Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Physical Battle With Depression

As I said in my initial post, I’ve been learning a lot about things that can contribute to depression. Today, I’m going to share what I’ve learned about the physical causes of depression and what we can do to combat them. We cannot always control how much we’re affected by the first four contributors, but we can learn how to respond to them in healthy ways.

The first might come as a surprise to you: Loss. When we face a loss of any kind, it drains our energy and affects our emotional balance. Researchers have discovered that extreme losses such as death, divorce, a lifelong career, home (due to fire or other sudden disaster) can take 85% of a person’s energy to recover from. That leaves only 15% available for mental, social, spiritual, and physical functioning. That can send a person spiraling into depression.

Unrelenting pain can also deplete our energy to fight back feelings of sadness.

Hormonal changes, such as PMS or menopause take more physical energy than our normal output and can leave us feeling lethargic and sad. Women aren’t the only ones who have hormonal cycles, but since men don’t have the physical symptom of a period to mark these changes it’s harder for them to recognize hormonal changes.

Also, Physical Changes of aging or a debilitating sickness or injury can be a bitter pill to swallow. We want to keep moving at the same speed and energy level we had in our 20’s, or like we did before we were sick or injured. It’s another kind of loss.

The next three contributors to depression we do have control over, but often we don’t see how intricately they are intertwined with the other two parts of our being - our soul and spirit – and choose to “cheat” a little here and there until it’s out of control.

Fatigue is a common culprit in depression. We joke about it all the time, but forcing our bodies to keep on moving with regular doses of caffeine “uppers” - coffee and energy drinks – can contribute to depression. If we refuse to rest when our body’s had enough, eventually we’re going to crash, physically, emotionally, or both.

Of course you knew this one would get in here somewhere, our Diet is extremely important to emotional health. God created our bodies to burn food as close to its original form as possible, without colors, additives, and processing. You’ve heard of stuff like fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and unflavored water? Simple but true, a body full of sludge will eventually poison our emotional health.

We also need regular Exercise to burn that fuel. A stream with no outlet stagnates and stinks. It’s amazing how much a walk can release pent up emotions and improve our mood.

I told you in my first post that I had been “doing all the right things” yet have still been battling the worst season of depression I’ve had in years. I eat a pretty healthy diet (although I do enjoy coffee and chocolate!), take a whole gamut of vitamins and supplements, and try to exercise at least five times a week. However, I realized I haven’t been resting when I needed to because I felt guilty spending “unproductive” time reading or curling up for a nap. So instead of fixing myself a cup of coffee or forcing myself to do just one more thing I’m trying to listen to my body’s needs and practice better self care.

There were also things I couldn’t control – personal losses and feelings of grief, unrelenting back pain, and the changes of menopause. I realized that any one of these ‘uncontrollables’ could trigger a depression, but when they came at me one after another my body’s defenses were eventually too depleted to fight anymore. I began to search out natural remedies to replenish serotonin levels in my body. I have began taking St. John’s Wort and so far, it seems to be helping.

However, as I said, we’re not just physical beings, but body, soul, and spirit.  My next post will have to do with how depression can affect our soul, which is made up of the mind, will, and emotions, and how I’m learning to combat depression in this important area.  


  1. I will pray for you. Depression is not something I have ever experienced in any way, but I have many friends who truly deal with it. I have heard that it represents deep anger and disappointments that are buried, but eat away, among other causes...

  2. Thanks Billie,
    Yes, depression can be caused by anger turned inward, unforgiveness, and so much more, it's true. As you said, some are more prone to it than others, and many times there are things God reveals to us over time that need to be dealt with. I will address more of that in the next two installments, so I hope you stay tuned. Maybe you will find some helpful information for friends who struggle with this debilitating emotion.

  3. Thanks for addressing this subject. So many people I know suffer from depression. You haven't mentioned medication yet. For some, it seems to be essential. Of course, all meds have side effects, so....
    Blessings, Marion

  4. Thank you, Marion,
    Oh yes, I meant to mention medication, thanks for bringing that up. The St. John's Wort I am taking is a natural anti depressant and should not be combined with over the counter drugs such as Prozac and Zoloft as they can fight against each other and cause nasty side affects. Kava is another one that is supposed to relieve anxity, stress, restlessness, and insomnia. However, that one seemed to give me nightmares. And of course, if depression is long and severe, going to a doctor and getting a prescription is sometimes necessary. Just as long as we don't just take a few pills and keep on going at the same speed in a self-destructive lifestyle. :0)

  5. Love your new series... its hitting close to home. I am realizing that I am juggling too many balls right now...I tend to keep on plugging along and after reading your blog, realize why I have low motivation to work lately. Dangerous! So, calm it all down, rest when I need it and quit taking on more things that keep me too busy. Keep my priorities straight.

  6. Read your blog this morning, Beth. Anyone who has gone through, or is going through, depression will relate to this. So often we cover it up -- just keep on doing -- when we need to step back and allow our body, soul and spirit to recover. Thank you for sharing with us.