Depression comes in many forms. It can range from a temporary or mild depression to debilitating and even life-threatening depression. If you find yourself fighting depression, there are actions you can take to help yourself.

Not Just a Mental Illness

Depression has long been thought of as a mental illness. However, research has shown that depression not only affects the person’s mental well-being but their physical health as well. It changes the way your brain responds, and your body reacts to stress. You may experience unexplained chronic pain such as headaches or joint and muscle pain. Depression can also lead to changes in your immune system or cause insomnia, which increases your risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, or inflammatory diseases such as arthritis. If that’s not enough, it increases your risk of a stroke or heart disease. Other health issues include weight gain or weight loss, loss of libido, fatigue, memory loss, or even a preoccupation with death.

Get Up and Get Out

It’s up to you to take control of your mental and physical health. The first step is the hardest, so start with something simple, like opening the blinds and letting in the sunshine, increasing serotonin, a mood lifter, in your brain. Try listening to some upbeat music or watching a comedy on TV. Pet therapy has also been shown to relieve stress, anxiety, and depression. Go to the local animal shelter and adopt a pet or visit petting zoos, horse farms, or other places that allow you to interact with animals. Finally, get out and socialize. You may not be ready to get together with a big group but hang out with a friend or family member as social interaction is important for your mental well-being.

Fighting It

There are many reasons why a person becomes depressed. Loss of a loved one, failed relationship, and even finances are a major source of depression in many people. It’s important to fight it and not let our circumstances affect our health. Fitness is key. Exercise increases blood flow to the brain and enhances nerve cell growth. This, in turn, releases serotonin and  feel-good chemicals known as endorphins. You can start with a five-minute walk and gradually increase each day.

Diet also plays an important role in fighting off depression. Limit carbs, sugars, alcohol, and caffeine as they can contribute to depression. Eat more brain food like fish and nuts, and make sure you are getting your veggies. Vitamin and herbal supplements can also help. Vitamin D3 in particular is a good supplement, especially if you live in an area where the weather may be a factor in causing your depression.

Don’t let depression affect your life or your physical health. Get up, get active, and fight it. If you or a loved one have thoughts of suicide, contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK).