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Hopefully, at this point, you are experiencing a reduction in your depressive symptoms. If so, you will remain at this dosage. If not, another increase may be recommended to find your optimal dosage. As described earlier, many children and adults may not find relief after a prolonged period of taking medication. Additionally, others can experience intolerable side effects. Usually at this junc-ture, frustration leads to a decision to stop taking medication. It is crucial that you use the same care and consistency coming off medication as you did when you started it. Not many people are aware, some health professionals included, that there is a need to come off medications in a specific way. If not, a variety of physical experiences may leave you feeling very ill. This is known as antidepressant discontinuation syndrome.12 Sometimes shortened to "discontinuation syndrome," abrupt halting of medication will set into motion experiences that can include dizziness, nausea, headache, numb or shock-like sensations, diarrhea, and sweating, just to name a few. Unlike withdrawal effects from addictive drugs or alcohol, there is no drug craving. Antidepressants are not addictive. If you come off your prescription(s) carefully, your neurochemistry slowly returns to its original functioning. However, hastily stopping medication jars your system--and your body takes the hit. Most individuals who experience discontinuation syndrome think they have the flu or a very bad cold--and don't attribute these symptoms to the stopping of antidepressant medication. Coming off medication in a controlled way, overseen by your health professional, avoids this uncomfortable experience. It's safe to say that one thing you forgot through your struggle with depression is how to have fun. Admit it: some party-pooper part of you just rolled its eyes and mumbled that "fun" is for other people. The best you can hope for, you think, is not to be disappointed. I know, because that's how I felt after months of having all my senses--including my sense of humor--bleached and hung out to dry by depression.

It was as if the candy was stripped out of life and only a dry mouthful of cotton was left. Live like that for very long, and the words pleasure and enjoyment start to sound like a foreign language. But it's instructive to notice that the word enjoyment means "the process of taking pleasure in something." Process. Taking. These are active words, things we purposely do and participate in. You can sit and wait for joy to strike spontaneously, and it sometimes does. But why would you want to, when it's possible to make it happen for yourself? As with so many other things we've discussed, the power of enjoyment is triggered by choice. Start by silencing your inner critic, who pronounces judgment on every possible source of fun . before you even try it! A rafting excursion? Too wet, too dangerous. A salsa dance class with friends? Too embarrassing. A day at the amusement park? Too childish, too expensive, too loud, too many lines. The good news is, it's possible to displace objections like these with a determined decision to just do it. Will this test the boundaries of your comfort zone? Of course. That's what makes it fun!

Next, make room for humor and lightheartedness all through your day. Turn off the news and start a romantic comedy movie marathon or binge on old sitcom episodes or performances by stand-up comedians. Spend time around people who make you laugh and push you to lighten up. Make it your mission to laugh and smile so readily that people begin to wonder what you know that they don't. It's up to you: sit on shore, or grab a surfboard and play. First up, let me say that you can tell a story about anything. Literally anything that has happened to you can be an effective story. Should you tell a story about anything? Probably not, but with the right approach, it's definitely possible. So, with that in mind, how do you choose the perfect scenarios to entertain the people you meet on a daily basis? To start with, leave behind the super entertaining stories you've cultivated from a young age. We all have those trump card stories - the ones we've been sharing since High School that are so interesting people cannot help but listen. They're great, but they don't work as well in casual conversation. First up, they rarely leave an opening for someone to respond with their own details. If you describe how you went cliff diving in the Andes, other people will definitely be intrigued, but they may also be intimidated into silence. Alternately, they may become competitive and you must work to out-tell them and their story. In both cases, you have an unwanted situation. So, the alternative is to work toward creating entertaining stories out of pretty much nothing. Don't abandon your trump cards. You'll need them for first dates or award presentations, but don't use them on a daily basis either.

It's just plain lazy storytelling. Okay, now, with your boring, normal every day story in mind, it's time to put it together in a way that will be interesting and engaging. We do that with hooks and pauses. Don't start by saying "I have this funny story about this thing that happened to me this morning" - it's dull. Instead, say "Guess what a microwave, my three year old Beagle and my left dress shoe have in common?" Who could honestly resist wanting to know more about whatever happened between your Beagle, shoe and microwave? If you dig a little deeper, it's probably a pretty dull story if told wrong, but when announced in such an interesting way, people will eat it up. Hooks are great, but you must also tell your story with the right degree of balance and pauses. Listen to a speech by any politician (the party doesn't matter). They will stop for half beats, drag out important words, give meaningful glances, and use their hand gestures to create an entire discussion out of just a few hundred words. Your story should benefit from the same powerful rhetorical tools. Know when to stop and hold the attention of your reader, when to lead to a new point, or when to pull back and leave someone guessing what happens next. To reduce the feeling that your life is a giant bucket of stress, consider your fuel sources. How do you feel throughout the day? Lethargic? Headachy? Irritable? As already discussed, problematic sleep could be a culprit, and here I want to focus on food, since what you are eating could also be a contributing factor. As I'll discuss more in Principle 3, lethargy, headaches, and irritability are types of triggering events that increase your potential to procrastinate--especially when a goal activity requires a high amount of effort. When you don't feel well, you are more likely to say "I'll do it when I feel better," and to give up and give in, even though action is optimal in that very moment. Eating well for your body can set you up to be just a little more nourished, a little more energized, and a little more physically and emotionally able to tackle day-to-day challenges.

In case you don't already know it, what you eat matters on all levels. The things that go in your body have incredible implications for your health and feelings of well-being. Eating is a major lifestyle factor that influences many medical conditions including the two biggies: heart disease and diabetes. Lifestyle is the best way to prevent these conditions, even when genetic predisposition is a factor. Diet also determines the composition of your gut microbiome, which increases or reduces long-term risks for developing conditions like colon cancer, Crohn's disease, diabetes, obesity, and rheumatoid arthritis--to name just a few. It can be helpful to find out more about your body's specific needs. If you suspect that you might be shooting yourself in the gut, so to speak, and want clarity on how or why, I recommend meeting with a gastroenterologist, allergist, or nutritionist. They can perform tests to see what food allergies you may have and identify whether or not your diet is providing you with the right types of nutrients for your lifestyle. For example, if you are vegan or if you are exposed to very little sunlight, are you getting all the nutrients you need? Specialists can teach you how to figure out what foods impact you adversely by eliminating potentially aggravating foods for a brief period of time and then reintroducing them, one by one. In addition to identifying what foods are healthy for your body, which might involve consulting a specialist, other crucial components are to create healthy behaviors around eating and to establish routine cues for habitual meal preparation and mealtime. The decision to take medication can be a very positive step in treating your depression. It doesn't have to be a scary or sickening experience if done conscientiously. Here are some tips to avoid antidepressant discontinuation syndrome: Never stop taking your medication(s) without talking with your nurse practitioner or doctor. An open and honest forum can ensure that you come off your dosage in a safe manner. If lowering your dosage, follow the instructions given by your prescribing healthcare professional to the letter. If you begin experiencing symptoms of discontinuation syndrome, immediately contact her or him. You may need to take a higher dosage for a longer period of time before weaning your body off of the medicine completely. If not being on medication causes previous psychological or psychiatric issues to resume, consider returning to medication as a treatment. There is no shame in having neurobiology that requires pharmacological help.