If you’ve struggled with depression you are probably aware that depression changes your brain. Even after you’re stable on medication your thought process, behavior patterns and general sense of self well-being can be altered. You may still be behaving, thinking and feeling like a depressed person. Think of this way, when the cast comes off a broken leg or arm the bone is healed, but the muscles around it are weak. You need to do physical therapy to regain the strength you’ve lost. Healing after depression is similar.
Your thoughts might still turn in a negative way. You may still socially isolate, sleep too much, skip activities you once enjoyed. You may not feel like yourself and have no idea what to do about it.
Luckily, there is something you can do. The following are some strategies that can help. I encourage you to be patient with yourself, change takes time, but with regular effort you can retrain your brain after depression.
- Exercise: Walk, run, bike, etc. Do something to get your heart rate up and those endorphins pumping. Studies show that doing 30 minutes of exercise most days can improve your mood significantly. If you’re new to exercise check with your doctor before starting a routine, and go slowly at first.
- Meditate: Meditation can do amazing things for you mind and body. It can help relieve anxiety, improve sleep, boost concentration, lessen minor aches and pains and decrease depression. You can practice in many ways from focusing on the breath to repeating a mantra to listening to a guided meditation. The most important thing is to be consistent in your practice.
- Journal: Get your thoughts and feelings out of your head and onto the page. Sit for at least 15 minutes and just write what comes to mind. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar or punctuation…just write. Believe it or not writing on a regular basis can be as effective as psychotherapy.
- Talk about it: Studies show that we get as much of an endorphin boost from talking as we can from sex. When problems live in our heads they often feel much more overwhelming. Getting them out in the open is often a huge relief. You don’t have to do this alone. Call a friend, call a family member, call your priest, minister or rabbi. Pick-up the phone and talk about it.
- Rediscover your creativity: Everyone is passionate about something. Those creative passions often get buried under the detritus of depression, and remain forgotten. Take a moment to remember the last time you did something that filled you with pure joy. It may be baking, gardening, painting or dancing. You might have to think back. Maybe it was singing in the high school musical, ice-skating as a child or building with legos. Remind yourself of that which makes your heart sing and do it!
- Get therapy! The recommended treatment for depression and anxiety is a combination of medication and psychotherapy. Still, so many people take the medication and skip the therapy. Seeing a therapist helps in so many ways from helping you manage your stress to helping you improve your relationships to helping you create a plan for coping with crisis. If you need help finding a therapist ask your psychiatrist, call your insurance company or feel free to contact me, 917-721-2257 or firstname.lastname@example.org Together we can work to retrain your brain after depression.