The Blues and Depression:
What You Can Do To Overcome Them
Feeling lonely, gloomy, uncertain? Nearly everyone has had the blues at one time or another. However, you can get stuck in these feelings so much that they drag you down.
You don’t have to be stuck! You can overcome the blues and beat depression. Here are some tips. No one tip or combination works for everyone. Experiment to see what works for you.
What You Can Do
Get out of bed. One of the most important things you can do is get up at the same time every morning (even weekends). Preferably, that means about 7 a.m. or earlier. You might not feel like it but — Get up! Such regularity helps your body function better so you’re more likely to feel normal.
Lights. Light helps your body function better. So turn on a lot of lights as soon as you arise. Open curtains to get more sunlight. Better yet, go outdoors into the sunshine as soon as you can.
Move. Be active right away — oxygenate! That means getting up and walking around your apartment for five or ten minutes, or perhaps riding an exercise bike. Mild exercise gets the blood flowing and transports more oxygen throughout your body (especially to your brain), helping you feel mentally alert and alive.
Music. Select and play some energetic, happy music as you get ready and have your breakfast.
Breakfast. Begin your breakfast with protein (i.e., meat, eggs, peanut butter, nuts, and cheese). When you get up, your body chemistry is ready to convert food, especially protein, into long-lasting energy. To balance your most important meal of the day, add some fresh fruit and whole-grain cereal or whole-grain bread.
Talk with someone. One of the quickest ways to beat the blues is to interact with others. You might not feel like doing that — you’d rather avoid people when blue. So make it easier on yourself. Talk with someone you enjoy about a subject you enjoy so there is definite give and take. And force yourself to say “hello” to the people next to you in class, those where you live, anyone around.
Limit caffeine. The long-term effects (four hours or so) of caffeine are depression. Try to limit coffee to no more than one cup in the morning. Coffee can make you more alert for an hour or so, but later you get an opposite reaction. Caffeine tends to increase the release of insulin in the blood, and insulin lowers the blood sugar level. When you have low blood sugar levels, you begin to feel less sure of yourself, and have low energy levels, which can lead to the blues or depression.
Limit sugar. Sugar might give you an initial rush of energy, but within an hour or so the blood sugar level can become low, and when it’s low you may feel low too.
The caffeine-sugar cycle. It’s easy to get caught in the caffeine and sugar cycle — having coffee, caffeinated soft drinks, or something with sugar every two hours to “stay up.” For example, cola drinks contain about 10 teaspoons of sugar plus caffeine equal to a half a cup of coffee. In addition to bringing on the blues, this cycle can result in dependence, poor nutrition, and obesity — reasons to get down on yourself even more and feel blue.
Maintain fiber. Fiber helps food go through your digestive system at a proper rate, giving a more constant energy supply (highly processed foods merely provide a quick surge of energy that can be followed by depression). You can maintain fiber in your diet by eating an orange or grapefruit rather than just drinking the juice. Eat fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, and whole-grain breads and cereals.
Stress B complex. Some people report receiving help by taking a concentrated vitamin B complex. Sometimes these are referred to as “Stress B” or B 50.” This is controversial. Some nutritionists say, “Yes, this really should be considered,” and others say, “No, this isn’t a good idea.” You can try it and decide whether or not it helps you. If it does help, then you should consult a nutritionist to see if there are other ways you can augment your diet.
Routines. Changing your routines is another way to help shake the blues. Choose a different combination of clothes to wear, walk rather than drive, take a different route, eat at a different place. Do something different to help break the routine.
It’s difficult. Getting up in the morning, turning on the lights, eating a nutritious breakfast, keeping busy — keeping such a schedule is not always easy. You might need help for the first few days, someone to help you form good habits, get you out of bed, turn on the lights, make sure you have a good breakfast, someone to help you be more active. One good way is to make a contract with a friend or friends who want to help you change. It might seem embarrassing, but those friends want to see you healthy and happy rather than depresses and difficult to be around. Note: If you feel that you need the help of someone for more than three or four days, you probably should make an appointment with a counselor. You don’t want to wear out your friends!
Develop supports. Good old-fashioned support works wonders. Most of us have not developed “support systems.” We need to think about that idea ahead of time if we have the tendency to feel blue, so that the supports are in place when needed. Plan ahead by filling out the last section of this handout and keep it handy. In addition to developing your own resources, you might know of some community support groups for people with the blues. Call University Counseling Services (UCS) to see if there are some groups in which you may participate.