Overcoming Sadness, Lonliness, & Depression

“What the hell does this have to do with lifting and performance”? You’re probably asking yourself. Well, more than you might think.

It’s Not Just About the Physical

It’s not all about just what’s on the outside. It’s not all about your performance on the field. It’s about what’s going up on in there; in that noggin of yours.

In the world of performance and physique enhancement, it can be too easy to get all caught up in the vanity and aesthetics. We do everything we can to improve in every which way physically, but what’s all that for if you’re all fucked up mentally and emotionally?

Side Note For the Bros

Guys, I need you to listen here especially. There’s NOTHING wrong with wanting to talk about your mental and emotional health. It’s a serious matter.

Don’t ever think that it’s “unmanly” or “gay” to have the need to talk about these things (plus, there’s nothing wrong with being gay anyway). It can be quite debilitating at times. Dealing with things like anxiety, depression, and loneliness is no easy feat. However, I want you to know that you’re not alone.

It’s Gonna Happen At Some Point

Something will happen in your life; whether it be the death of a family member, breaking up with your significant other, getting fired from your job, or some other major life event, that will cause you to lose sight. It’ll cause you pain. It’ll cause you to suffer. Hell, it might not even be due to a singular event. It could be a condition you’ve been suffering from for quite a while now.

No, it’s not pretty. It’s not easy. Some people may not even understand or be there for you. But I promise you there is always somebody that is. There’s always ways to make it better.

How Can I Feel Better Now?

I’m here to tell you the ways in which you can do that. Let’s dive right in:

Exercise

Ah-hah! You knew I was gonna slap this one right in there. In terms of depression, unfortunately, the data on resistance training and its effects on its treatment are lacking. However, what we do know is that the most effective exercise intervention for the treatment of depression in the literature is aerobic training [1]. The best programs consisted of the following variables:

  1. 3-4x/week
  2. 30-40 minutes per session
  3. Low-moderate intensity (ranging from a brisk walk to jogging at about 50-60% intensity)
  4. Perform for at least 9 weeks

So as you can see, it doesn’t take much. Simply taking the time to walk a few times a week can pay dividends to your mental health. Especially after a traumatic event, every little bit helps.

However, if you feel like resistance training suits you better (I feel like that personally), then go for it! I find the concentration it takes to focus on the task I’m about to perform (especially on compound lifts) is especially helpful for me to put my brain power into something else entirely, even if it’s just for a few moment.

Whatever works for you, just go do it!

Talk Therapy

No, you don’t have to go beg your insurance provider to have them cover a psychiatrist for you. When I say “talk therapy”, I mean talk to anybody you feel most comfortable with. This could be your family, significant other, best friend, hell, even one of your professors if that’s the kind of relationship you have with them. A lot more people care about you than you might think.

Think about how lucky we are to live in the day and age that we do. With all this modern technology, there are more options than ever to be able to connect with others. You can find forums dedicated to your specific condition or feeling, you can find private Facebook groups, even apps!

For instance, there is an app currently in development called Psychologist in a Pocket (PiaP), that utilizes the technology of lexicon synthesis (human vocabulary and speech) in order to detect symptoms of possible clinical conditions and connect you with the right provider who can help you to feel better [2].

Side Note: Didn’t get paid to mention that app, I just think it’s really freakin’ cool.

So don’t rule out any of these options until you’ve tried them for yourself. The results just may surprise you.

Supplements

Yeah, yeah, I know. Many of you will write this one off right away. How can a freakin’ supplement help me feel happier?

However, there have been some supplements that have shown in the literature to either work in isolation or with anti-depressive drugs to help cope with depressive symptoms. Those are:

SAMe (Pronounced “Sammy”)

S-adenosyl Methionine, also known as SAMe, has been shown to improve depressive symptoms over placebo after 12 weeks of treatment [3]. This was measured by a validated scale called the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, which is used as a standard of measure for depression in various depression treatment studies.

How Much To Take?

1600-3200mg/day

Kava

This herb is becoming a popular anxiety reducer, as well as even a mood-booster. In fact, 300mg per day was shown to elevate mood and cheerfulness in healthy individuals without any existing depression or anxiety disorders [4].

Also, it seems to benefit those with anxiety disorders as well, as supplementation significantly improved their conditions after 8 weeks of daily use [5].

How Much To Take

300mg/day

Saffron

This spice is quite fascinating. In fact, it has been touted as being as powerful as the depressive drugs fluoxetine and imipramine. A meta-analysis revealed this, as it looked at 5 randomized controlled trials of saffron [6]. They discovered that saffron was much better than placebo at treating depression and that it was equal to the previously mentioned depressive drugs. For a supplement, this is quite powerful stuff.

How Much To Take?

30mg/day

Psychiatrist

If all else fails, go see a professional. There’s only so much you can do before you have to eventually call in the experts. They’ll be able to prescribe you drugs that may help you in conjunction with supplemental therapy, as well as other treatment options such as cognitive behavior therapy in conjunction with medication.

DON’T Force Yourself to Feel Happy

I know it can be tempting, but don’t try to make yourself feel happy when you really can’t. The energy it takes to “fake it till you make it” can be really draining, plus, it won’t solve the true problem. Basically, forcing yourself to be happy is like placing a small butterfly bandage over a 2nd degree burn; it ain’t doing much.

Instead, realize that the sooner you realize something’s wrong and that you need help, the sooner you’ll feel better. There’s no scientific data to back this one up. Sorry guys, there’s nothing I can do about that. However, trust me on this one; I’ve been through it as I’m sure you guys have as well. Get help. Don’t wait.

References

  1. Stanton, R., & Reaburn, P. (2014). Exercise and the treatment of depression: A review of the exercise program variables. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 17(2), 177-182. doi:10.1016/j.jsams.2013.03.010
  2. Cheng, P. G., Ramos, R. M., Bitsch, J. Á, Jonas, S. M., Ix, T., See, P. L., & Wehrle, K. (2016). Psychologist in a Pocket: Lexicon Development and Content Validation of a Mobile-Based App for Depression Screening. JMIR MHealth and UHealth, 4(3). doi:10.2196/mhealth.5284
  3. Sarris, J., Papakostas, G. I., Vitolo, O., Fava, M., & Mischoulon, D. (2014). S-adenosyl methionine (SAMe) versus escitalopram and placebo in major depression RCT: Efficacy and effects of histamine and carnitine as moderators of response. Journal of Affective Disorders, 164, 76-81. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2014.03.041
  4. Thompson, R., Ruch, W., & Hasenöhrl, R. U. (2004). Enhanced cognitive performance and cheerful mood by standardized extracts ofPiper methysticum(Kava-kava). Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental, 19(4), 243-250. doi:10.1002/hup.581
  5. Volz, H., & Kieser, M. (1997). Kava-kava Extract WS 1490 versus Placebo in Anxiety Disorders – A Randomized Placebo-controlled 25-week Outpatient Trial. Pharmacopsychiatry, 30(01), 1-5. doi:10.1055/s-2007-979474
  6. Hausenblas, H. A., Saha, D., Dubyak, P. J., & Anton, S. D. (2013). Saffron (Crocus sativus L.) and major depressive disorder: A meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. Journal of Integrative Medicine,11(6), 377-383. doi:10.3736/jintegrmed2013056

zachmacdonald

Boston-born bodybuilder currently residing in the beautiful city of Tampa, Florida in pursuit of a Master's Degree in Exercise & Nutrition Science. Competitive NPC Classic Physique athlete with a passion for strength training, health, well-being, and the science that makes it all possible. I want to sift through all of the B.S that's out there to provide you with the best information possible for you to achieve YOUR goals, whatever they may be. Human physiology is an amazing thing, let's find out what the human body is capable of!

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