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Depression: 10 Ways To Hold It Together When You Can't

04/19/2013 07:39 am ET | Updated Jun 19, 2013
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We've all been there. You get a bad case of the blues, or are pushed to the edge by stress and circumstance, or just have days when you're stuck in first gear and can't get jumpstarted because of the weight of the world. In some circles, depression is a dirty word; nobody likes to admit that life gets them down or stress causes them to lose control.

But everyone -- not just the 6.5 million of the 35 million Americans 65 or older -- can have the occasional day when they just want to curl up in the fetal position with a pint of Ben & Jerry's.

Here are 10 tips to help you hold it together when you think you can't:

1) Stay away from those happy-happy folks on Facebook who think you can find bliss in inspirational sayings.

Ah, if only it were that easy, the makers of Prozac would have declared bankruptcy by now. Understand that depression is a real illness and should be treated as such. Even low-level depression -- just feeling melancholy -- can zap your energy and set you back. Do you seriously know a single person who has ever felt better because someone on Facebook reminded them that "today was the first day of the rest of their lives?"

Yes we are all responsible for our own happiness, but sometimes it isn't as simple as "choosing" to be happy. Don't let the ignorance of others contribute to your problem.

2) Avoid sad music.

I can't listen to k.d. lang singing "Hallelujah" without turning into a blubbering mess. And that's on a good day. But I know to avoid listening to music that fuels my sadness when I'm feeling out of sorts. Music is powerful. Be cognizant of that fact and use it to elevate your mood, not further depress yourself. As reported in Science Daily, music can not only affect your mood but listening to particularly happy or sad music can change the way we perceive the world, according to researchers from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.

3) Keep your mouth shut.

Sometimes sadness comes with tears and sometimes it comes packaged in anger. If you feel like lashing out at someone when you know you are overwhelmed, at least stop yourself from doing it online. Online rants have a long shelf-life and no expiration date. What may be just a snapshot moment in your life for you will exist forever and be available for everyone in your future to find and see. If writing helps you pass the bump in the road, by all means write. Just don't post it online.

4) Know that the flip side of the depression coin is often creativity.

As MIT associate professor of music Keeril Makan wrote in the New York Times, "depression, balanced with an acceptance of all experience no matter how painful or joyous, has proved to be the most fertile place for me as an artist."

It's true. Some of the world's greatest artists suffered depression. That's the silver lining to your cloud.

5) Remind yourself that you aren't alone.

The World Health Organization says about 121 million people worldwide suffer from some degree of depression. The National Institute of Mental Health says 6.7 percent of the U.S. population over 18 has been diagnosed with depression and the average age for the onset of clinical depression is 32.

With the onset of chronic illnesses, depression often fast follows. Pain wears us down. This doesn't bode well for our aging population. Knowing this behooves midlifers to start developing stress management techniques now. Figure out what things -- meditation, walks on the beach, disconnecting -- help you keep life in the manageable zone.

6) Get yourself outside.

OK, so you're grumpy, ready to implode and lack the motivation to even take a walk. Go sit outside, somewhere -- preferably with a pretty view or a vista. Sunlight helps; more than a decade of research shows that increasing your serotonin levels improves your mood. If you can't get outside, at least move your chair to the window and look outside.

7) Make a list of what you want to accomplish today and put getting dressed on it.

Force yourself to get out of your sweatpants and, chances are, that act alone will cause you to feel better. Think of it as dressing for the part -- the "part" being someone who is having a great day.

As for what's on the rest of the list: Heck, add it all. The idea is that as you can check off things on your list, maybe you'll focus more on all that you have accomplished instead of what you haven't. Forward propulsion is a good thing.

8) Keep a therapist on standby.

Depression, for many, comes in fits and starts. Sometimes, you go for long spells where you feel just fine and everything stays under control. That's the time to establish a relationship with a professional who you can call when the sky falls in.

Just knowing you have someone on speed dial ready to listen to you, helps.

9) Understand the role of medicine.

Treat serious depression the way you would any other serious illness. See a doctor, learn what, if any, physical ailments contribute to or trigger it, and determine what treatment options are available to you. Depression, even at its least-invasive form of melancholy, detracts from the quality of life.

10) Stop reading lists like this.

We tend to live in our heads. Sometimes, it's better to just send stuff like this on to a friend who needs it more. The best cure for the blues is often realizing others are worse-off and doing something to help them.

Earlier on Huff/Post50:

8 Things That Make Or Break Your Happiness: AARP Survey