Men are taught from an early age that it is “sissy” to show weakness or emotion, except when it means getting into a fight.
However, men can feel overwhelmed by their emotions just as women do, and they have it worse because they are unable to express it as freely. Often, the only way they can cope is by indulging in “manly” excesses such as drinking or angry outbursts. Others self-medicate rather than admit to others that they have feelings.
Most men muddle through life suppressing how they feel more or less intact. When it comes to depression, though, this could be a fatal mistake. It is a serious but treatable medical condition that needs to be addressed properly.
Some studies suggest that men may experience depression as much as women, but manifest it differently. Men that experience depression should not feel ashamed at all, but should seek professional help immediately.
Men and depression
First of all, depression is not about feeling sad or down, and has nothing to do with masculinity. Many great men have struggled with it throughout history: Abraham Lincoln, Buzz Aldrin, Ernest Hemingway, Winston Churchill, and more recently, Robin Williams.
Depression is a health condition that affects men of all types and ages. Left untreated, depression can lead to heart problems and other health disorders.
Men with depression are also more 4 times more likely to commit suicide than women dealing with the same issue. Hemingway, in particular, struggled with it for most of his adult life, and when he failed to find an effective way of dealing with him, committed suicide with a shotgun to the forehead. Robin Williams also committed suicide by hanging himself.
Secondly, depression is not simply a temporary dip in your mood. It is natural to feel despair or sadness from time to time, especially when you’ve just suffered a loss or disappointment.
However, it is not normal to feel intensely hopeless or sad for a long time. If you notice that you can’t seem to shake it and it is starting to affect your work or personal relationships, then you should pay attention. It is possible you are truly depressed in a clinical way. You may manifest it in physical ways, as well. Physical signs of depression include insomnia, loss of libido, headaches, and back pain.
Unfortunately, most men do not seek the help they need because they are so used to ignoring their feelings that they ultimately fail to recognize the symptoms. It took a while for me to recognize them myself until someone suggested that I might be depressed. If the above descriptions sounds familiar to you, it is important to talk about it honestly with your doctor, because it is not easy to diagnose. If you get a proper diagnosis, you can get the help you need. There are many thing you can do to overcome depression once you recognize it as such. Here are 10 of them.
Create some structure to your day
UCLA Depression Research and Clinic Program director and psychiatrist Ian Cook points out that depression can derail your life on many levels. He says that you need to get back on track by getting into a daily routine.
Don’t make it too strict or detailed. You just want a gentle routine you can easily follow, such as waking up and meals. Make it a point to get up at the same time everyday, and follow a schedule for meal times, even if you don’t feel like eating.
Avoid napping during the day so you can sleep at night. I used to take two- to three-hour naps after lunch and tossed and turned until 3 am at night before I finally fall asleep. People in the grip of depression tend to just let things slide, and this can heighten your sense of hopelessness. A regular routine gives you structure, and help you get back your life.
Depressed people often don’t care about anything. They have lost the ability to take an interest in anything or anyone around them, which contributes to their feeling that nothing matters anyway. This is a vicious cycle you need to break.
Some people use antidepressant medication, but studies show that exercise and physical activity can also lift your mood in much the same way, but without the side effects. The first few weeks are the hardest, but you need to make the effort.
Even just walking 20 minutes a day three days a week for six weeks can significantly reduce symptoms of depression in the long term. Force yourself to get out of bed or off the couch to walk the dog or go to the grocery.
Better yet, get someone to walk with you and have a conversation. You can also get in some time on your stationary bike or treadmill while watching the news channel if you’re not feeling sociable. You can also try running if you are up to it. Try this for at least six weeks and you will see a marked difference in your mood.
Start a journal
Exercise and a daily schedule really helped, but starting a journal was what really scooped me out of my own bout of depression.
Writing has always been the only way I could express my deepest, most secret thoughts and feelings as a young man, but I turned away from that when I joined the “real world.” I had been depressed a long time without knowing it, and when I was diagnosed, my psychiatrist pointed out that studies show writing as a form of self-expression was an effective therapy for depression.
He advised me to start a journal so that I could open up and confront my feelings. I was so amazed at how good it felt to write again that I decided to launch my own writing business, Assignment Masters. You don’t have to go that far, though. Start a journal of your own, and write down all your thoughts, feelings, resentments, and impressions. Don’t be afraid to be honest with yourself. Seeing it in writing can help you realize some amazing things about yourself that can make you feel good and worthy.
Watch your diet
Just like exercise, the proper diet can help you minimize or even avoid taking antidepressant medication and its side effects. Studies particularly pinpoint the positive effects of omega 3 fatty acids on alleviating symptoms of mild and major depression.
Omega 3 benefits the body in many ways. Massachusetts General Hospital Depression Clinical and Research Program researcher and Harvard Medical School psychiatry professor David Mischoulon says omega 3s “are thought to be active as antidepressants.”
This is supported by numerous studies, and Northern Ontario School of Medicine of Lakehead University associate professor of medicine Brian M. Ross says, “The [evidence] is becoming quite compelling that increasing omega-3 fatty intake enhances many aspects of brain function, including the control of mood and aspects of personality.”
However, it is not as simple as just taking fish fat oil capsules. You still need to consult your doctor or dietitian about the right combination of foods to achieve the best results.
Drink lots of water
It may sound ridiculously simple, but drinking water can actually help you fight off depression. You need to remember that the brain is most (85%) water, so when your body is dehydrated, your brain functions suffer. It makes you feel tired, stressed, anxious, and yes, depressed.
One way that dehydration exacerbates depression is it suppresses the production of serotonin, the “feel good” hormone. Lack of water also makes it more difficult for your body to eliminate toxins. If you feel tired, you feel depressed.
Drinking water may not cure you of depression, but it can help you get there. Drink the prescribed minimum of 8 full glasses of water a day, more if you sweat a lot, and you are on your way out of depression.
Get a massage
Humans have a basic need for physical contact on many levels. Massage therapy is one type of human contact that can help you alleviate depression.
Experienced massage therapists can manipulate tissue and muscles to improve the flow of blood throughout your body, and make you feel relaxed. This can help you get into a better mood simply by touch. It lowers the amount of cortisol (“stress” hormone) in your body by more than half, making you feel less anxious and angry.
If you are feeling particularly tired or depressed, get a massage. You will be amazed at how different you will feel after.
You might find the prospect of getting out there distasteful, or too much trouble, but research shows that joining a social group of community can help fight off depression.
However, it is not just a matter of joining a group for the sake of it that counts. For it to be effective against depression, you have to get really into it. It can be a group of hikers, mountain climbers, anime enthusiasts, or Game of Thrones groupies.
Join any group for anything you find interesting, and really get involved. This type of connection can help prevent you from sliding back down into depression.
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine assistant professor Madhav Goyal conducted research on the effects of “mindfulness meditation” on depression, and found that it shows the most promise among other meditation techniques in addressing depression.
The technique involves the relaxation of mind and body, letting feelings and thoughts flow unimpeded. Another study showed that those who meditated regularly had well-developed hippocampi, that region of the brain responsible for memory and orientation.
Clinically depressed people, on the other hand, had markedly underdeveloped hippocampi. While these studies are not conclusive, it doesn’t hurt to try. Many people that engage in meditation report a heightened sense of well-being, so that should be a step into the right direction.
Find a meditation class in your area and give it a try.
Get enough snooze time
A good night’s sleep is beneficial for everyone, not just depressed people.
It is well-established that sleep and mood are connected, so make a point of getting enough sleep every night to help you overcome depression. The right amount of sleep varies from person to person, so if you wake up feeling tired, chances are you have not gotten enough.
If you have a hard time getting to sleep, make a point of going to bed at the same time every night, even on weekends, to condition your brain to rest at that time. Avoid doing exercise, eating, or doing anything stimulating within an hour of your bedtime. It will be a struggle at first, but stick to it.
Focus on the good
Last but not least, make it a habit to focus on the positive things that are happening to you instead of the negative. Being grateful for what you have can help you overcome feelings of failure and hopelessness. Follow these tips for focusing on the good.
Men have as much right and need to express their feelings as women. Unfortunately, years of conditioning has made them reluctant to open up about their problems. This can be a big problem if they are suffering from depression.
Be a man and own up to your feelings. This can help you get the help you need to overcome depression. If you are not ready to come out into the open, these tips can help you overcome feelings of depression even if you can’t admit to it.