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What is Depression and How Can We Help It?

What is depression and how do we know if we are experiencing it?

The National Institute of Mental Health (2017) defines depression as a mood disorder that can cause symptoms that effect the way we sleep, the way we eat, our level of activity, heck – it can effect everything! While there are different types of depression the one basic common denominator is the persistent feeling of sadness, hopelessness, and/or worthlessness, and the inability to get it to go away. After two weeks doctors would agree, you may be depressed.

So what is causing this depression and again, how can we help it?

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Okay, so we have identified that it has been say, several months and those persistent gloomies are still there robbing you like a joy-thief.

  • What has been going on in your life?
  • Have you experienced a recent trauma?
  • Have you been sick and unable to attend to your regular outings and gatherings or have you been trying to get to these outings and just can’t motivate yourself to get there?

This brings us to the good old nature vs. nurture concept. While many people experience situational depression (trauma, sickness, loss of mobility, forced moving, etc…), others do not realize that there is a very chemical component to the way we feel (genetic history of depression, vitamin deficiency, underlining medical issue causing chemical changes, etc…).

Whether you are going through a difficult time or you are experiencing a chemical imbalance the treatments are really best when they are hand-in-hand.  So what are the best ways to help ourselves when depression is irking our lives?

1. It may sound cliché, but identifying that it is indeed depression is the first step.

SO many people do not see it in themselves and live days, weeks, months, etc…, just as sad as can be. NO one should have to live this way and identifying that it may indeed be depression is a key step. If it has been longer than two weeks of the same persistently sad feelings, sit down and really figure out how long it has been. How long should you let it go before attending to it properly? Like any kind of pain, the longer you wait to attend to it, the longer it will take to get better. If it has been longer than a few weeks, please consider moving on to number 2.

2. Find out what kind of help you need.

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Go to your doctor and get your blood-work checked. Do you have a Vitamin D, Magnesium, or Vitamin B deficiency? If so, this could be a very likely culprit in contributing to your blues. Most of us take more than one medication and this can also affect your vitamin absorption. Sometimes it is as easy as vitamin supplements to feel better, but the doctor will also be able to help you figure out if a possible anti-depressant might be beneficial as well (and if the doctor thinks this is a good idea, again, help yourself – this is not a permanent fix, but finding the right anti-depressant came make all the difference in helping right now!).

3. Go talk to someone.

It is still surprising in this day and age that so many people who would benefit from counseling or therapy choose not to go. Whether it is the (still existing – SIGH!) stigma, cost, time, etc.., finding a good therapist can be a life-changer. We go to oncologists for cancer, we go to dentists for teeth, and we can go to therapists for feelings. Life is hard – we must help ourselves and through the educated perspective of the right therapist, we can live a healthier and more joyful life. Whether it is a major trauma or the ongoing feelings of sorrow, an outside perspective can be very beneficial. Talk to someone you know who goes to therapy (for a reference) or look on your insurance site for therapists in your area within your network. Therapy has saved and changed millions of lives – let yours be one of them!

4. Identify what makes you happy.

Whether it is an ongoing illness or the loss of a loved one, it is usually easy to be able to see what makes us sad.

But what makes you happy?Caregiver Stress

  • Do you enjoy social time with friends?
  • Do you have hobbies you love to do?
  • Do you enjoy reading or listening to books on tape?

Finding out what makes you happy helps you to put together a list of well…. HAPPY. It would be great if HAPPY was a thing that would come along when we needed it and make everything better. Or what if we could purchase HAPPY at the store and find it on sale once in a while? We know this is not the case and we must make our own happiness within our lives. Taking the time to do fun things, going out of our way to bake something special that you love, playing bingo or cards with friends, no matter what it is, if you enjoy it then you are helping to contribute to your own happiness. It can be hard when you can barely get out of bed, but pushing through this to do something you know makes you happy is worth it.

5. Come up with a strong plan.

Taking charge of your life is something that doesn’t always come easy, but it can make all the difference! Make that appointment with the doctor and get in there and see if there are any identifying outcomes from blood testing that would support your depression (chances are, they will find something). Call your therapist or if you don’t have one, refer to #3. Put together a POA (Plan Of Action) with a happy list filled with the things you know you enjoy. Local water aerobics, a book club, dinner with a friend – YOU deserve to be happy and a strong plan will help to support this positive change.



Reference: National Institute of Mental Health. (2017). Retrieved on 30 June 2017 from

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Jessica Lener, MSN, RN

Jessica Lener, MSN, RN

Jessica Lener is a Registered Nurse and clinical educator who specializes in mental health nursing. She has worked with psychiatric forensic patients, geriatric, adolescent, pediatric, and adult acute populations and is passionate about ending the negative stigma attached to mental health issues. She also teaches for several local Universities, hoping to better educate the future nurses of tomorrow on compassionate care when dealing with mental illnesses.In her spare time she enjoys reading, spending time with her family, and traveling. Contact Jessica at
Jessica Lener, MSN, RN

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