Archive for July, 2010

Exercise: A “Drug” For Depression? (Part 2 of 2)

Posted in Depression on July 24th, 2010 by Dr.P :) – 1 Comment

Why do some people quickly dismiss the idea of bringing exercise into their daily routine, particularly given how important we know it is for general health, not to mention improving symptoms of depression? In exploring this a bit with clients, I have found they have a variety of automatic thoughts about this topic. Some common ones are, “It’s too hard,” “I’ve tried that before and it doesn’t work,” “ I don’t have the time,” “I don’t know where to start,” “I don’t believe it will help,” “I can’t afford the membership to a gym,” “I don’t like to exercise,” and so forth. Do any of these thoughts sound familiar to you? I have a couple of pages in my Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Workshop that address the difficulty with change, and common obstacles to doing things that can be helpful. You might check them out.

If you find yourself rejecting the idea of exercise, you might think about the answers to these questions: What is the cost of having good mental health? Why don’t I value myself enough to schedule this time for myself and my well being? Why do I look for excuses not to exercise rather than excuses to start exercising?

When you actively and regularly engage in an exercise routine, you are sending out some powerful messages to yourself and to the world: “I am worthwhile and important,” “I deserve to spend time on myself improving my well being,” “I care about myself,” and “I want to feel better!” These thoughts may not be in  your awareness, but they are there, and they are important positive thoughts to have when you are depressed.

Another benefit of exercise is the social support that can occur. If you join a gym, a sports team, an exercise group, or the like, you can make friends with similar interests. These kinds of teams and groups often support its members so that everyone can succeed in their efforts. Alternatively, you might simply ask a friend or relative to join you in your new workout routine so that you can support and motivate each other. Personally, having a workout buddy has worked very well for me over time to maintain a regular exercise schedule. Even if I do not feel like working out on a particular day, I respond well to encouragement from my buddy. On such days, I always feel good when I finish up my routine and I’m very glad that I got it done.

If you still find yourself struggling about whether to introduce an exercise routine into your life, you might try an experiment. For just one month (four weeks), commit to completing an exercise routine for 30 minutes, 5 days each week. Use a calendar to plan out the days and times. In a notebook, record the quality of your mood each day, particularly before and after you exercise. You might use a scale from 0-10 with 0 being the most depressed you have ever felt, and 10 indicating the happiest you have ever been. Also record your mood at other regular times such as in the morning during breakfast, or before you go to bed at night. If, after the four weeks are up, you find no improvement or benefit to exercise, then you can choose to discontinue it. If you find it to be beneficial, then you have a great start with doing something very important for yourself. What have you got to lose… besides your depressed mood? Good luck! You can do it!

Dr.P :)

Exercise: A “Drug” For Depression? (Part 1 of 2)

Posted in Depression on July 23rd, 2010 by Dr.P :) – Comments Off on Exercise: A “Drug” For Depression? (Part 1 of 2)

Recently, in the news there have been some articles about the benefits of exercise in improving symptoms of depression. Take a look at this article from CNN.

Psychologists have known for some time that exercise can help those with mild to moderate depression to feel better. How much this is emphasized in therapy, or how often a client follows through with a recommendation to introduce exercise into his or her daily routine is unknown. I know that in my work with clients when I have brought this up as an important lifestyle change, some clients hear it and seem to internally dismiss it. Other clients, the minority for sure, actually do start an exercise program. The latter group has reported that exercise has been helpful for them. Some of them even joined local sports teams, not only for the exercise, but for the social benefits as well. Exercise can and does pay off if you have depression.

Regular moderate exercise has such profound effects on our bodies overall, whether or not we are depressed. It keeps us healthy, fights of terrible diseases, increases our sense of well being, increases energy, helps improve mood, and may ward off depression in the future.

While it is recommended that people check with their doctor before starting an exercise regimen, most should consider engaging in 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise five time per week.

If you do start a new exercise program, be sure to start gradually, with small reasonable goals, rather than jump right into a full blown program. It’s not uncommon for people to set their goals too high initially and find that they just can’t meet them. This can set you up for disappointment and a sense of failure, which is what you don’t need if you are depressed! Starting off slow and then gradually adding more to your routine offers opportunities for success and a nice sense of accomplishment.

I strongly encourage those of you who are depressed and not exercising to consider introducing exercise into your lifestyle. It doesn’t even have to be much. You might start off walking some laps in your house. Then, you might walk a lap or two in your neighborhood. After some time, you might go to a nice park and walk a few laps there. Some of you might join a gym that has a variety of aerobics classes, from beginners to advanced. Others of you may enjoy swimming, jumping rope, jogging, canoeing, biking, or using exercise machines. You might need to try some different things to see what is enjoyable to you and what helps improve your mood. Good luck! You can do it!

Dr.P :)

Cancer: Three Important Things We Can Do To Help Ourselves

Posted in Cancer on July 19th, 2010 by Dr.P :) – Comments Off on Cancer: Three Important Things We Can Do To Help Ourselves

I’ve been absent for a few weeks while I underwent my second big surgery to remove the remaining cancer tumors in my liver. Fortunately, the surgery went very well, and I am on the road to a good recovery. All the docs, nurses, and staff at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville are nothing less than fantastic, and I am very grateful for their amazing talents and outstanding care.

It certainly is a relief to know that the cancer we had detected at diagnosis is now all gone. After some rest and then a few more chemo treatments, I’ll be doing my best to stay healthy and do my part to prevent recurrence as best as I can. I know that three things are key: physical exercise, healthy eating, and a good attitude. From what I have read in books like “Anticancer: A New Way of Life” by David Servan-Schreiber, these three things are extremely important, not only for preventing recurrence, but for reducing fatigue, pain, side effects from treatment, and increasing quality of life.

I mention these three things because I have seen so many cancer patients struggle with them. Luckily, as a former athlete, I have experienced the benefits of exercise when I don’t feel well. I have found that just getting up and moving a little bit, even taking a brief walk, helps me to feel better. I have also been a vegetarian by default since getting married as my husband is a vegetarian and likes to cook. However, we do eat fish and eggs, and I’ll eat some chicken from time to time. So, my diet doesn’t need to change too much. We have been eating organic vegetables, reducing processed sugars in our diet, and introducing other “anticancer” foods and herbs like turmeric, yogurt and green tea. I believe my attitude is pretty good as I am able to be present with what is going well and what I appreciate in life. I have had moments of dark thinking, of course, but I am able to move myself out of that and spend time with more positive thinking. Belleruth Naparstek has some wonderful cancer-specific guided imagery recordings that you can download and use to help improve your state of mind. Of course, on AllAboutDepression.com there are also guided imagery exercises, the CBT Workshop to help with more positive thinking, and the Stress Management Workshop.

I strongly encourage any of you that might be struggling with cancer to do what you can to get regular exercise (check with your doctor about this), feed your body healthy foods it can use to help you get better, and remain aware of how your attitude impacts your mood and behaviors. When it comes to cancer, we must do all that we can to help our bodies fight off and recover from this disease.

Dr.P :)

Cancer: A Mind-Altering Experience

Posted in Cancer on July 5th, 2010 by Dr.P :) – Comments Off on Cancer: A Mind-Altering Experience

For many of those with cancer, I’m sure life before the diagnosis seemed normal with the usual activity-filled days, thinking about what needs to be done, what will be going on tomorrow, etc. We take life and our future for granted. However, the moment you get the diagnosis of cancer, all that changes quickly and dramatically. For me, the news was surreal, and sometimes it still is. I have always been a healthy person, an athlete, and in recent years, a vegetarian. While I didn’t go through the “why me?” despair, cancer did stop me in my tracks in terms of how I think about life, my relationships, and my future. Perhaps my work and study in psychology has given me the tools to handle the normal distress, grief, and fear that goes along with a diagnosis of cancer. Nevertheless, having cancer and going through the very difficult treatment of it is certainly a mind-altering experience.

As I talk to people with cancer and read articles and news about this disease, it has become apparent that those with healthy or positive attitudes about their situation are the ones that seem to do better in the long run. They do better with treatment, recovery, prognosis, etc., not to mention simply enjoying what truly matters to them in a more powerful, rich manner.

Being in the present moment is an important part of a healthy mindset. Those of use with cancer, and those struggling with other difficulties such as depression, can benefit by being present with what is happening now. This may be enjoying the taste of every bit of a favorite meal, watching the beauty of clouds floating by and changing shapes, fully immersing yourself in a conversation with a good friend, and so forth. All thoughts about worries or fears of the future are set aside. Thoughts of loss or sadness of the past are brushed away. All that matters is now.

I have certainly had my darker, fearful moments thinking about future possibilities for myself. It’s normal to go there once in a while, but it’s important not to stay there. When I find myself having these thoughts, I acknowledge them, but I also move myself into more positive thoughts—what I am grateful for, the recovery I hope to have, and the peace of the present moment.

Whether you are struggling with a medical or mental health condition, you will benefit from healthy, positive thinking and being in the present moment. The five Mindfulness Meditations at the end of the Online Relaxation Exercises page are wonderful for helping you be present with yourself. You might check these out to help with this process.

Dr.P :)

What Causes Depression?

Posted in Depression on July 3rd, 2010 by Dr.P :) – 1 Comment

One of the most common questions people have about their depression is, “What caused it?” While that is a difficult question to answer due to the many factors potentially involved, there is one answer worth exploring.

In my work with clients who have been depressed, this is one answer we make sure to explore. This one answer is, “something’s up and something needs to change.” What I mean by this is that our minds and bodies react to situations in our lives, sometimes irrespective of how our conscious mind makes sense of things. An example of how this might work is if you push and push yourself at work, telling yourself you need to get some things done. At the same time, your mind gets tired, your body gets tired, and they react (with stress symptoms) or shut down in response. Your conscious mind says, “keep going,” while your inner mind and body say, “we’ve had enough!”

So, for many of you who are depressed, there is a part of you saying, “something’s up and something needs to change.” It’s a powerful signal to your conscious mind to take some action. This action might include changing something about your work environment, your home life, your partnership, your relationships, your goals, your health, your lifestyle, how you think about yourself, and so forth. Certainly, some of the needed changes won’t be easy. In fact, they may seem impossible. However, making difficult changes in the short run, and dealing with the aftermath, may be well worth the benefit to your mental health in the long run.

Exploring the question of “what’s up and what needs to change?” can be done with a therapist. It can also be done by yourself if you are willing to take a good hard look at things and be honest with yourself. You might also elicit the input of trusted family members or friends. Or, perhaps you have already been getting this kind of feedback from those around you.

At the bottom of the AllAboutDepression.com home page, I have some links for workshops and other information that might help you with this process. They include the CBT Workshop, the Stress Management Workshop, Online Relaxation Exercises, and Managing Symptoms of Depression.

Good luck with your own self-exploration! You can do it!

Dr.P :)