What I do to stave off depression

A lot of my friends suffer from moderate to severe depression. Myself, I tend towards depressiveness and have a personality evaluation to prove it – I’m pretty normal except for tendencies towards anxiety and depression. The avalanche of bad economic news has been triggering both tendencies hard. So here, as a mental note to myself and hopefully a useful hint to people who have the same problem, here’s what I do to keep depression and the need for Prozac at bay:

Exercise. Specifically, I run, do circuit training at the gym and occasionally swim. This goes to the top of my list because I do it a lot and it has immediate effect. Stress-relief and a general sense of well-being lasts for several hours after exercise, until I get sore. This is a small price to pay. It also gives me a feeling of control over my body – I can measure the performance improvements, and see and feel that it’s “improving” by the measures I’ve chosen. When I get sore, I may be bad-tempered the next day, but that’s better than feeling depressed.

St. John’s Wort. A friend who works as a therapist recommended it to me. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be – one problem with natural medicines that work is that they do have side-effects, just like regular meds produced in a chemist’s lab. In my case, my headaches have increased in frequency since I started taking it, though the extra headaches are mild. But it’s available without a prescription, and doesn’t overregulate your emotional life like prescription antidepressants. It appears to be more potent when drunk as a tea than when taken in pill form, but the downside to that is that you don’t necessarily know how much of the active ingredients are in the tea.

Vitamin D. I live in a northern climate and am pretty dark-skinned for a white man. When I spend all daylight hours in the office or at home, I get a nasty case of Seasonal Affective Disorder which peaks in February/March, because that’s when the stores of vitamin D in the body run out. So I take a supplement (and if I can find one that doesn’t come with calcium, I’ll switch to that), occasionally use a tanning bed starting October, and try to get out of the house on sunny weekend days.

Avoid busywork and overcommitment and strive to do work that actually delivers the goods. This is difficult at work, but doable in my spare time. Avoiding overcommitment is the main reason why I am making so little progress on the comic – but I do try to make time to work on it. When this doesn’t work, I try to draw things I can finish in a shorter time, or write blog posts.

Declutter, organize, economize. I’ve been talking a lot about these things. Aside from being directly beneficial to my life, they also give me a feeling of control and accomplishment. Progress is slow, but it does work.

Generally, try to accomplish something every day. Even if it’s just a drawing or a blog post. Or a good meal. Create something that wasn’t there before.

Get informed. Facing the things that worry me is a double-edged sword. Until now, though, being able to talk meaningfully about the financial crisis and other things that worry me, and figuring out what I can and cannot do about them, still helps me more than it hurts me. I can imagine taking a news and media fast in the very near future, though.

Things I’m not doing so well at:
Getting out of the house. I need to remind myself to leave the house outside work hours/errands and see my friends. Part of this is of course due to being in a very-long-distance relationship where we only get to have any kind of contact at all during those hours that most people go out for drinks.

Getting enough sleep. This is something I’ve always been bad at. I’m an evening person, but I have to get up early in the morning to work. So I get about six hours during the working week.

Those two things are still good depression management tips if you can actually do them, though. What do you do to shake off the blues?