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The Blues and Depression What You Can Do To Overcome Them

HELP YOURSELF is created by Counseling Services
© 1989, 1997 Kansas State University

Feeling lonely, gloomy, uncertain? Nearly everyone has had the blues at one time or another. You can get stuck in these feelings so much that they drag you down.

You don't have to be stuck! You can overcome the blues and beat depression. Here are some tips. No one tip or combination works for everyone. Experiment to see what works for you.

What you can do

GET OUT OF BED:

One of the most important things you can do is get up at about the same time every morning (even weekends). Preferably, that means about 7 a.m. or earlier. You might not feel like it but Get Up. Such regularity helps your body function more normally so you're more likely to feel normal.

LIGHTS:

Light helps your body function better. So turn on a lot of lights as soon as you arise. Open curtains to get more sunlight. Better yet, go outdoors into the sunshine as soon as you can. Remove any eye wear so light will enter more readily (glass cuts out some of the sun's rays). But don't stare at the sun, of course.

MOVE:

Be active right away -- oxygenate! That means getting up and walking around your dwelling for five or 10 minutes, or perhaps riding an Exercycle. Mild exercise gets the blood flowing and transports more oxygen throughout your body (especially to your brain), helping you feel mentally alert and alive.

MUSIC:

Select and play some energetic, happy music as you dress and have your breakfast. The audiovisual department of most libraries has albums and tapes you can check out.

BREAKFAST:

Begin your breakfast with protein (i.e., meat, eggs, peanut butter, nuts, cheese). When you get up, your body chemistry is ready to convert food, especially protein, into long lasting energy. To balance your most important meal of the day, add an orange or other fresh fruit and whole grain cereal or whole grain bread.

TALK WITH SOMEONE:

One of the quickest ways to beat the blues is to interact with others. You might not feel like doing that - you'd rather avoid people when blue. So make lt easier on yourself. Talk with someone you enjoy about a subject you enjoy so there is definite give and take.

And, force yourself to say "hello" to the persons next to you in class, those where you live, anyone around.

LIMIT CAFFEINE:

The long-term (four hours or so) effects of caffeine are depression. Try to limit coffee to no more than one cup in the morning. Coffee can make you more alert for an hour or so, but later you get an opposite reaction. Caffeine tends to increase the release of insulin in the blood, and insulin lowers the blood sugar level. When you have low blood sugar levels, you begin to feel less sure of yourself, and have low energy levels, which can lead to the blues or depression.

LIMIT SUGAR:

Sugar might give you an initial rush of energy, but within an hour or so the blood sugar level can become low, and when it's low you may feel low, too.

The caffeine/sugar cycle. It's easy to get caught in the caffeine and sugar cycle -- having coffee, caffeinated soft drinks, or something with sugar every two hours or so to "stay up." For example, cola contains about 10 teaspoons of sugar plus caffeine equal to about half a cup of coffee. In addition to bringing on the blues, this cycle can result in dependence, poor nutrition. and obesity -- reasons to get down on yourself even more and feel blue.

MAINTAIN FIBER:

Fiber helps food go through your digestive system at a proper rate, giving a more constant energy supply. Highly processed foods merely provide a quick surge of energy which can be followed by depression. You can maintain fiber in your diet by eating an orange or grapefruit rather than just drinking the juice. Eat fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, and whole grain breads and cereals.

STRESS B COMPLEX:

Some persons report receiving help by taking a concentrated vitamin B complex. You'll find these called something like "Stress B" or "B 50." This is controversial. Some nutritionists say, "Yes, this really should be considered," and others say, "No, this is not a good Idea." You can try some and decide whether or not it helps you. If it does help, then perhaps you should consult a nutritionist to see if there are other ways you can augment your diet.

ROUTINES:

Changing your routines is another way to help shake the blues. Choose a different combination of clothes to wear, walk rather than drive, take a different route, eat at a different place. Do something different to help break the routine.

It's hard. Getting up in the morning, turning on the lights, eating a nutritious breakfast, keeping busy--keeping such a schedule is not always easy.

You might need help for the first few days, someone to help you form good habits, get you out of bed, turn on the lights, make sure you have a good breakfast, someone to help you be more active. One good way is to make a contract with a friend or friends who want to see you change. It might seem embarrassing, but those friends want to see you healthy and happy rather than depressed and difficult to be around. Note: If you feel that you need the help of someone for more than three or four days, you probably should make an appointment with a counselor or psychotherapist. You don't want to wear out your friends!

DEVELOP SUPPORTS:

Good old-fashioned support works wonders. Most of us have not developed "support systems." We need to think about that idea ahead of time, if we have the tendency to feel blue, so that the supports can be available when needed. Plan ahead by filling out the last section of this publication and keep it handy. In addition to developing your own resources, you might know of some community support groups for persons with the blues. Call the local mental health center to see if there are some groups you might be a part of. Some places to call for leads at K-State will be listed at the end of this brochure.

What do I do when I feel myself coming down with the blues?

Recognize the change in yourself when you are "coming down" with an emotional slump. Don't deny it or feel guilty. Rather, take charge of yourself right away.

Perhaps taking a day off and doing some favorite things will restore you. Get more exercise: walk, garden, cycle, swim. You might not feel like it, but exercise is one of the best depression breakers and preventers.

PRETEND:

Put a smile on your face and pretend that you are happy. Stand straight rather than falling into that slouching, depressed posture. Sound hokey? Well, it isn't. Research demonstrates that forming a facial expression actually changes how you feel inside. And pretending to feel an emotion results in actually feeling it. Frowners feel sadder. And the depressing effects last for hours. So smile: at yourself and others, even trees or dogs or cats. Sure, it's tough to smile when you're feeling blue. The extra effort you muster to do it will help you break the blues.

Wear bright, happy clothes and pretend you are happy. You will then find yourself happy. Maybe, even wear a goofy shirt or blouse or cap so you can see others smile with you. Dressing cheerfully and pretending can beat the blues.

SEEK OUT HUMOR:

See a funny movie, read a humorous book, or listen to a comedy tape/CD. When you see a really funny cartoon, make a copy and save it. Consciously decide to use and employ these things when you find yourself coming down with the blues. Singing can help -- make yourself do it.

EXERCISE:

It's worth stating again: Exercise is a great way to break depression. Walk, go to the Rec Center and ride an Exercycle, swim, or climb stairs if it's too cold or hot outside.

Do not give in to those inner blues that say, "I don't feel like it."
Doing almost anything constructive will be beneficial.

When you're feeling good, prepare yourself for future "dips". Fill out the following Blues Busters form. Keep it handy so you can use it when you need it.

Blues Busters

Things I Enjoy Doing (write a list of things that have made you feel happy in the past)

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

etc.

People I Can Call (write a list of your current supports, include names of those people you hope to develop as friends in the near future)

NAME(S)                                                PHONE NUMBER

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

etc.

Some Other Resources

AT KANSAS STATE UNIVERSITY:

For other resources on the Internet

See our LINKS page for some suggestions.