Can you believe the holidays are right around the corner? While the holidays often mean family, Christmas, and good cheer, this month I want to talk about something that’s also all too real during this season: depression.
Seasonal depression affects over 3 million people in the U.S. each year, usually beginning in fall or winter. Its characterized by fatigue, withdrawal, and feelings of hopelessness- which, ideally, would be the furthest things from our minds when we’re supposed to be “decking the halls” with our family and friends.
It’s important to address this because 1) I don’t feel that there is enough open discussion about this topic, and 2) the connections between your head and your heart are more than just behavioral- they’re psychological too! Research from the American Heart Association has shown that the biological and chemical triggers produced within our bodies can also predispose us to conditions like heart disease. While there aren’t yet very strong links between stress and heart disease itself, the amount of stress one’s body is under does increase the amount of hormones like adrenaline and cortisol that one’s body produces, which has a direct impact upon heart rate and blood pressure. Therefore, researchers suggest that those who have history of heart disease or stroke are more at risk to develop anxiety and depression in the future. Like I said before, millions of Americans struggle with this, so if you do, you’re not alone!
Full disclosure: I’m someone who struggles with high-functioning anxiety and depression, and I have for most of my life. This means that on the outside, I’m a go-getter, and while that is a genuine part of my personality, I also battle with feelings of merely existing, not thriving. Let me be clear with you: that’s not how it’s supposed to be!
Lately though, I can feel myself coming out of a rougher season of life where I haven’t felt fully myself, and stepping back into the person that I am and want to be. I am not a medical professional, (and I cannot emphasize the importance of seeking help through a doctor or counselor if you need it!) but I want to share some of my tips for giving yourself a fair chance at embracing your full self again! I’ve committed myself to these this month, and I can honestly see a difference in my mood and productivity levels- which mean: Yay! A healthier me!
- Drink more water. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! This will help you feel so much more refreshed and clear as you go about your day.
- Prioritize your routine. Trust me when I say this, creating a morning routine will change your whole life! How you wake up sets your mood and intention for the entire day, and making it a priority will give you stability and decrease anxiety right away when you wake up. Even if you don’t make a solid morning routine, be sure that you designate a certain time of day (just 15 minutes will do the trick!) devoted to calming and bettering yourself.
- Read an entire book each month for yourself! If you’re a college student like I am, textbooks don’t count! This is an easy way to learn, grow, or just spend a little time alone, making your heart happy.
- Exercise for FUN! Mind blowing- right? Get those endorphins flowing guys, it will turn your whole day around! Bonus points if you do this outside- a little sunlight will boost your mood almost instantly!
- Stop snoozing your alarm in the morning & wake up when you say you will! Some of the best advice I ever read was in one of Rachel Hollis’ books: Stop breaking promises to yourself. It’s as simple as that, friends!
- Have better time management & turn your phone off for a few designated hours in the day (if possible). You’d be surprised how much less phone-time will boost our mood, and how much you can get done in that time! It’s far too easy to get caught up in the scroll of social media, so take an hour (or even a weekend if you can!) to go off the grid!
- Give yourself grace when all of the above doesn’t go perfectly every day! Depression and anxiety aren’t likely to disappear overnight. However, these tips are a great place to start taking back who you are. Healthy head, healthy heart, right?
Above all, talk to your doctor! And remember that you are never alone in this battle. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours per day at 1-800-273-8255.
If you’re new to my blog, I want to invite you to join me as an advocate with the American Heart Association. We all have the power to make a difference by speaking out for policies that help build healthier communities and healthier lives. For more than 30 years, You’re the Cure – the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association's grassroots network – has been doing just that. We’re a community of fathers and mothers, neighbors and friends, researchers and caregivers, passionate about an America that’s free of heart disease and stroke. Each day, we work together to advocate for heart-healthy and stroke-smart communities through legislative and regulatory policies in our cities, states and across the country. Learn more, join us and take action HERE.
Happy Thanksgiving! See you all next month, heart advocates!
Forever your Miss Wyoming 2017 & AHA Advocate,