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I would love a dollar for every time someone has said to me that her/his depression has been caused by a “chemical imbalance in the brain,” as if this explained everything, including the necessary treatment (corrective chemicals in the form of antidepressants).

I have long been troubled by the ways we sometimes talk about depression—particularly when we describe it as a “disease,” as if it were as clearly identifiable and discrete a condition as chicken pox, or diabetes.

Everywhere I look lately, the world seems to be crying out about the issue of sleep.  It started a few weeks ago when someone sent me an academic article that examined the relationship between suicidal ideation and sleep deprivation––it concluded that insomnia increased suicide risk because it induced symptoms of depression, as well as being responsible for a heightened sense of “burdensomeness”.

Some research recently published on PLOS ONE suggested that, in mice at least, taking a regular break from a calorie-restricted diet led to greater weight loss than fulltime diet compliance managed to achieve.  We’re not mice, of course, and it’s early days in the progress of this research, but the findings have made me wonder about mini holidays from other things.

We all know how good a proper holiday––an extended, formal break from work––is for us, but what if we were to think of the smaller breaks from our self-imposed regimens we might benefit from?

“I don’t want to waste another year!” a client said to me recently.  When we explored what this meant, it seemed she felt that being depressed – which she had been for the better part of a year – was not something that competent people did with their lives.

The Medical Journal of Australia recently published an article that confirms something those of us who work in the mental health profession already know from our daily practice––that antidepressant medication is less effective than it was once believed to be.

How wonderful it is, particularly for the self-employed who work at more than one location, to be able to call and email others, and check messages, when we are away from our main office.  Indeed, it would not be possible to have the flexible working lives we do without message bank, mobile phones and the internet.  As long as we remember to keep the balance between checking the technology regularly and leaving it alone while we are otherwise engaged, it’s all very handy.

What an interesting day I had last week!  I have had Google Alerts set to keep me posted on articles about prostate cancer and sex—one of the ways in which I try to keep up with what’s being said out there in the world about this important issue—and last week I sat down to scan the last year’s worth of articles to see whether there was a pattern.

As I sit at my desk and look out at the scudding clouds of a Melbourne winter, I can only wonder how people in deeper latitudes ever get anything done once summer has passed.  We still technically have about nine and a half hours of daylight here even on our shortest day, but I’m sure I’m not alone in having difficulty getting out of bed, off the couch, or away from the heater.  Of course there is the now widely-accepted phenomenon of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), sufferers of which become noticeably depressed, sluggish and inclined to put on weight in the winter months.  But this is generally only diagnosed in dwellers of latitudes over about 60 degrees—compared with them we really have little to complain of in the cold/dark stakes. So how to keep motivated and moving when it’s grey and chilly out?

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