Am I Depressed?

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Many people ask themselves this question every day.  You notice a change in yourself, or maybe your loved ones point it out to you; could it be depression?

Our society likes throw around clinical terms such as “depression” in everyday language to describe someone or characteristics of themselves. The reality is, that this term is very real, psychiatric diagnosis.

So… how can you determine if you are suffering from depression? Here are some symptoms to consider:

  1. Depression is a word to describe your mood. Are you feeling down, sad, lonely or irritable?
  2. When our mood changes, we tend to lose interest in parts of our lives we used to find joy in.
  3. Changes in our sleep, appetite, activity levels, attention span and weight may also indicate depression.
  4. Feelings of guilt, low self-esteem and worthlessness are common in people who struggle with depression.
  5. Suicidality or thoughts about self-harm or death can also be experienced by someone with depression..

 

If you read the above tips and found any one of them to be true, you would probably not be alone. As humans, we experience emotion on a continuum- and just because we experience sadness or changes in our sleep, does not mean we suffer from depression.

It is important to consider that when the above symptoms become difficult to handle and are impacting different aspects of your life, you should seek out a professional’s support.

Any licensed mental health professional can help you determine if you struggle with depression. As it is the most commonly diagnosed psychiatric disorder, there are plenty of options for treatment and support.

If you or anyone you know is experiencing suicidal thinking, please contact your local emergency services or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at :  1-800-273-8255

 

Be Well,

Valerie Spiropoulos, LCPC

 

 

11 Ways to Improve Sleep

As much as we would like to unwind at the end of the day, it can be difficult to turn off your mind before going to sleep. Stress can cause your bedtime routine to consist of worrying about anything you forgot to do today and making sure you remember everything that has to get done tomorrow. That is mentally exhausting and affecting your ability to get a restful sleep, to say the least.

Adults should average 7-8 hours of sleep per night; about 40% of Americans do not even come close! Even minimal sleep loss hinders your mood, energy, mental sharpness, and ability to handle stress. There is a big difference between getting enough sleep to function and getting enough sleep to function optimally. Improving your pre bedtime routine is essential if you want better sleep. Here is a list of ways to decrease anxiety and stress levels before bedtime in order to give your mind and body the rest it craves!

1.Set a worry time period for earlier in the day. Take 10-15 minutes mid day to make a list of things you need to get done in order to decrease racing worrying thoughts at night. This also prepares you for the next day.

2. Create a pre- sleep routine. Set aside 30 minutes for this. The mind needs you to separate your day from your night. Whatever consistent behaviors you put in routine will trigger your mind and body to relax and prepare for bed.

3. Aim to be in bed around the same time every night. This can be difficult, however your internal clock needs to be regulated in order to improve sleep hygiene.

4. Replace worrying with productive behaviors before your bedtime routine that will prepare you for the next day. You can lay out your clothes, prepare meals, review your to-do list, put coats/shoes/bags by the door, etc.

5. Practice relaxation techniques to calm anxiety and racing thoughts. Take a long, deep breath, in through your nose, noticing your abdomen rise. Hold the breath briefly. Exhale the breath as your abdomen deflates. Repeat this cycle between 6 to 10 times. There are many phones apps such as “Calm” that have guided breathing exercises to follow in order to ease your mind and body.

6. Reduce or eliminate caffeine intake later in the day. The effects of caffeine can last at least 4 hours.

7. Create an optimal sleep environment. Make sure your bed is comfortable. Keep your room dark, cool, and quiet. If you are someone who needs noise to sleep then try a white noise machine and put a timer on it so that it will not disrupt  your sleep throughout the night.

8. Increase physical activity. Aim to exercise 3-4 times a week for at least 30 minutes. Cardiovascular endurance helps the body decrease stress and regulate your mood. This will decrease feelings of anxiety and stress while preparing for bed.

9. Avoid using electronic devices before bed. Our circadian rhythms are sensitive to the blue light given off when using phones, computers, TVs, and tablets; which can cause a barrier to your body releasing sleep hormones.

10. Reserve your bed for sleep. Try not to text, watch TV, or do work tasks while in bed. This will trigger the body to begin to relax once you get into bed for sleep.

11. Increase positive thoughts before bed. The thoughts you have before falling asleep affect your unconscious mind and can make it difficult to have a restful sleep. Stay focused on your pre bedtime routine and remind yourself you have prepared to handle tomorrow. Staying present will help decrease anxious thoughts as well.

Healthy sleep is critical for your mental and physical health. Almost half of Americans do not receive the amount of sleep they need in order to function at their best. Try this above checklist for even a few days and see how your mood and energy are positively affected!