There are many books written about overcoming depression and anxiety, most of which are excellent companions to helping us move forward out of these difficult experiences in our lives. However, if we learn to practice proactive habits of self care and life engagement, we can inoculate ourselves against these debilitating conditions and build resilience for life’s adversities. Here are a few of the daily life habits I recommend to anyone wanting to move out of depression and create a physically and mentally healthy lifestyle for themselves.

Daily Self-Care

  1. Get into a regular routine of sleep patterns
    *  Work with your body’s natural circadian rhythms: Wake up before 8, work, eat and sleep at consistent times. Keep a consistent daily routine.
    *  Get enough sleep (7 – 8 hours) but not too much. REM sleep is important, but also stages 3 & 4, which are the deep, restorative stages. Avoid too much caffeine–over 250 mg (1.5 cups) disrupts these sleep stages.
  2. Get regular exercise – at least 3x weekly. Include cardio, weights and stretches.  Exercise uses up stress hormones and produces the happy hormones – our endorphins!
  3. Take care of yourself nutritionally. Use food as fuel, not stress relief.
    *  Drink 4 – 8 glasses of water daily to prevent dehydration, irritability, fatigue and headaches.
    *  Take 1000 mg of fish oil daily ( as well as Vitamin D through our BC winters)
    *  Eat balanced meals and small nutritious snacks throughout the day.
  4. Connect with a supportive person every day…And be a support to someone else daily.  Take initiative to be social and consistently connect with others.
    *  Once a day, do or say something kid for another.
  5. Plan something to look forward to every day.
  6. Practice good personal hygiene and care.  As much as we may not like to admit it, appearance is important.  Be clean and smell good!
    Healthy Thinking Habits
  7. Face your fears. By willing yourself to do what you need to do, you will actually change your brain as well as change the image you have of yourself — and move from feeling helpless to  feeling strong.
  8. Be aware of when you worry and obsess about the same things repeatedly.  Move on to more productive thinking and action.  Talk to someone wise who can give you objective perspectives.  Learn strategies from reading or listening to skilled professionals.*
  9. Give yourself the opportunity to be listened to and understood.
  10. What negative thoughts do you keep telling yourself?  Write them down so you see what they are, and challenge them.  DO NOT believe everything you think – especially if it is negative.  (This is key to combatting despondency.) Focus on what is good and positive and true.
  11. It is OK to feel sad, and to acknowledge what you are feeling, but don’t allow yourself to stay there. Instead, recirculate your joyful states: Remember wonderful times and people.  Revisit photos, listen to and tell stories of positive memories and people overcoming challenges.
  12. Each day, ask: “What are three things that went well today?” OR “What three things am I grateful for today?” Write them down. Every. Day.
    Life Engagement
  13. During stressful times, having fun, self-nurturing and humour are the first things to go.  So keep doing these!  Keep engaging in positive activities and take initiative to plan them with others.
  14. Try new things! …new foods, new activities, talk to new people…Don’t let yourself get into a rut!
  15. The most effective treatment for depression is “Life Engagement!”  The opposite of depression is not happiness–it is feeling alive!
  16. Step back from resentment that attaches itself to the difficulties that others have caused us.  Practice Forgiveness.  Make it a habit.
  17. Have daily contact with nature and other living creatures. Get outside!

Keep focused and working towards valued goals – meaningful, purposeful things in life.  Live with integrity, treating yourself and others with respect.  Keep clear about what is truly important and how you can impact others for good.  In that sense, your life is not your own – you are here for a purpose – to make an impact for good in your world.
Determine to be an influence for good in your world.

*check out the writings of David Burns (“The Feeling Good Handbook”)John D Preston (“You can beat depression”) and Martin Seligman (“Flourish”), among others.

Joan has provided counselling for marriage, family and individual concerns for over 25 years. She provides guidance and support for relationship difficulties, reconstructing marriage after an affair, conflict resolution, problem-solving and parent-child relationships. Joan works with individuals who are dealing with depression, anxiety, loss, trauma recovery and/or experience with assault and abuse. Joan’s approach depends upon the situation presented, and includes a variety of therapeutic approaches such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Solution-Focused Brief Therapy, Family Therapy, EMDR and Emotionally Focused Therapy. Client strengths are emphasized with personal insight and responsibility for growth is encouraged. Joan’s doctoral dissertation research focused on resilience factors in adversity. She received her master’s degree in Counselling Psychology from the University of Saskatchewan, followed by two years of specialized clinical training in Chicago. She is a member of the B.C. College of Psychologists and the B.C. Psychological Association. Joan enjoys teaching in community, retreat and university settings on topics related to her areas of practice and experience. Having been married for over thirty years, with four adult children, her approach to relationships and life problems is both realistic and practical.

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