by Brian Tiep, MD
I am a pulmonologist (lung doctor) specializing in pulmonary rehabilitation who has been asked to write a blog about depression. The reason I was asked is that I have freely shared that I have been dealing with depression most of my life. Most people that I work with on a daily basis are surprised to hear that I deal with depression because I do not act depressed. I only share the fact that depression is a part of who I am. That does not make me an expert, however, I do have some recommendations that work for me and can be useful tools for others dealing with depression.
First, here is some basic information about depression. Depression is really common with as many as 16.2 million U.S. adults who have at least one major depressive episode a year. Depression is considered by the World Health Organization to be a leading cause of disability. Its severity runs the gamut from minor and being able to live with it, to a serious and life-threatening disorder. Thus, not all depression is the same. Depression is emotionally painful and uncomfortable. It hurts. It influences your outlook on life. Certainly, people disabled by depression will not likely benefit from the advice, “just get over it”. Depression affects and is affected by your brain chemistry. It is amplified or modified by your life’s situation – such as having COPD, asthma, or pulmonary fibrosis combined with being isolated to protect yourself from the COVID-19 virus. Fear and uncertainty add to the impact and trigger. Some people require medication that alters brain chemistry to alleviate depression. It is often helpful to have therapy to provide behavioral tools to manage your depression. There is no single approach that works for everyone.
That having been said, there are some tools and approaches to deal with and manage depression. Here is what works for me much of the time and the rationale behind it. I use three strategies that may be helpful for people dealing with depression.
- Staying busy doing something useful or productive
- Act the opposite of depressed – act un-depressed
Exercise has a direct effect on your brain chemistry releasing chemicals that reduce alleviate depression. Walking is a great exercise that directly affects thought patterns and actually temporarily breaks the depression cycle.
Stay busy and occupied by doing or even experiencing something productive. Again, this alters your thought patterns and has an impact on brain chemistry.
The theory is that you generally don’t act and feel in 2 different ways. Normally, you feel and thereupon act out those feelings. However, it is possible to act a certain emotion and the feelings follow the act. An example of that is actors who portray a part. They do not always feel the part but in order to be convincing in their roles, they learn to take on feelings they are acting – happy, sad, excited, surprised, anxious, depressed. Try it; it may help.
Now, these are just tools. But they are tools for self-management, which is consistent with rehabilitation. If you try these approaches and they work, that will be wonderful. If you need more, please reach out and get help. You are not alone.
Please stay safe and reassured that we care.