Stimulating Your Vagus Nerve
I believe that stimulating the vagus nerve can aid in reducing depressive symptoms, indicates Amber Weiss, a mental health counselor in New York City.
She explains the vagus nerve is one of the longest nerves in the body and can be stimulated by engaging in a variety of activities, such as:
What To Say To Someone Whos Depressed
If your loved one does want to open up to you, its important that you respond to them in a compassionate and supportive way. You could use phrases such as:
- Im here for you if you need me
- What can I do to help?
- This must be incredibly difficult
- Its ok to feel like this
- Remember, asking for help is a sign of strength not weakness
- Try to look on the bright side
What To Do If Your Friend Has Suicidal Thoughts
If you are concerned your friend may harm themselves,dont dismiss your gut. Instead:
- Pay attentionto anything said about suicide, other forms of self-harm or a world thatdoesnt include them.
- Keep the lines of communication openso they know they can talk to you when they have these feelings.
- Encourage themto get professional help.
That help may include outpatient therapy and psychotropic medications prescribed by their primary care doctor or a psychiatrist. If you think your friend is in immediate danger, call 911 or take your friend to the nearest emergency department.
Remember: Your friends situation is not hopeless. Like other illnesses, depression can be treated with the right medical help and the support of friends like you.
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Be Realistic About How You Can Help
Whats more, experts agree that engaging in your own self-care is necessary to keep from overextending yourself. This allows you to be more present for your family member or friend in the long run.
Be clear about your boundaries around where you can and cant help, Watson said. Be honest and communicate to them that although you may not know what to do in a situation, youre open to listen and learn.
There are many ways to show up for someone experiencing their first depressive episode, but this is no replacement for medical care. While you shouldnt pressure them, encourage your loved one to seek out a mental health professional. Moreover, you can even research these resources and treatment options with them.
Talking To Someone With Depression
- Be ready – are you in a good headspace, and do you have the time?
- Be prepared – are you ready for a difficult conversation where you dont have the answers?
- Pick your moment – have you chosen somewhere comfortable to talk, and an appropriate time?
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Offer Support By Planning Activities Or Being Physically Present
If you notice a friend or family member in a depressive episode begins isolating more than usual, Dudley said to include them in planned activities. Depending on their unique needs, this may look like going for a walk together or grabbing coffee once a week.
At times, doing the bare minimum when in a depressive episode can feel like too much depression is emotionally and physically exhausting on every level. Managing new symptoms like poor sleep and navigating mental health care for the first time on top of fulfilling daily responsibilities can take a toll on physical health. Watson explained that offering tangible support to a loved one by making meals or doing household chores can lessen this burden.
Care tasks are difficult to do in the middle of a depressive episode, so being more concrete in your support for your loved ones can be a meaningful way to connect with them even if they dont want to talk, or youre not sure what to say, Watson said.
Learn About Depression On Your Own
Imagine having to educate each person in your life about a mental or physical health condition youre experiencing explaining it over and over again. Sounds exhausting, right?
You can talk with your friend about their specific symptoms or how theyre feeling, but avoid asking them to tell you about depression in general terms.
Read up on the symptoms, causes, diagnostic criteria, and treatments on your own.
While people experience depression differently, being familiar with the general symptoms and terminology can help you have more in-depth conversations with your friend.
These articles are a good starting point:
Triggers Of Depressive Episodes
Although numerous technological innovations and medical advances have been developed over the past decades to mitigate its risks, many people are still having a hard time dealing with a depressive episode. It has also become more difficult to identify the triggers of depression due to the differences in ones mental state.
But despite such challenges, there are certain patterns that a depressed person may encounter while in a depressive episode. It could also help to learn a thing or two about the things that could trigger a depressive state. These may include the following:
I Am Changing How I Look At Myself In The Mirror
One symptom of my depression is negative thinking. I struggle with self-criticism, which definitely translates into how I view my physical appearance. My instinct when I catch my reflection in a mirror is to put myself down. Have you gained more weight? You look disgusting. You are never going to get in shape.
I want to treat myself with more kindness, so I am making a concerted effort to change these thoughts. When my harsh inner monologue kicks in, I tell myself that itâs OK to be frustrated about my appearance. I acknowledge my feelings as real and valid without turning them inward. Then I try to notice one thing that I do like about myself, whether itâs a small detail of how I look, or something compassionate I did that day.
While it doesnât always feel natural to look for something positive, the good news is I can tell that a shift is beginning to take place.
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How Can I Help Someone With Depression
Depression is a serious but treatable disorder that affects millions of people, from young to old and from all walks of life. It gets in the way of everyday life, causing tremendous pain, hurting not just those suffering from it but also impacting everyone around them.
If someone you love is depressed, you may be experiencing any number of difficult emotions, including helplessness, frustration, anger, fear, guilt, and sadness. These feelings are all normal. Its not easy dealing with a friend or family members depression. And if you neglect your own health, it can become overwhelming.
That said, your companionship and support can be crucial to your loved ones recovery. You can help them to cope with depression symptoms, overcome negative thoughts, and regain their energy, optimism, and enjoyment of life. Start by learning all you can about depression and how to best talk about it with your friend or family member. But as you reach out, dont forget to look after your own emotional healthyoull need it to provide the full support your loved one needs.
Understanding depression in a friend or family member
Depression is a serious condition. Dont underestimate the seriousness of depression. Depression drains a persons energy, optimism, and motivation. Your depressed loved one cant just snap out of it by sheer force of will.
What Can I Do To Help Today
Depression often causes fatigue, trouble sleeping, and a lack of motivation. Sometimes just getting out of bed can be hard.
Asking what you can do can really help them through their day.
Maybe theyre not eating well and you can pick up dinner. Maybe they need a morning call or text to ensure they get to work on time. Offering to do so is a way to let them know its OK to seek help.
Sometimes you just need to listen. Helping doesnt have to be a huge, drastic effort. It can be as simple as picking up a phone, sharing a meal, or driving them to an appointment.
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Unsolicited Advice Or Opinions
Regardless of what you may know about depression, Bruno advises against offering unsolicited advice to a loved one.
Rather than immediately offering your input, use other active listening techniques like nodding your head, asking follow-up questions, and validating their experiences with affirmations, Bruno says.
Everyone has their own way of navigating their mental disorder, and if they arent a danger to themselves or someone else, it may be counterproductive to judge their process.
If you believe your friend or a loved one is a danger to themselves or someone else, you might encourage them to enact their safety plan or reach out to their therapist or another crisis support person.
- risky behavior, including substance misuse
If youre acutely concerned about their safety and they consent, you might consider staying with them while they make the call for support and help.
The Risk Of Suicide Is Real
What to do in a crisis situation
If you believe your loved one is at an immediate risk for suicide, do NOT leave them alone.
In the U.S., dial 911 or call the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.
In other countries, call your countrys emergency services number or visit IASP to find a suicide prevention helpline.
It may be hard to believe that the person you know and love would ever consider something as drastic as suicide, but a depressed person may not see any other way out. Depression clouds judgment and distorts thinking, causing a normally rational person to believe that death is the only way to end the pain theyre feeling.
Since suicide is a very real danger when someone is depressed, its important to know the warning signs:
- Talking about suicide, dying, or harming oneself a preoccupation with death
- Expressing feelings of hopelessness or self-hate
- Acting in dangerous or self-destructive ways
- Getting affairs in order and saying goodbye
- Seeking out pills, weapons, or other lethal objects
- A sudden sense of calm after depression
If you think a friend or family member might be considering suicide, dont wait, talk to them about your concerns. Many people feel uncomfortable bringing up the topic but it is one of the best things you can do for someone who is thinking about suicide. Talking openly about suicidal thoughts and feelings can save a persons life, so speak up if youre concerned and seek professional help immediately!
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What Is Major Depressive Disorder
Major depressive disorder is a serious mental illness that affects how people feel, think, and go about their everyday tasks. The condition can also impact a persons sleep habits, appetite, and ability to enjoy life.
Major depressive disorder isnt something that eventually passes.
While most people feel sad at times in their lives, major depression is when a person is in a depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks. Some people feel depressed without knowing why. The onset can happen at any age, but usually begins in adulthood. People may only have one depressive episode, but most have multiple episodes over time.
While the exact causes of major depression are unknown, some risk factors include a family history of depression and significant life events such as trauma, times of high stress, loss of a job or relationship, or the death of a loved one. People with a serious medical illness such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, or Parkinsons disease, may be at an increased risk of developing major depression.
Breathe Deeply And Relax The Muscles
Deep breathing techniques are an effective way to calm anxiety and soothe the bodys stress response. Slowly inhaling and exhaling has physical and psychological benefits, especially when done on a daily basis.
Anyone can practice deep breathing, whether in the car, at work, or in the grocery store. Plenty of smartphone apps offer guided deep breathing activities, and many are free to download.
Progressive muscle relaxation is another helpful tool for those experiencing depression and anxiety. It involves tensing and relaxing the muscles in the body to reduce stress. Again, many smartphone apps offer guided progressive muscle relaxation exercises.
We have reviewed some meditation apps that can help with depression and anxiety.
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Help Your Loved One Get Treatment For Depression
Somebody with depression may need help seeking care, both because of a sense of stigma or shame and because their illness makes it harder for them to manage tasks like finding a mental health provider or scheduling an appointment. Suggesting that you can do these things for them, remind them when the appointment is coming up, and accompany them to the visit can help them get treatment sooner rather than later.
If theyre hesitant to see a mental health professional such as a psychologist or psychiatrist, see if theyre willing to visit their primary care doctor, especially if this is someone they already know well and trust, Thienhaus says. Although its best to see someone specializing in mental health, the important part is getting connected to some form of help when needed.
You may also have to rethink the words you use to talk about depression treatment because different people may have distinct ways of viewing the condition, Thames says. Some people, for example, may not know to use the word depressed to describe how they feel, and might instead perceive their symptoms as being stressed out or not myself, for example.
Matching the language that the person can identify with is important when attempting to intervene, Thames says.
Recognizing Major Depressive Disorder
Even if youre close with someone with major depression, they may be hesitant to discuss their condition with you. Many people with depression are ashamed of their sadness and feel personally responsible for not being able to snap out of it. Others may avoid reaching out for fear of burdening or worrying their loved ones. In some cases, the person with depression may not realize that they have a mental health condition, and be too overwhelmed by feelings of guilt and hopelessness to be able to pinpoint whats causing them.
Identifying major depressive disorder can be tricky because symptoms can vary widely from person to person. However, if you know your friend well, youll likely notice significant shifts in their behavior and mood. These changes may be signs of a major depressive disorder.
Some of the most common symptoms to look out for include:
- Feelings of sadness, guilt, worthlessness, emptiness or hopelessness
- Persistent apathy or lack of motivation
- Frequent crying spells
- Irritability or frustration over small matters
- Loss of interest or pleasure in previously enjoyed activities
- Fluctuations in weight
- Changes in appetite that can either result in the person eating significantly more or significantly less than usual
- Moving or speaking slowly
If your friend is suicidal, perform mental health first aid or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at . The lifeline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and all calls are confidential and toll-free.
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Listen To What They Have To Say
People with depression can often feel isolated and find it hard to talk about their depression. Be willing to talk openly with your loved one about their feelings and listen to what they have to say. This will show them that no matter what they might be going through and how negative everything may feel to them, they are loved and valued.
Its also important to be an active listener and really immerse yourself in the conversation. Use verbal and non-verbal prompts during the conversation, maintain eye contact throughout, and regularly paraphrase what your loved one says back to them to clarify meaning and demonstrate that you have understood them. This will make opening up to you as easy and natural as possible for your loved one, making it more likely that theyll confide in you in the future if they need to.
Recognizing Depression Symptoms In A Loved One
Family and friends are often the first line of defense in the fight against depression. Thats why its important to understand the signs and symptoms of depression. You may notice the problem in a depressed loved one before they do, and your influence and concern can motivate them to seek help.
Be concerned if your loved one:
Doesnt seem to care about anything anymore. Has lost interest in work, sex, hobbies, and other pleasurable activities. Has withdrawn from friends, family, and other social activities.
Expresses a bleak or negative outlook on life. Is uncharacteristically sad, irritable, short-tempered, critical, or moody talks about feeling helpless or hopeless.
Frequently complains of aches and pains such as headaches, stomach problems, and back pain. Or complains of feeling tired and drained all the time.
Sleeps less than usual or oversleeps. Has become indecisive, forgetful, disorganized, and out of it.
Eats more or less than usual, and has recently gained or lost weight.
Drinks more or abuses drugs, including prescription sleeping pills and painkillers, as a way to self-medicate how theyre feeling.
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