Sunday, October 4, 2009

Insomnia, Depression, and Anxiety

Last week I attended a nursing conference entitled, "Insomnia, Depression and Anxiety," and I enjoyed gaining a comprehensive overview of these topics. The issues caused me to take a careful look at myself and reevaluate some of my own habits. I find myself at times falling headfirst into the "down-in-the dumps" category. Nothing serious, but I feel the effects of it, and I often seek current literature that addresses it. At the risk of sounding like a know-it-all (which I hope you don't think I am by writing this post), I thought I'd share some of the information that I've learned. I found the topics fascinating; I hope you do, too. Here's what I gleaned about depression:

First, exercise was the main "magic bullet." The speaker stated that "exercise can improve symptoms of depression faster than antidepressants in many cases." I couldn't help but ask myself how many billions of dollars are spent annually on the plethora of antidepressants available to us. Exercise improves circulation to the brain and enhances the production of endorphins. Give me a double shot of those endorhpins any day! An added bonus: exercise also helps promote sleep at bedtime.

Next, I learned that music has been shown to alleviate depressive symptoms, particularly symphonic music.

Also, and this one I really liked, the boon of animal therapy was underscored. "Clinical research confirms (not just suggests, but confirms!) that interaction with animals can benefit patients with cancer, (which was at the top of the list!), heart failure, depression, grief reactions, eating disorders, substance abuse, and cerebral palsy." Cats and dogs were both highly recommended by promoting happiness, but cats surpassed dogs in preventing heart disease. (I happen to be a cat owner, so this one made me smile!)

Spending time in natural settings helps to relieve stress and also promotes normal circadian rhythms. (This made me want to go for a long walk after the conference was over.)

Laughter contributes to a reduction in stress hormones and upper body muscle tension, improved oxygenation, and enhanced immune function.

Expressing kindness and altruism showed an increase in the happy hormone, serotonin, in both the giver and the receiver. (If you get a chance, read my "Fall Harvest Cake" post :)

Prayer and religious practice, such as reading scripture or participating in regular religious services, have been demonstrated to decrease depression in many individuals.

Nutrition was also discussed. Vitamins, such as folic acid as well as Omega-3 Fatty Acids found in certain fish, are very important in alleviating depressive symptoms.

What I found interesting and particularly relevant was that the speaker noted that Tamoxifen is being used to treat disorders such as bi-polar depression and Alzheimer's disease.

It seems that we do have some control over how we live our lives. Living with cancer is the one thing that won't keep me down; I just won't let it.


Daria said...

Good info ...

Debby said...

You know, Karen, yours is the third reference to Omega 3, I've had today. I'm so going to give it a try. I'm getting discouraged here.

Karen said...

You know, I don't know if it's psychological or not, but I always seem to feel a bit more upbeat after eating salmon, which is loaded with Omega-3's. I've also felt better on the B Vitamins (more energy, less fatigue). I guess they can't hurt, right?