THE DR. IS IN! October Issue – Depression Awareness Month

Meet Heather Flaherty, she is a psychotherapist at Lukin Center. She specializes in the treatment of trauma, anxiety, depression, psychosocial stressors, interpersonal difficulties, and life transitions for teens, young adults, and adults. She is currently offering in-person and virtual sessions and work out of Lukin Center’s Ridgewood & Westfield locations!

Lukin Center- Westfield Office

128 S Euclid Ave,

Westfield, NJ 07090

(908) 509-8336

October is recognized as Depression Awareness Month each year. The purpose is to increase understanding, decrease stereotypes, and help educate on how depression and other mental health issues impact people. Awareness months give people affected by a specific condition a chance to share their stories.

As we continue to handle the challenges that life throws us, what are some ways our readers can cope with depression?

Depression is such a hard situation to cope with because many physiological aids (like exercise, sleep, and nutrition – which can help) are all very difficult to feel motivated to do when one is navigating depression. Also, the experience and what can help is different for everyone. For some, medication will help. For others, a change of environment or disruption of routine can alleviate symptoms. And of course it depends upon the depression we’re talking about. Is it event-driven? Such as the death of a loved one? Or are the symptoms chronic and part of a diagnosis?

Depression, unfortunately, is not only a psychological issue but clearly impacts our physical health as well. Are there daily rituals or mindful exercises we can use to put us in a better place?

Absolutely, if one does feel motivated to aid their depressive symptoms with physical activity, then some important items to consider are: sleep, exercise, and nutrition. Getting enough sleep is imperative in aiding our mental states, but reversely, too much sleep can be a detriment. It’s a balance. Exercise or activity is very helpful aiding those navigating depression, but the issue is finding the motivation to be active. This is a huge challenge. Just the idea of activity can feel overwhelming and exhausting. If this is the case, then I say start small, start doable. Just go outside for 5 mins, walk around. Or jump in place for 15 seconds a few times a day. Just start with what feels doable… and take advantage of the times you want to do more. (You most likely will). Nutrition plays a large role in coping with our symptoms as well, though it’s another hard ask when we’re hurting so much. If you wish, if you can, limit or avoid sugars, fat, processed foods, and alcohol.

Any other advice?

Yes! If your depression is starting to impair how you live, then it may be time to consider help, talking to someone, or seeking out a professional. But beyond that, and beyond the physiological helpers above, some known items that have helped others are:

Do things you enjoy. Sometimes we can forget (or even intentionally avoid) the specific things we like to do in life that bring us a little joy and make us happy. Remember to do these things while you are navigating your depression.

Journaling. It can be helpful to see your thoughts on paper. You may find patterns of thinking you didn’t realize you were having, or even a distorted behavior that you hadn’t recognized. When we see our thoughts (especially negative ones) more clearly, we can then challenge them.

Limiting negative rumination (thought spirals) is a difficult but very helpful practice. I always say start with catching yourself ruminating, that’s the first step. When we are able to do this we can then work on stopping the spiral through redirection, and even challenging or reframing the negativity it may hold.

Maintaining relationships with friends and family can be very helpful for some. It’s a time when we may want to pull into ourselves and isolate, but being part of a wider circle can help with much needed empathetic support, as well as possible perspective gaining.

And more than anything: be kind to yourself. Depression is complicated and creates complex reactions within us. Give yourself some compassion, be there for yourself, and allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling without judgment. Whatever you are telling yourself, ask: “would I say that to a friend trying to cope with this?” If the answer is no, then consider what you would say to a friend, because you deserve to hear the same.


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