The World Health Organization estimates that around 350 million people suffer from depression. Depression affects people of all ages, from teenagers to the elderly. It affects women more than men. Despite depression being such a prominent issue, many people – particularly Christians – are hesitant to admit their depression and seek help.
Christians may feel depression is selfish or an insult to God in some way. Women over 55 especially struggle to admit depression, as they feel that others assume depression is “natural” at this age due to menopause and life changes. Instead of feeling ashamed of your depression and trying to hide it from your loved ones, take steps to combat it, maintain positivity, and regain control of your life.
One of the best ways to maintain positivity as you age is to keep up exercise routines and add mental workouts as well. Staying active not only helps you remain in good physical health, but it can also boost your mental and emotional wellbeing. Try to perform at least 30 minutes of movement every day. Even something as easy as taking a walk can make a difference. Exercise aids brain function, releases endorphins, and boosts your mood. It also improves the health and strength of your bones, joints, and muscles. Going for a walk once per day with friends can keep up relationships and social interactions, further reducing the risk of depression.
Even as an older woman, exercise to combat depression is still within reach. Do not assume that workout programs will be too difficult or geared toward younger women. Plenty of exercise programs exist for women 55 and older. Yoga, for example, is a low-intensity form of exercise suitable for men and women of all ages and physical abilities. Find a gym near you that offers classes and groups specifically for your age group. Exercising can mitigate the symptoms of menopause and lower your risk of feeling sad or low in confidence. As an added bonus, it can help you lose weight and gain strength, keeping you healthier and happier.
Exercise Your Brain
As you get older, exercising your brain becomes just as important as working out the body. Not only can brain training sharpen your cognitive skills, it can also fight depression. Studies suggest that people suffering depression can benefit from brain training activities and games such as Sudoku, crosswords, or web brain games such as Lumosity.com. Brain exercises can help you focus on your emotions and eventually gain control over them. While research is still in its early stages on this subject, it can’t hurt to play a few brain games and experience its effects for yourself.
Engage in brainteasers or mentally challenging activities such as games or puzzles. Seek opportunities to exercise your brain in things you enjoy, such as reading or writing. Hold in-depth conversations with people and debates to keep your wits sharp. Keeping up with your mental health can reduce the effects of aging and make you feel more optimistic. More optimism, confidence, and cognitive sharpness can help you combat depression.
Try Natural Herbal Supplements
If altering your lifestyle doesn’t work to ease your depression, you may turn to your doctor for advice. However, prescription antidepressants often do more harm than good, especially for seniors who are already on a variety of medications. Antidepressants can have harmful side effects such as nausea, dizziness, and risk of addiction. They often make patients feel more depressed and can lead to suicidal thoughts. Before exposing yourself to the risks of antidepressants, give herbal supplements a try.
The top five natural antidepressants are fish oil, B-complex vitamins, 5-HTP, Theanine, and Vitamin D. St. John’s Wort is also a popular supplement to promote a positive mood without prescription pills. Talk to your doctor before starting any herbal or all-natural antidepressants, and make sure they will not react with other medications you are currently taking. Natural mood enhancers may be the ideal complement to your other efforts if you don’t want to start on more powerful chemical antidepressants.
You Are Not Alone
Depression can make you feel like you are alone, with no one who understands or empathizes with what you’re going through. You may feel isolated and lonely, furthering your depression. In times of trouble, remember that you are not alone. Not only do you have friends and family who care about you, but most importantly, you have God. God’s love is unconditional and does not hinge on your mental health. Our Lord and Savior knows what suffering is, and He knows your deepest, darkest feelings.
God can be your ultimate friend, counselor, and confidant during bouts of depression. When you feel that you have no one to turn to, open the Bible. There are friends there who can help. The Bible has dozens of characters who experience tragedies, devastation, loss of hope, and depression. Jeremiah, Elijah, David, and Job are just a handful of examples. The Bible doesn’t only depict men going through hardships – women are often the subjects of trials and tribulations. Take Naomi from the Book of Ruth, for example. Despite the loss of her home, both her sons, and her husband, she picks herself up and lives a long, happy life.
Pray to the Lord
Daily prayer, devotions, and Bible study can help you put your troubles into perspective and place your burden with a higher power. It can make you feel safe and secure in the arms of Christ, comforted by the knowledge that He has a higher plan for your life. In the face of going through menopause, losing friends, retiring, transitioning to a senior living community, or other major lifestyle changes, remember that God is with you.
Ask God to guide your steps, give your life purpose, and make it clear what your next step should be. Opening your heart to the Lord and revealing your brokenness can deepen your spirituality and heal your soul. Place your faith in Jesus and His mercy, and know that these dark times will pass. God will not walk away or leave you stranded in the depths of despair. Trust in God and know that He will carry you through good times and bad.