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Treatment-Resistant Depression: Taking Care of Your Body

Get more physical activity. "A lot of my patients say that they feel better during exercise," says MacKinnon. And research backs them up. In people who are depressed, studies have shown that exercise can improve mood, improve sleep, and complement treatment.

Of course, right now, the idea that you could leap out of bed each morning to go for a run might seem ludicrous. But don't get overwhelmed. Every little bit can help, so start small. Just take a walk around the block a few times a week. As you get stronger, try to work up to exercising on most days of the week.

Eat well. While there is no special diet that helps with treatment-resistant depression, eating healthy is -- as always -- a good idea.Good nutrition can help you feel better physically, and sticking to a healthy eating plan can give you back a feeling of control.

"When people are depressed, there's often a tendency to go for comfort foods, which might not be especially nutritious," MacKinnon tells WebMD. So aim for the basics: more fruits and vegetables and fewer fatty foods and sweets.

Get a good night's sleep. When people are depressed, their sleep schedule often suffers. Some sleep excessively and can barely get out of bed. Others lie awake through the night, fretful and miserable.

If sleep is a problem for you, try to adopt some good habits, MacKinnon says. Establish a regular schedule for when you get up and when you go to bed and stick to it -- no matter how hard it might be at the outset.  Keep naps brief or skip them altogether. If you can, try to make your bedroom a calming place -- and rid it of distractions like TVs. And check with your doctor about when you're supposed to be taking your medication; sometimes, shifting your dose to the morning from the evening will help with sleep, MacKinnon says. 

Don't rely on alcohol or other substances. Many people who have treatment-resistant depression also struggle with alcohol or drug abuse. While substances might seem to offer a temporary escape, they also make depression worse -- and they can prevent your medicines from working as well as they should. If you think you might have a problem, you need to get help.

Talk to a doctor about supplements. So far, the research is mixed on the effectiveness of supplements for treatment-resistant depression. There's some promising evidence that fish oil -- which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids -- might have some benefit. Some research has indicated that folic acid supplements might also help boost the effectiveness of antidepressants. A folate-based medicinal food which is available by prescription for people who haven't fully recovered with an antidepressant. In general, more research needs to be done into supplements for treatment-resistant depression. If you're interested in trying one, talk to your doctor first. 

Try light therapy.  Some people with treatment-resistant depression find that the changes in the seasons -- specifically the onset of winter -- can make them feel worse. So talk to your doctor about trying light therapy -- using a special lamp that provides artificial sunlight. 

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