Wellness Wednesday – Dark Days
It’s probably no coincidence that October is National Depression Awareness Month. The days of decreasing light are paralleled with people seeking support for anxiety and depression.
Depression is a life-threatening disruption that takes on a life of its own. The numbers of people reporting it keep rising. Some ideas why:
1) Complexity of life has increased geometrically, and with it, stress.
a) Work patterns have changed. We work more, have fewer vacations, and work leaks into domestic life in ways unprecedented in history.
b) We are interrupted more: by auditory and visual stimulation, by devices and demands. There are constant challenges to our attention and rest.
c) Increased information leads to anxiety. We’re fed ceaseless bad news about isolated events to the point we feel in constant threat. We’re exposed to countless choices that drown out intuition and lead us to second-guess if we’ve made the ultimate best decision.
2) Eating, sleeping and light exposure patterns of humans have changed dramatically. This affects our circadian and hormonal rhythms in ways our evolution has yet to accommodate.
a) 24 hour food availability changes long-term human patterns of seeing food as sustenance into sources of comfort or entertainment, leading to obesity and hormonal challenges.
b) Availability of cheap, nutritionally poor foods appeals to instant dopamine rewards; robbing us of vitamins and minerals that protect our physical and mental health.
c) Constant artificial light, night shifts, 24 hour stores, etcetera profoundly disrupt sleep cycles.
3) Social connection and support are decreased.
a) Communities have lost their centers. People go out less, and when they do, they engage less with each other and more with their devices. b) This generation reports having fewer friends and spending less face-to-face time with those they have.
c) Multi-generational family connections are less valued. More people live away from where they were born, and they move more often and more widely than in previous generations.
In a nutshell: lots of us are stressed out, overstimulated and overworked, underconnected, and not sleeping, exercising or relaxing as much as our body needs to come even close to the demands of modern day life. We are anorexic not of food, entertainment or choice, but of love, support, rest and community.
It’s no wonder we get depressed and anxious.
There are interventions for depression. It’s a serious disease—it can be life threatening. Treatments aren’t always comfortable or easy, whether we’re talking about talk therapy, CBT, self-help, mindfulness training or medicine. But they can work, and save lives. Don’t give in. Fight the cycle. Start by choosing one of the areas mentioned and come up with a plan. Improve your sleep, reach out for support or connection, simplify your obligations and reduce as much complexity as you can.
For referrals to mental health resources or an appointment for short term counseling, call the Advising Center: 541- 917-4870. 24 crisis help is available anytime at 541-917-4666.
Jana Svoboda, Advising Center faculty
Feature Image by Freepix