7 Strategies to Start Healing the Damage of Depression

Did you know that depression can cause harm to the brain? Luckily, it does not have to be permanent. With the seven strategies outlined below, you can begin to undo the damage.

Here's the bad news...depression damages your brain.  This is particularly true when depression goes untreated for long periods of time, and when there are repeated episodes of depression. 

In addition, the likelihood of relapse increases with every subsequent episode.  This damage can cause problems with memory, planning, prioritizing and decision making. 

People who struggle with depression often spend a great deal of time ruminating, which starts as trying to figure things out, but ends in triggering the fear responses in the brain.  This causes the depressed person to remain stuck and hopeless.  Plus, this pattern of negative thought becomes more and more solidified the longer it continues. 

Here's the good news...the damage can be undone. 

Below, I've outlined several strategies that can help begin to reverse the damage that has already been done. Remember that healing comes over a period of time with daily effort.

  1. Fish oil:  Research shows that taking fish oil can improve the mood and stave off repeated episodes of depression.  This is because low levels of Omega-3 Fatty Acids in the system are connected with many mental disorders, including depression.   Dr. Andrew Weil recommends taking between two and four grams of omega-3 fatty acids daily with a meal for optimal results.  Its Important that the product you choose be guaranteed to be free of harmful contaminants.  If you are a vegetarian omega-3s can be found abundantly in eggs and flax seed.  Of course, check with your doctor before adding this or any supplement to your diet.  
  2. Breath:  When we are tense or anxious our breath has a tendency to be short and shallow.  This sends a danger message to the brain, adrenaline is released, and we become more tense, more anxious, more likely to increase our depression.  To counter this, try spending some time each day focusing on your breath.  Breathe in and out slowly and deeply.  When you find your mind beginning to wander just return it to the breath...again and again.  Doing this for just 3 minutes a day can begin to greatly increase your overall feeling of relaxed calm. 
  3. Talk:  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.  So when you feel yourself starting to worry or ruminate, call a friend, call a family member or call a professional.
  4. Walk:  I know you've heard about the benefits of exercise again and again, but that is because it’s true.  Thirty minutes of cardiovascular exercise most days is as effective as antidepressant medications for treating depression.  If you have never exercised before maybe 5 minutes is all you can manage at first, maybe fewer.  Do what you can do, and remember it’s the action that precedes the feeling.  You may not feel like working out, but you will likely feel better once you do it.  Please check with your doctor to get the ok before beginning an exercise routine.
  5. Yoga:  Like exercise, the benefits of yoga are too many to list here.  But for people who struggle with depression, yoga gets you out of your head and into the moment.  You focus on where you hold tension in your body, and you work to let it go.  Yoga also offers a profound sense of relaxation and well-being particularly when practiced over time.  Again, check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine.
  6. Write:  Keep a journal of your emotions.  Take note of how you feel several times throughout the day.  This will help you pay attention to what triggers your emotions, and how often your emotions fluctuate during the day.  Emotions always come from somewhere.  When you learn to pay attention to you these triggers you can have more control over your reactions. 
  7. Seek Help:  If doing this on your own feels overwhelming, its important that you seek out a qualified therapist to help you.  Feel free to contact me, 917-721-2257 or rebekah@rebekahshackney.com  Together we can undo the damage that depression has done.       

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Shari Lillian May 06, 2012 at 10:49 PM
Thank you for these coping strategies. They do work well alone or in conjuntion w/ one another. The only one I am unfamiliar with is the fish oil. I will start that tomorrow - any other dietary suggestions?
Rebekah Shackney May 07, 2012 at 01:24 AM
Thanks for your comment, Shari. Regarding diet, make sure you are eating a well balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean protein and complex carbs. Studies have shown that low levels of vitamin D, B12, folate and selenium are associated with increased depression.
Meryle Richman, PT, DPT, MS May 09, 2012 at 06:35 PM
I would also like to recommend Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn's new book on Mindfulness for Beginners. Meryle Richman
Rebekah Levine Shackney May 10, 2012 at 11:24 PM
Thats a great idea, Meryle. I teach/ recommend mindfulness to my clients with depression.


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