By Lisa Sue Woititz, author of Unwelcome Inheritance: Break Your Family’s Cycle of Addictive Behavior
Many of us who have alcoholism or other addictions in our families suffer from depression to some degree. We’ve gone to self-help groups and therapists for a number of years, hoping that if we can uncover hidden emotional issues that the feeling of hopelessness will disappear. Some of us judge ourselves for our inability to “get over it” and “pull ourselves together” but as much as we try, we just can’t shake the blues. Well, maybe it’s not all in our mind! Sometimes approaching an old problem from a new angle energizes us with a renewed feeling of hope. So let’s consider this common problem from a different perspective and ask ourselves: Are we taking good care of our bodies? In combination with reaching out to our support system, here are eight things that ACOAs can do to outwit depression:
- Learn about your family history of addiction and mental health issues. Is it possible that you have inherited body chemistry that lends itself to depression? Our genetic makeup may contribute to the way we are feeling even if we do not have a substance abuse problem. If you do have addictions, consider addressing them so that you are not agitating your sensitive system with chemicals that leave you feeling worse than you did before you took them.
- Get tested for food allergies and discover what your body reacts to. Or, experiment on your own by eating one food by itself on an empty stomach and waiting an hour to see how you feel. Many ACOAs have dramatic allergic reactions to foods and chemicals. You may be shocked at how much better your mood is when you eliminate these culprits from your daily fare and replace them with healthy foods that your body needs.
- Eliminate sugar in all of its forms from your diet. That momentary lift may not be worth the way you feel when your glucose levels crash, especially if sugar is your drug of choice. Learn about all of the different aliases used to disguise sugar so that when you read food labels, you can identify it.
- Have your vitamin D level checked next time you have a physical. Studies show a direct link between depression and low vitamin D levels. If you need a vitamin D boost, your physician can help you decide how to achieve that through diet, vitamins in pill or liquid form and/or spending a modest amount of time in the sun.
- Hydrate! Many experts believe that there is a relationship between chronic dehydration and fatigue, which feels like depression. While this might not be the sole cause of the problem, it may be a contributing factor. As a test, drink several glasses of water a day for several days and see if you feel better.
- Move your body and release that anger. Do you agree that depression is partly anger turned inward? Release that angry energy with exercise and experience a lift in your mood as those endorphins start flowing.
- Consider taking medication if it is recommended by a professional that you trust.
- Give meditation a try. It quiets the mind and can give you a feeling of peace and well being.
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