A 12-Step Program in Reducing “Blue Moods”
Several weeks ago, a very close friend confided in me that she was extremely depressed and that her “blue moods” were becoming more the norm then the exception. While she noted that her mood swings were more extreme during the holiday season (the time in which her son had died), she also stated that her depression was present during the rest of the year as well.
I do not profess to be a physician or an expert on depression. But as the author of a self-help book (He Promised He’d Stop) who has a degree in sociology and 35- years in the courtroom advising over 25,000 individuals with various mental health and relationship issues, I do feel uniquely qualified to serve as a “life coach.”
Over three decades of advising people how to be proactive in addressing their depression and “blue moods,” I have found that the etiologies of depression are both multifaceted and complex. Depression can be caused by a combination of factors related to medical, psychiatric, and sociological issues. If you are to address the actual cause(s) of your “blue moods,” you must approach it in an eclectic manner whereby all areas of concern are considered. If not, while a single factor may be addressed and resolved, other issues may be overlooked resulting in the depression to continue.
I have designed what I call a 12-step program in reducing “blue moods.” The fact is, depression can be triggered by a multitude of issues that involve medical conditions, hormonal changes, body chemistry, nutrition, drugs, environmental issues, stress, finances, grief, low-self esteem and a seemingly endless number of complex concerns. Hopefully, the following steps will enable you to become more proactive in reducing your depression and live a happier life. I have found however, that while many people complain of being depressed, most do not take measures that will lift their spirits. The fact is, if you are not proactive in addressing the following areas of your life, things will probably never improve. Most of us however, do have it within our control to wake up each day with a brighter look for tomorrow. While it may not be a perfect day, if you take proper measures, it will be a better day.
Step One: Get a complete physical and psychiatric assessment. If you are over 50, also ask your physician to check your hormonal levels. You may have gone through menopause without addressing the physiological and emotional changes that have taken place. As you may know, a hormonal imbalance, including low testosterone levels in older males, can trigger mood swings and depression. In some instances it can be severe. You may also want to have your blood sugar levels checked as well. Low blood sugar can also trigger mood swings and depression.
Step Two: Be medication compliant. If your doctor determines that you need to take appropriate medication (s) to correct your condition (s), be compliant and take them only as prescribed. There is a fine line between use and abuse. You must also be careful that certain medications are not affecting you in a negative manner. Be aware that taking multiple medications simultaneously may have significant adverse effects on you physically and emotionally. Make a list of all medications you are taking and allow your doctor (s) to do an analysis of their interactive qualities.
Many people, understandably, resist taken medication of any kind. If however, your problems are physiological or psychological in nature, it is highly unlikely they will be resolved without a medication regiment.
Step Three: Check out the foods that you ingest: As you know, foods and fluids that are high in sugar, carbohydrates, caffeine and other ingredients can cause mood swings, depressed periods, and virtual changes in how you feel physically. Of course, going long periods of time without eating can trigger problems as well. The use of quick fixes, such as energy drinks and other cosmetic remedies will backfire in your attempts to feel better. If you indulge now with quick fixes, you will pay later.
Step Four: Address your stress and anxiety. Use various techniques such as meditation, therapeutic massage, listening to soothing music, reading a good book or whatever it takes to pull you away from many issues that you needlessly dwell upon. Most of what you worry about NEVER HAPPENS. Be careful not to waste too much of your time obsessing on future events (and past events) of which you have little or no control.
Step Five: Exercise daily. Physical exercise not only keeps you healthy and balances your body chemistry; it also allows you to burn off calories that will enable you in maintaining a healthy weight. In addition, it will be a boast to your esteem by making you feel more confident and physically attractive.
Step Six: Address your sexuality. Sexual repression can result in mood swings and depression as well. Even at an older age, you need sexual intimacy and a venue in which to express your sexuality. If you have found that your sex drive has been reduced with age, a simple blood test can determine if it is related to a hormonal imbalance. Men over 50 often find that their decreased sex drive is related to low testosterone levels. There are medications that can easily correct these levels and get them back in balance.
Step Seven: Consider entering grief counseling. If you are over 50, you have probably began losing your significant others such as parents, spouses, friends and even children. It is also probable that you have repressed the deep feelings surrounding your losses and merely covered them up with scar tissue. While the old cliché, “time heals” may have some substance to it, when it comes to losing your significant others, you never fully heal, but you must find ways to adapt.
Step Eight: Enter talk therapy. We all have issues that we need to explore and discuss with a professional trained to help us understand ourselves better than we do. Choose a qualified therapist that can assist you with your clinical needs and issues that feed your depression. Don’t be embarrassed to ask the clinician about his/her training and licensing credentials. Anyone can hang out a shingle. A wrong choice can sometimes do you more harm than good.
Step Nine: Do volunteer work. Helping others, including animals, will leave you with a sense of fulfillment and will increase your self-esteem and self-respect. The lists of agencies that need volunteers are endless and will certainly include some of your personal interests. Whenever you give to others, you receive so much more in return.
Step Ten: Channel your creative talents and energies into your area of expertise: It is not by chance, it is by design, that so many people express themselves through the creative arts. Writers write, painters paint, singers sing, dancers dance and actors act. Such creativity will provide you with a sense of identity, purpose and self-esteem. Expressing your creative talents is essential to your emotional balance.
Step Eleven: Socialize with friends, family and significant others every chance you get. Be aware that as we age, our life circles become diminished and our contacts with others are greatly reduced. If you do not overtly seek out others for human contact, your sense of isolation and loneliness may become overwhelming. Human contact is critical to your sense of oneness and purpose.
Step Twelve: Address your spiritual nature. Regardless of how you “practice” your spiritual leanings, you should not deny the need to address a higher power. We are only on this earth for a very brief period of time. As we get older, we recognize that our last chapter in life is before us. If you are to emotionally prepare for the next life, you must be able to fade away from this one with a sense of spiritual well-being.