5 Tactics to Try BEFORE Starting on Antidepressants

I was recently asked, “What are some of the most effective ways to fight depression?”

Given that I’m a nurse, you might expect my answer to be based on the medical model.  You know, pushing the “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” pills.

Nope. I see medication as a last resort.  Psychotropic medication is powerful stuff and should be reserved for those folks who are either very seriously depressed (in which case, medication can be a life-saver) or have tried several different ways of alleviating their symptoms without success.

So let’s start with 5 of the less invasive options:

1. Get some blood work done. Specifically, get your Vitamin D levels, Epstein-Barr Virus titre, and a full thyroid panel checked.

Vitamin D is way more important than we ever imagined–it’s involved in all kinds of crucial body systems. And low levels (below 30ng/mL) can cause symptoms that mimic depression, like deep fatigue and listlessness, in some people. The antidote is taking an oil-based Vitamin D3 supplement daily (up to 5000iu a day for a month then dropping down to 2000iu a day should sustain you.)

The Epstein-Barr virus is the virus that most often causes mono. Think you’re too old for mono? You absolutely are not. I contracted mono when I was 45 and it knocked me flat for 7 weeks. And all my symptoms looked like a severe depressive episode. We knew it wasn’t because my E-B titre was sky high. Fortunately, your doc can prescribe a heavy-duty antiviral, which will start to clear it out of your system within a day or two.

If your thyroid is beginning to poop out on you, you may feel sluggish, have clouded thinking, want to sleep a lot…in other words, it’s indistinguishable from the symptoms of depression.  You’ll know it’s thyroid if your TSH level is above 4.0 or so.

Don’t fool around with this–take the thyroid replacement medication your doctor prescribes religiously.  It’ll only be effective if you take it every morning, on an empty stomach, with nothing but water, and then have nothing to eat or drink afterwards for at least another hour.

2. Move. I don’t mean change your address. I mean get your body in motion. Get out of bed. Shower. Brush your teeth. Put on clean clothes. And then go for a walk. Force yourself. See it as a required medication you must take to get better. Walk around the block or down to the corner where you get a cup of coffee or tea. It can be on your treadmill, if you want. Just get your body fluids circulating again. The brain cannot come back online if there is little blood flow in it.

3. Excavate. Either through writing or talking, dig into what’s really happening in your head. Be courageous and write out your Truths. Be fearless and call someone who you know for sure will listen to you and be a supportive guide as you explore this stuff. Uncovering your hidden thoughts and feelings is the key to opening that cage that has you locked away.

4. Study. Read up on sadness, grief, loss and depression and the many ways available to lift yourself up. Listen to podcasts by people like Joel Osteen, Andrew Weil, or Tony Robbins. Listen to Marianne Williamson’s audio books.  Watch TEDTalks on YouTube. The more you know, and the more inspired you are to fight it, the stronger you’ll be. So rip into this thing. Tear it apart. Learn how it tricks the brain, and you’ll be better armed to defend yourself from it.

5. Act. Knowledge is power, yes, but only if the knowledge leads to action. So take what you’re learning about depression and your Self, and push yourself to do more. Reach out to someone–ANYONE–and ask them to meet you for lunch. (Then keep that lunch date no matter what! No canceling!) Go see a movie you really want to see, even if it’s by yourself. Call your family and ask them how they are (then listen to them patiently!) Volunteer at an animal shelter or soup kitchen or hospital. Being of service is one of the best defenses against depression.

You’ll be amazed at how effective even one of these interventions can be, depending upon what’s at the root of your sadness.

If after trying all five of these you are still struggling, set up a free 20-min call with me.  Together we can come up with a game plan, I promise.  Just drop me a note and we’ll go from there.  alison@bluefunkbeat.com

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