Prime Time Living - Page 29 - Depression from page 22

Prime Time Living
- Page 29
Depression from page 22
admitting there is a problem. Addressing our need may be staved off by using excuses. For example, when we don’t feel well, we claim our illness is more limiting than it should be. Somaticizing – when we convert our feelings of anxiety into physical complaints – is a warning, signaling an underlying depression.

What, specifically, are symptoms of which we need to be aware? Sadness may or may not come into the equation. Others, according to NIMH, include:

•Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” mood

•Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities

•Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism

•Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness

•Decreased energy, fatigue, being “slowed down”

•Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions

•Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening or oversleeping

•Appetite and/or unintended weight changes

•Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts

•Restlessness, irritability

•Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment

Despite reluctance, it’s important to address these feelings and get some type of help. Not doing so affects all aspects of your quality of life – physical, medical and mental. In a 2018 study published in PLOS One ( www.journals.plos.org ), researchers found that “those with positive age beliefs were 49.8% less likely to develop dementia than those with negative age beliefs. The results of this study suggest that positive age beliefs, which are modifiable and have been found to reduce stress, can act as a protective factor, even for older individuals at high risk of dementia.”

On the plus side, there are a number of treatments available, customizable to fit a person’s specific needs, that help. Medication – antidepressants – provides relief, although there are side effects, as does psychotherapy – talking with a psychiatrist, psychologist, a social worker or peer counselor. Says NIMH, “for older adults, psychotherapy is just as likely to be an effective first treatment for depression as taking an antidepressant.”

There are also complementary therapies, such as yoga and exercise, that can be done in tandem with other treatment plans. Physical activity is always a plus. And a report from a researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital ( www.massgeneral.org ), says studies show “that the regular practice of meditation can change how the brain works.”

After an eight-week meditation-based stress reduction program, “participants in the meditation program had developed more gray matter in both the hippocampus, an area important for learning, memory and emotion regulation, and the tempo-parietal junction, an area important for perspective-taking, empathy and compassion. It wasn’t just that they were telling us they felt better or that they were experiencing the placebo effect. There was an actual neurobiological reason why they were feeling less stress.”

Dealing with depression requires action. Zisselman recommends, “Find a purpose in life. Set a goal. It’s hard to wake up and get moving with nothing on your calendar. But don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Volunteer, go to a senior center, take a class, join a book club or learn to play bridge. Keep trying activities in which you have a modicum of interest until you find something relevant, something that really appeals to you and brings satisfaction.

Don’t limit your options. Too often, it’s easier to focus on what we can’t do rather than our strengths. But our strengths are where our well-being will come from.”

Anything that gets you outside your living space is another a place to start, like having lunch with a friend to break up the day. The best ideas some from within yourself, not outside. And work to maintain your sense of humor. Don’t think of this as trying to cure yourself; rather, what intervention, what action, will improve the quality of life despite the problems you face.

“A good rule of thumb,” says Zisselman, “is if it’s good for your heart health, it’s good for your brain health. Don’t do it in a piecemeal fashion; instead, address all facets of your life. These are the components of successful aging.” •