“I am exhausted from trying to be stronger than I feel…..”
“Sleep just isn’t sleep anymore; it’s an escape…..”
“No amount of sleep could cure the tiredness I feel…….”
“I’ll be alright, one day, someday, just not today……….”
These are some common thoughts, emotions, feelings and fears when there is an acquired state of altered mental health in a human. The unspoken truth, that ultimately drags a person into a world of despair, loneliness, distress, agony and pain, that we all in our common language call DEPRESSION.
We all take care of our physical and physiological health well. Taking good care of your body’s physiology is an excellent practice indeed but, ever thought of the brain going through the same? Physiological abnormalities around us are socially acceptable. However, there still exists a stigma for confronting mental issues and most importantly for asking help. When it comes to finally speaking up about mental health and seeking medical help, there exists only a few treatment options that a person can go for. All the currently available and most commonly known treatment options definitely help a person combat the condition but the effects are not observed to be long lasting. Also, the treatment process goes on for a long duration burning a hole in the pocket.
What depression looks like?
Depression is a type of mood disorder which results in feelings of misery, despondency and dejection. A state of prolonged sadness which creates a feeling of heavy heartedness and discouragement. The symptoms may appear as feelings of sadness, anxiety, low energy, fatigue, restlessness, irritability, difficulty in decision making, lack of focus and concentration, headaches, cramps, poor digestion, lack of interest and suicidal thoughts in severe cases. Depression may occur due to personal and family issues, side effects of certain medications, excessive workload and stress or major life changes and traumatic events.
The common treatment protocol for depression since years have been medications (pharmacological), psychological treatments, maybe some counseling sessions or psychotherapy and in worse case scenario electric shock treatment. Can we think of some other alternatives? Which are drug-free, pain-free and involve full participation of the person. Here, physiotherapy might make things easier and may serve as one of the most effective and long lasting treatment options if adherence level is high.
Biology of exercise in mental health conditions:
Several hypotheses are made about physical activity and mental health. Physical activity releases neurotransmitters; the body releases chemicals called endorphins under physical stress which help in relieving pain and feeling of stress. There occurs release of some other substances in the body like dopamine, serotonin, etc. which plays an important role in mood regulation. Exercise causes an increase in blood circulation resulting in sufficient oxygen supply and nutrient supply to the blood which results in mood regulation by assimilating the important nutrients and oxygen where needed, especially to the brain.
Physiotherapy as an effective treatment option:
Physical activities prescribed by a physiotherapist are associated with improved quality of life. It improves the physical and cognitive functions, boosting up the confidence and self-esteem. Physiotherapists emphasize on improving muscle strength, flexibility, cardiovascular endurance, maintaining body weight, body mass index, reducing the chances of falls. The exercise prescription to the person with depression is as follows, however the major exercises prescribed in depression are aerobic exercises and strength training.
· Deep breathing exercises.
Deep breathing exercises help in relaxation. This can be done in a sitting position. Relax your body completely, relax shoulders, take a deep breath, inhale and exhale through your nose. This can also be done by exhaling through mouth (pursed lips).
· Muscle flexibility exercises.
The flexibility exercises include stretching of muscles. It enhances the extensibility of muscles and maintains the normal range of motion of major joints in the body. These exercises can be done very easily on your own also called as the Self- Stretching exercises.
· Endurance training.
Endurance is the ability to withstand fatigue and stress. It enhances the ability of a person to remain active. Aerobic and anaerobic exercises help maintain the muscle endurance, cardiovascular endurance and respiratory endurance as well.
· Relaxation techniques.
Relaxations techniques are very useful for acquiring a state of peace of mind. It helps a person to effectively combat stress. These techniques involve meditation, yoga and deep breathing.
· Muscle strengthening.
Muscle strengthening exercises are important to overcome bodily weaknesses. These are done with an external resistance provided while performing exercises. It strengthens the muscles and joints and helps to relieve body pain and overcome certain degenerative changes in the body, causing an increased blood circulation and blood pressure regulation. It helps to maintain metabolism in the body. It helps to improve mood and reduce depression, especially among older adults, as revealed in a research from Harvard University
· Mobility exercises.
These exercises improve the joint motion and function. It maintains joint range of motion. These exercises can be used as a warm up.
Hydrotherapy means exercising in water. This is a beneficial way of physical activity as water’s property of buoyancy helps put less impact on joints, water provides resistance in all directions to the body helping in muscle strengthening. Underwater exercises are beneficial for improving respiratory function.
Adding all these forms of physical activities to your routine will help you improve the quality of life. Distracting yourself from negative thoughts, stress and over thinking is the aim of treating a person suffering from depression. Engaging yourself in such activities helps improve overall fitness, giving a major impact on your mind along with the other parts of the body. Also, it prevents the recurrence of such mental disorders by enhancing the secretion of certain hormones and chemicals in the body which improves mental health, emotions, thoughts and mental activities.