Friday, August 17, 2007

Feeling Depressed?

I have no idea why the Lady Lydia Speaks section, which I write for (Jennie Chancey and I met online many years ago
on an Edwardian/Victorian message board), evokes so many questions about depression! When we first began, we divided up the section into several subjects:
Feminine Dress
Letter Writing
Even after all that, the one subject that I get the most emails about is depression. I can not help thinking there might be a connection in the lack of these interests in life, (and the lack of many other things) and depression.
Because of several recent emails on the subject, I will address just a portion of this subject. One that I should have included in the Lady Lydia Speaks section, should have been "Good Health," because lack of good health can depress the emotions considerably. In spite of this, there were many people in the past, and many people today who can raise their minds above their infirmities and pursue life in a happy way. I am thinking of people like Robert Louis Stevenson, who write his books and poetry as a bed-ridden invalid, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, whose ill health did not deter her from writing poetry. People today like Joni, paint pictures and do many other things in spite of severe handicaps. Therefore, perfect health does not insure perfect moods and poor health does not necessarily mean depression.
However, health is a consideration in alleviating depression, and for that reason, I want to address the avenue of sleep, as one way to create more optimism and ambition. Granted, there are certainly many other things such as our words and thoughts, our view, our habits, food, weather, debt, relationships, disappointments, living conditions, which add to anxiety, but for time's sake, right now I'll only address this one.
Sleep: We have fallen far away from the original purpose of sleep and have abused our health and ultimately our minds by our careless sleeping habits. Improper sleep can contribute to lack of motivation and to emotional problems such as short tempers and bad judgements, which then go on to ruin good relationships within the family. This can put a person at risk in other areas of health. The stress of temper problems coming from lack of sleep, resulting in relationship problems, can then cause digestive problems.
To improve sleep, here are some practical ideas:
*Clean up your bedroom and make it spacious, and open windows to get fresh air.
*Use the most natural fibres you can find for your sheets and blankets and pillows. Man-made fibres are things like nylon and acrylic. Natural fibres consist of: cotton, wool, flax (linen), silk, bamboo, or hemp. Find pillows and mattresses that are stuffed with something other than acrylic fibre-fill. The chemicals from the artificial materials could add to health problems.
*Use a natural hand-made soap instead of a commercial soap, when bathing before you go to bed. Instead of taking a shower, take a bath. Baths are more relaxing. Commercial soaps sometimes have more chemicals in them than soap. You might think that a bar of natural hand made soap is expensive, but it lasts sometimes months longer than a bar of commercial soap. When you buy good soap, you are supporting the people who have home businesses and are making a living for their families.
*After 6 p.m., slow down rather than speed up. Wind down, not up. Lower the lights in the house with indirect, not over-head lights. In my home, I allowed the overhead light bulbs to go out and never replaced them. It keeps us from flipping on a switch and bringing on sudden harsh light into someone's eyes. Now, we turn on the little lamps that give an indirect light that is not as irritating.
*Read before you sleep.
*Pray for everyone you can possibly think of, before you go to sleep.
*Wear natural clothing to bed, and even in summer, gowns with sleeves on them are better than sleeveless bed clothes.
*Do not start a controversial conversation or talk about bad news before you go to bed. Avoid the television--it is full of bad news, which eventually interferes with sleep and adds to feelings of depression.
*Do not use alarms or alarm clocks. Go to be when it gets dark and get up when it gets light. When you get used to this you will find you automatically go to sleep and wake up after you have enough sleep.

Swans in the Park by Wilhelm Menzler (1846-1926)


Mrs. H said...

Oh Lady Lydia!

This is something I struggle with and am working on. It is 8:30 pm and I just came in from cutting my grass and have a sink full of dishes waiting on me. Oh the joys of managing a home all on my own! (husband is in the military and is away for the next year) But you are so right about the importance of sleep and rest. It does make all the difference in terms of patience and mood. I think I do need to do a better job of "winding down" at night. I wind my daughter down in order to have her in bed by 7:30, and then I wind back up to do more work around the house. I do have to clean my kitchen though . . . I can sleep until that is done. I do need to manage my time and workload better so that I am not doing so much work at night.

Anonymous said...

dearest Lady Lyddia,

In the 24/7 world foisted upon us by the captains of industry etc, the body's needs have been unwisely overlooked to the point of virtual dismissal. so many people think the 'natural world' has been mastered to the point we have 'risen above' natural concerns - look at the way corporate lawyers and other professionals (from banking to medical) are virtually expected to work ridiculously long hours (any hint from those so employed that family etc need consideration automatically labeled as lacking in dedication, initiative and the worst of them all - not being a 'team player' [loathe that term])..

Likewise with shift work (my husband is a shiftworker), a lifetime of this type of employment ( especially the late-night shifts from around midnight to early morning) has been shown to lead to many complaints ranging from depression to higher rates of cancer or heart disease and premature death - yes, research results gained from the study of large groups of these workers over time have shown this disturbing outcome.

Additionally, environmental contributors cannot be overlooked either. we surround ourselves with synthetics (often natural-material alternatives are difficult to find) in the kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom. we clothe ourselves in these synthetics often also with synthetic dyes derived from petrochemical sources). even the packaging much processed and convenience foods comes in contains these harmful elements...then there's the food itself. studies by reputable scientific institutions have shown the materials useed in the manufacture of office furnishings (and increasingly more and more home furnishings) such as lamonates etc give off toxic compounds such as formaldehide (especially as they age. ever stopped to think where that lovely new car smell comes from when you jump into the driver's seat of that new vehicle? the University of New south wales (here in my own city) has done studies on microwave cookery that have shown conclusively that the use of even 'microwave safe' plastics to cook and reheat food gives off toxins. they recommend either microwavable glass or ceramic vessels for such use with plastics not coming into contact with food at all.

what, I hear you asking, might all of this have to do with depression? well, quite a bit as it turns out. Never before in history have we surrounded ourselves with such an array and extent of this type of thing all quietly giveing off their toxins into our environment.. though we can't avoid it altogether, we can do what we can to minimise it in the food we purchase, how we store it, the clothing and furnishings we use, the personal care products we slather over ourselves and so on. We also need to respect the body clock we've been created with. It has needs that we ignore to our detriment and I'm as guilty as the next one (smile). Lady Lydia's suggestions for creating a bedtime ritual or habbit condusive to a good night's sleep is one also stressed by many specialists in the field along with not eating close to bedtime, eliminating high caffine intake in the evening hours and quieting the type of activities engaged in.

If one is attempting to reset their body clock to sleep at a more normal time, it's wise to get up early, even if one hasn't slept or has only slept a tiny bit. You'll feel fairly terrible for the 'long day', but a couple of these soon has the desired effect (in the same manner as one readjusts the body after an overseas trip to the right timezone.

a couple of additional thoughts...
often, if people do find themselves truly depressed, leaving off the sugary refined foods is highly recommended as such sugars deplete b-group vitamins from the system (essential for one's wel-being and running on an even keel)

finally, giving to others is often an excellent restorative for one's spirits - providing a much needed basket for a needy family, becoming involved with a programme such as telecross (calling folk who are 'shut ins' every day just to see they're going OK (there is much backup from red cross if one is concerned about their callee etc) or even knitting squares or making quilting for 'wraps with Love' and finally, the most important - prayer and bible study. In my darkest moments, the words of David in psalm after psalm resonated so deeply within me. No matter how low he became however, he always turned to god and gave praise and thanks...even if he'd started out in the beginning in truly dire strates. what a blessing it is to know we're all bought with a price - the shed blood of our Lord and Saviour Jesus christ who will comfort the poor in spirit and bind up the broken-hearted. Lay it all at the foot of the cross, dear sisters (and the occasional brother who passes this way).


Mrs. e.,

Anonymous said...

I simply couldn't keep away...

here are two Psalms one absolutely must read if they're at the end of their tether ( there are countless similar, but these will make an excellent start even if you've never picked up a bible in your life or not for many years) - Psalm 13 paints us a picture of david at one of the many low points in his life. though he starts off virtually demanding god show His face and not turn from him, despite his woes, even though his grief is almost crippling, he nonetheless comes around to praising his Creator. One may suspect that his mood at this time wasn't exactly jubillant; nonetheless, whilst still anxt ridden, he offers up praise and thanks where only moments before he was doing quite the opposite. herein lies a truly beautiful and remarkable secret for any who dare search it out...that of praising and thanking god through the pain, through the tears, through the tumult, through the shadows, whilst one is right at the bottom of that shadowy valley. Prayer is often most restorative at the point the person least wants to - indeed rebells against the very thought of prayer. even if the words simply don't come, god will give calm and peace in the quiet (be still and know that I am God).

In Psalm 2, we're counselled against harbouring resentment. though all to easy to become entrapped by, resentment will drag down the soul and crush the spirit, rendering us as embittered and 'wrong' as the one who wronged us - no matter the gravity of the situation. to be freed of resentment is to free ourselves from enslavement to the one who wronged us or the deed itself. is this easy to achieve? No. does it run contrary to our human (as opposed to spirit led) nature? yes. can it indeed take a lifetime? yes. once more, put it at the foot of the cross, for through christ, we were set free from the spirit of fear.

be blessed this day,

Mrs. e.,

Anonymous said...

What a thought provoking post full of encouraging tips! Thank you.

I agree with Mrs. E's statement about prayer being restorative. Countless times, prayer has lifted me out of a pit of self pity. Prayer takes our thoughts off ourselves and places them where they belong-- on God.

On the sleep issue: For years I've had a regular sleeping pattern from 9pm to 5am. No alarm clock needed. Ever. There are very few times outside of being ill, that I haven't laid down and promptly fell asleep. This is because of a regular pattern and casting my cares upon the Lord, for He cares for us.

Take Care,


Karen said...

A bed time ritual is a wonderful thing to cultivate. And the aim is truly to "wind down", as opposed to our morning routines when we are setting up to do our work. Celestial Seasonings makes a nice "Sleepytime" tea that is comforting before bed. Even in the hottest days of summer I still make a cup of tea in the evening. It is important not to be dehydrated during the night. Also I find reading very soothing - but you must (as at all other times) guard your reading material. A character in a Barbara Pym novel states that she always reads either devotional material or cookbooks before sleeping because they were both uplifting!

Anonymous said...

Dearest Readers, (Especially naysayers),

to those ill at ease with the ideas, thoughts and ways put forward upon this blog for the uplift and benefit of all, I ask one thing (regardless of how 'out of character' or even galling such may be to you at first). I ask you to stop, sit and consider...truly consider.

I can almost hear it now - 'here we go again, what's the nutter from down under going to come out with now'? well, when this thought has been and gone, I invite you to consider two little experiments that won't take up too much of your time.

Firstly, consider your position, whatever it may be; does it bring you happiness, peace and contentment? I can almost hear the exhaspirated shouts 'Of course it does!! if it didn't, I wouldn't be...etc etc...'. Now think, delve a little deeper. If it brings you peace, now ask yourself from whence does your upset and even anger at what Lady Lydia, Mrs. Alexander and many of us commenters come? Does it spring from the fact we not only live this life we have chosen but also present it as a fulfilling and viable (even preferable) option to the current acceptable path laid out for us in this age? Or, just maybe, is it something else altogether? Give some time over to quiet contemplation of these questions (remembering that many of us indeed once thought similarly to you - placing career and the press of feminist expectation as our first priority - many of us having at various stages in our lives occupied professional positions of responsibility - many more of us having gone down the university/college path and so on).It is so easy (and I have been as guilty as the next) to misinterpret gentle suggestion, guidance and recommendation as judgement from 'on high' as it were. This, dear reader, could not be further from the truth.

Now on to my second point. If you've stayed with me thus far I ernestly beseech you to open the word of God and read it for yourself. Even if you've never picked up a Bible in your life. If you don't own one, you can purchase one relatively inexpensively or, for free, explore it on line. Though there are many versions ranging from the original Biblical languages through to the easiest of simple English (and a vast selection of other tongues besides from Chinese to Arabic), choose what best suits you to begin with. Many folk suggest new readers to commence with the Gospel of John. Though this is an excellent place to start, may I recommend the Psalms (at the very centre of your hard-copy volume). At this point, before doing anything else along these lines, let any anxt or hostility wash away and begin at Psalm 13, followed by Psalm 2 then read from Psalm one right the way through. Were David, Moses, Asaph and other contributers to this portion of the Bible perfect? No. Did they carry on downright foolishly when they knew better? yes. ...But do they give us an incredible insight into the sorrows, struggles, foybles, lousy judgment, fears, hopes and dreams held by every one of us? yes. this, they most certainly do. if you're intrigued, then venture on to read Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Job and right through the book of Jonah (yes, you'll want to take him by the collar and give him a right shaking but that's the point, though he was a genuine man who lived in antiquity, his experiences (indeed, all their experiences) are also often ours as well.

Finally, dear readers, go in peace and grace putting in the time to give this crazy plan of a crazy annonymous face out there in the ether a try.


Mrs. E.,

Anonymous said...

I think we sleep better when we are not cooped up indoors all day, as well. Spending as much time outdoors as you can also leads to feeling very balanced, soothed and relaxed. This in turn, helps us to sleep, which makes us healthier and better able to enjoy our lives. Being around the water is really nourishing for the nerves, too, and I know it sounds funny, but if you can't be by the ocean, but you need to relax and have time to get your thoughts in order, just fill your sink with warm, soapy water and do dishes!!
The warm water is therapeutic and the time spent on doing a menial, mindless task really helps to soothe and organize the mind. Usually In fact, that is why I'd rather do physical labor than be stuck in an office cubicle under fluorescent lights, engaging my mind in working on spreadsheets or something equally as, well, depressing! When you are busy cleaning or gardening, your mind is free to meditate on the Lord, or on his beautiful creation or ponder philosphical issues. That is one of the greatest blessings of being home, in my opinion.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Indeed, it's very difficult to keep a proper sleeping pattern - or keep oneself from being depressed, for that matter - if many, many hours are spent outside the home in a stressful environment, which gets even more stressful as we think about the piles of dirty laundry, unmade beds and empty refrigerator that await us when we come home.

Cara said...

Another excellent post, thank you! I wholeheartedly support the idea of a good night's rest.

I get jealous of the women who can get by on less rest than I can, and I actually tried to get my body to "strengthen up" and slowly started cutting back on my sleeping hours from eight hours a night to seven and a half to seven. I did it gradually, I was happy with all the extra work I was able to get done around the home. After all, with two little ones, an extra hour each morning is wonderful for getting "not for little hands" chores done quickly.

But then I started noticing that I was just plain grumpy most of the time and I didn't want to get out of bed in the morning. And I started getting sick. A lot. I woke up one night and had to be whisked to the hospital for emergency surgery on an organ that had just plain given out. And one day it was revealed to my mind that I was abusing my body by not letting it have the sleep it needed.

I switched back to my regular eight hours and I haven't been sick since, well except for some morning sickness, but you can't do much about that! :)

Sleep is a vital part of my health and I've learned to respect its importance in keeping me happy and fully functioning.

Anonymous said...

Dear Lady Lydia,

Thank you for your patience with all the questions about depression. My hardest battle has been to "give the gift of thanksgiving." It took me a long time to realize that my lack of routines was a major part of the problem. Your articles and ideas have helped a lot but nothing completely "clicked" until I read the article on your other blog. I've since then been avoiding tv and computer time after 9pm and have been getting rid of things that don't make me happy.

I didn't grow up with routines at all and sometimes the best thing is to have the basics spelled out in clear cut suggestions. Thank you for a wonderful article.


Lauren Christine said...

I very much agree. I know I can become much more emotional if I am unrested. I also feel my life has become more peaceful, rested, and less worried now that we don't have any TV. I find the television to be a source of mostly negative news, never any positive. Thankyou for a wonderful article.

Lydia said...

Ladies, unless you have a blog and you indicate who you honestly are, we are reluctant to post your comments. We don't want young people being influenced by anonymous comments. Please follow this rule!

Anonymous said...

As a young mom of a 17mo and 7mo pregnant, I find sleep is vital.

Growing up, my parents were convinced that as young people, we needed less sleep! Yet many times I have read the opposite.

It is tempting to forgo that extra bit of sleep and get more work done, but it drastically changes the flavor of the day! My wonderful mom always said she didn't need more than 5 or 6 hours of sleep, but she was always so stressed out. She was even more frusterated when she slept in because of all "she didn't get done".

I wonder if things might have been different if she had had different priorities? I find it very difficult to have patience on less than 8+ hours right now. Growing up the way I did, with a mom who 'needed' so much less, I feel very lazy sometimes, BUT nearly always relaxed and refreshed, and this is the way my husband and son desire and need me to be!

I have also found that listening to Classical music can be soothing and help keep me in the right attitude, esspecially when doing something particularly stressful in the kitchen, like canning food - which is hot and time consuming. :)

I am slowly surrounding myself with items of beauty and aranging my home so that it brings a sense of peace and quietness, which also helps my mood . . .

So even if you don't struggle with depression, without sleep you might suffer from impatience and irritability, which can really shape your family and home life....

Lydia said...

To the one who posts critical comments: people who write to inquire about depression are not necessarily depressed. Every day doctors drug our friends and relatives with the statin drugs that cause so many side effects and do not alleviate depression. I post the attitudes that my parents, grand parents and great grandparents had towards life and towards depression. Everyone suffers from it in life, as it is part of being human. However, the difference between people then and people now is that today no one understands the purpose of suffering and do not recognize it as a tool, a signal, a problem solver. Without depression, we would be without a personal alert system that helps both our minds and our bodies. You can read more about it on other articles and research it yourself if you like. If we didn't have depression, we would not recognize happiness. Think of the Boers going across the deserts and plains in Africa to settle the land and farm it--think of the Pioneers going across America, and the Australians that sufferred hardship in the 17 and 1800's in order to settle that land. They all sufferred real loss and real hardship, which was reason enough for depression. However there weren't all the analyzers going around taking polls and making reports about the percentage of people who were happy. Today people have less real hardship to be depressed about, but we have more of other things that cause depression. Today we have more sugar, more socializing, more entertainment, more spending, more noise, more fumes in the air, more debt, more critical people on other people's blogs, more cynics, more drugs and pharmacueticals, more failures in marriage, home and family. It is natural to be depressed about it all but it is a good thing to be depressed if it causes us to recognize the root cause and do something about it.

Lydia said...

Forgot to mention there is also more ugly art, more shocking architecture, more ridiculous clothing!

Lady Eleanor said...

I am thoroughly enjoying my visit here and cannot wait to visit again :)

Yes, I think that not getting enough sleep can cause much negativity concerning the body and mind. I know for a fact that if I didn't get at least 8 hrs. of zzzzz's I don't think I could function very well.

The following are things I do to help ease the mind and body into restful sleep. ~a 20 minute walk in the evening ~chamomile tea 2 hrs. before bed ~reading in low light for 20 minutes in bed ~spritzing your bed pillow with a lavender mister for fabric ~wearing an eye pillow filled with lavendar ~lighting a lavendar candle for a while before bed then blowing it out once you go to bed ~No news watching before bed ~and lastly (although this one not too many may agree with) a very small glass of red wine a couple of hours before bed.

I can honestly say that I've tried all of these and have never had trouble sleeping. May this be helpful to anyone needing some ideas restful ideas.