No one has ever asked me this question in my 20 yrs of practice. I wonder why. Have you ever had this question? Do you think it is crucial to find how to prevent depression that affects one in 5 people in their lifetime?
What if you can do something to prevent depression? If you have experienced it, what if you can take steps to decrease its severity and stop it from recurring? Let’s review what can you do in either case.
You see, I am an MD-psychiatrist specializing in the treatment of depression. I help people come out of depression and stay out as much as possible. I try to prevent depression, so people don’t have to suffer unnecessarily.
Most people who have not been depressed don’t think that it can happen to them. Like most illnesses, when we are doing well, we believe it can only happen to others, not us.
Thankfully, for some infectious diseases, we have vaccinations. We have also learned good practices like hand washing that prevent the spread of the germs.
We don’t keep thinking about getting sick all the time. We just take precautions which are in our control (like washing hands). We don’t worry about things that are not in our control. We deal with the issues when they happen and if they happen.
So what about mental illnesses. Are there steps that we can take to prevent depression and stop it from worsening?
I believe that there are five levels of protection that may help you. I call them lines of defenses.
1. Keeping your mind and body fit:
As you can prevent many body illnesses by keeping your body fit, you can avoid many mental diseases by keeping your mind fit.
When a person gets depressed, everything looks dark as if they are wearing dark glasses. If you develop a habit of seeing things in a positive light, sometimes, you can dodge depression.
Are there exercises you can do?
Yes, like body exercises, there are also mental exercises that you can do.
When you don’t give attention to your diet, sleep, exercise, stimulation, and isolation, you get sick — both in body and mind.
Therefore, attending to these wellness approaches can also help prevent depression.
2. Stress Management:
Stress is common, and in many cases, it is a precursor to depression.
That is the reason I focus so much on stress management and have developed the program “Stress to Joy.” The exercises in this program can help you build stress resilience and happiness. They can shield you many times from the effects of depression.
Certain ways of thinking can lead to or increase depression. Other ways of thinking can protect you.
Many mind training tools can help you train yourself to shift from thoughts that hurt you to thoughts that help you. You can learn to calm your brain with mindfulness and other relaxation exercises. Taking these steps will empower you to decrease your unnecessary suffering.
3. Talk therapy/ Psychotherapy:
When the wellness approaches and self-work are not enough, you may need some help from others.
Your friends, family, and community may be the first line of your support. You may also need professional help.
The first stage of professional help is psychotherapy which is available in many forms, most commonly in the form of talking to a therapist. This therapy can help you improve your thoughts, emotions, and behavior.
Although it sounds very simple, evidence shows that it is powerful. In this process, although you are in the driving seat, your therapist can help you and guide you in your journey to recovery.
You don’t need to jump to this level of defense until you have tried the first three levels of defenses. Yet you don’t need to be too afraid to try if it is required. We live in fortunate times when we have so many options.
The best strategy that can help is to work with a therapist first. When they feel that you would benefit from the support of the medications, then add this tool.
I consider medications as stepping stools. When you were a kid, and you couldn’t get to the sink to wash your hands, you used a stool to make it easier to reach the sink. You still needed to wash your hands, but a stepping stool made it more accessible.
Similarly, you still need to train your brain and take the above steps. Yet medications may make it easier, especially when there is a biological deficit of certain chemicals in the brain.
5. Advanced treatments:
When medications are also not working, there are other advanced treatments available now. These include TMS, ECT, DNS, and many others.
Occasionally, people go through severe phases. Sometimes, they feel like hurting themselves or hurting others or get confused. In those situations, it becomes necessary to be in a protective environment like a hospital.
So those are the five levels of protection depending on the situation. I hope this answered some of your questions. But you may have more questions. Let me know, and I will try to answer them in more detail in my upcoming book; “I don’t have depression.”
Do you think it is an important area that can help many people?
Is there a particular question you would like me to discuss in this book?
Is there a message or story you would like me to convey to others in this book?
Let me know by responding to this email.
As always, I love to hear from you if something I send you, touches you.
Dedicated to your health and happiness,
PS: I am so excited to share that I have been invited to speak at a safety conference on how to prevent injuries by managing stress. So I will share some of the salient features from that talk in upcoming emails.
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# 1 Bestselling Author, Psychiatrist, Transformational Speaker
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I share many tools and techniques that I have found to be helpful. They are not intended to replace treatments. Please seek treatment from licensed medical or health professionals as needed. I change all names for privacy.