mood, kick that lack of motivation, and find a healthy mindset while quarantined at home!
1. Incorporate 15 Minutes of Activity
Physical activity is one of the best, immediate, steps you can take to help boost your mood and kick the lack of motivation to the curb!
Per the Mayo Clinic, even though the “links between depression, anxiety, and exercise aren’t entirely clear,” what is clear is that “working out and other forms of physical activity can definitely ease symptoms of depression or anxiety and make you feel better.” On top of that, research has found that “exercise may also help keep depression and anxiety from coming back once you’re feeling better.”
As mentioned, the link isn’t exactly crystal clear, but there are a variety of factors that researchers believe play a role in the relationship. First and foremost, exercise or physical activity releases “feel-good endorphins, natural cannabis-like brain chemicals (endogenous cannabinoids) and other natural brain chemicals that can enhance your sense of well-being.” Exercise is also a great way to take your mind off of your worries, — which can break the “cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression” — boosts your self-confidence, increases social interaction, and gives you a tangible way to positively manage and combat your own depressive feelings.
To get physical, go outside for a walk or run, but remember to respect that 6-foot social distancing rule! If you have a bike, go for a bike ride. Is your yard in need of raking, mowing, or landscaping? Get outside and put yourself to work with a rake, hand-mower, or shovel! Plus, it only takes at least 15 minutes of physical activity to begin boosting that mood.
You can also join the fun online for a bit more of a social experience with some free online workout classes through Corepower Yoga, Orange Theory, Planet Fitness, 305 Fitness, or Underbelly Yoga.
2. Schedule Virtual Socializing
Just because we’re socially isolated doesn’t mean we are cut off from socializing. Connecting with a community — whether it’s a single friend or family member or a group gathering — is a great way to lift your mood and reduce the feelings of loneliness and isolation, which can lead to further depressive feelings.
Reach out to your friends and family to set up scheduled video chats every week. These can be simply check-ins to make sure everyone is doing okay or you can make it interesting! Start or join a book club. Set up a virtual game night. Host a virtual happy hour or dinner party. Organize a streaming event — such as a Netflix or Hulu show or maybe a movie night on Amazon Prime or HBO.
Never virtually chatted before?
Luckily, there’s a host of free and super easy to use virtual platforms that can be person-to-person or full groups of three or more. A few of these include Google Hangout, Skype, Facetime, or House Party.
3. Set Attainable Daily Goals
One of the leading causes of depressive feelings while sheltered-at-home is the feeling of purposelessness.
For most of us, before the lockdown, there was a regular routine to follow that included getting ready for work, leaving the house, taking the kids to school or daycare, running errands, hitting up the gym or maybe a yoga class, grabbing drinks with coworkers or happy hour with friends, visiting with family, and a variety of other tasks that provided purpose.
While it may be difficult to do without your regular resources, creating a weekly schedule of goals and tasks is completely within reach and can help you find a purpose for every day.
Therefore, make a schedule!
Your calendar can include simple tasks including specific days to do laundry, clean the house, — this can also be broken down into smaller tasks such as sweeping, dusting, taking out the trash, etc. — and scheduling specific wake up times or bedtimes.
With that said, make sure to incorporate more active “outings” such as pre-scheduled online exercise classes, trips to the grocery store, long walks around your neighborhood, yard work or gardening, or virtual chats with friends and family.
4. Cook a Healthy Meal
Meal Prep Sesame Tofu Bowls/One Green Planet
Food can play an integral role in mental health!
In fact, per the Harvard Medical School, “diet is such an important component of mental health that it has inspired an entire field of medicine called nutritional psychiatry.” Specifically, a slew of studies and subsequent research analyses have found “a link between what one eats and our risk of depression.”
A meta-analysis published by Science Direct found that “dietary pattern characterized by a high intake of fruit, vegetables, whole grain, fish, olive oil, low-fat dairy and antioxidants and low intakes of animal foods” has been linked with a “decreased risk of depression,” while the opposite dietary pattern “characterized by a high consumption of red and/or processed meat, refined grains, sweets, high-fat dairy products, butter, potatoes, and high-fat gravy, and low intakes of fruits and vegetables is associated with an increased risk of depression.”
Of course, there is the chicken or the egg issue. Are we making poor food choices because of depression or are the food choices leading to depressive feelings.
No matter where you land on the argument, this is the perfect time to take advantage of your quarantined state and get to cooking lots of veggies, whole grains, and fruit! Sign up for an online cooking course, — there are actually quite a few free classes available right now — explore plant-based recipes online, or even treat yourself to a cookbook!
5. Reach Out for Help
I know I’ve mentioned this multiple times, but it’s incredibly important to understand that even if you’re experiencing a lack of motivation or mild depressive feelings, you can and should still reach out to helplines and/or crisis centers.
As mentioned, there is the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Association, which offers a ton of online resources, as well as their help hotline at 1-800-662-4357. You can also access the National Network of Depression Centers, offering a listing of resources based upon your specific need:
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Association Helpline at 1-800-662-4357
- Suicide, Prevention, and Awareness Support by State
- National Alliance on Mental Health Hotline at 1-800-950-6264
- Crisis Text Line at 741741
- National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233
If you’re looking for educational resources to learn a bit more about depressive feelings, try visiting the Everyday Health Depression Resource Center, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, or Mental Health America Depression Support and Advocacy.
Plant-Based Compounds to Combat Feelings of Depression
As mentioned, food can play an integral role in your mental health. While it’s important to avoid certain foods — such as saturated fat, refined sugars, heavily processed ingredients, and caffeine — it’s even more important to incorporate the goods stuff including vegetables, whole grains, and fruit! Yet, there are some foods — or food components — that are better at tackling those feelings of depression than others. Here are a few to get you started!
Make sure to speak with your doctor before incorporating any new foods or supplements into your diet! Every human body is different and therefore needs to be addressed as such.
St. John’s Wort
Pure Mountain Botanicals St. John’s Wort/One Gren Planet
Many of those that follow with an all-natural medicinal approach generally keep a bit of St. John’s Wort on-hand in their medicine cabinet.
While research is still being conducted on this medicinal supplement, St. John’s Wort has been “linked with increasing the amount of serotonin in the body.” Serotonin is a wonderful “feel-good chemical in the brain that people with depression are often low in.”
With that said, St. John’s Wort is known to interact with many medications including blood thinners, birth control, and chemotherapy meds. Therefore, it’s incredibly important to speak with a doctor before beginning to take any St. John’s Wort supplement.
If you’ve been given the thumbs up from your doc, here are a few vegan supplements to give a try: Pure Mountain Botanicals St. John’s Wort, Gaia Herbs Emotional Balance, or this NaturesPlus Herbal Actives St John’s Wort.
NOW Panax Ginseng Supplement/Amazon.com
Gingseng is not only an adaptogenic herb — known to aid the body’s natural stress response and balance cortisol levels — but there are studies that find that ginseng can help combat the feelings of depression. A study published via the National Institutes of Health found that the “neuroprotective effect of ginseng may be useful in the prevention of depression.” It was found that ginseng indirectly alleviates feelings of depression as the herb eases “stress and can therefore improve symptoms of depression and anxiety.”
Ginseng is best consumed via supplement in order to get the right dosage such as this NOW Panax Ginseng Supplement or this NutriFlair Korean Red Panax Ginseng.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Sweet and Savory Spiced Nuts/One Green Planet
Omega-3 fatty acids are a well-known brain booster and have been shown to improve brain function. In a few studies, these fats have been shown to help manage depressive symptoms. Yet, you want to make sure to get the balance right of omega-3 fatty acids. There are two types of fatty acids within omega-3s: DHA and EPA. It’s been found that “a higher ratio of DHA to EPA” is better for combating depressive feelings. If you’re looking to get some good old fashioned plant-based omega-3 fatty acids begin incorporating nuts, flaxseed oil, and dark-green leafy veggies.
This Seeds and Greens Kaniwa Salad recipe or this Sweet and Savory Spiced Nuts recipe are a great way to get those omega-3 fatty acids!
Learn How to Cook Plant-Based Meals at Home!
Reducing your meat intake and eating more plant-based foods is known to help with chronic inflammation, heart health, mental wellbeing, fitness goals, nutritional needs, allergies, gut health and more! Dairy consumption also has been linked to many health problems, including acne, hormonal imbalance, cancer, prostate cancer and has many side effects.
For those of you interested in eating more plant-based, we highly recommend downloading the Food Monster App — with over 15,000 delicious recipes it is the largest plant-based recipe resource to help reduce your environmental footprint, save animals and get healthy! And, while you are at it, we encourage you to also learn about the environmental and health benefits of a plant-based diet.
Here are some great resources to get you started:
- Weekly Vegan Meal Plans
- Plant-Based Health Resources
- Plant-Based Food & Recipes
- Plant-Based Nutrition Resources
- The Ultimate Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition
- Budget-Friendly Plant-Based Recipes
- High Protein Plant-Based Recipes
- Plant-Based Meal Prep
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