Reviewed by Dr. Chester Tung, DO, a family physician at Dignity Health Medical Group – Inland Empire.
Globally, more than 300 million people suffer from depression. While it’s normal to feel the ongoing ups and downs of life, those who experience lows for more than two weeks may be suffering from depression. Signs of depression may include: not caring about things you used to be passionate about, loss of motivation, and feeling sad, down, hopeless or cranky most of the day, for days at a time.
Depression is common among seniors and can further complicate existing health conditions, if not addressed. Depression and physical health problems have a complex relationship, each affecting the other. Suffering from physical limitations, fear of declining health, stress from medical bills, or pain, can all lead to depression.
Depression should not be accepted as a part of the “growing old" process. If you think you are suffering from depression, seek help from a mental health professional and work out a plan that's right for you. Here are four ways you can fight against depression:
- Eat Healthy. A healthy diet can improve sleep and your mood — two things that greatly affect depression. Try to stay away from sugary foods, or meals with heavy starch. These will cause an initial mood boost, but your blood sugar will drop later on. The best diet is one high in protein and colorful fruits and vegetables. Try to think of cooking nutritious recipes or eating at healthy restaurants as a fun, new hobby.
- Stay Social. Avoid alienating yourself. This is an important part of fighting depression that is associated with aging. Isolation can make depression much worse. Reach out to family members, friends, and medical professionals, and try to be honest about your feelings. Allowing others to help you and connect with you can stave off loneliness. Plan weekly get-togethers or attend weekly meetings, when you can.
- Stay as Active as You Can. Falling into a rut after retirement can lead to depression. Staying active doesn’t have to involve physical activity beyond your capabilities. Simple things like trips to the park, shopping, volunteering, mingling with friends, visiting church, or attending community events can shake up your routine and keep your mind active.
- Get Counseling. If you can’t seem to shake your depression, you should seek outside help. Meeting with a support group, therapist, or counselor can help you work through your depression and get treatment. Remember that depression isn’t something you should be ashamed of. Millions of people suffer from it and professionals can help get you feeling better.
Again, it’s important to find what works for you, when it comes to treating depression. Work with a healthcare professional to find the right treatment and stick to it. There is always hope for help!