Keeping mentally fit

Think you can’t get depressed? Dr. Rudy Nydegger says think again. With so many stresses in everyday

Think you can’t get depressed? Dr. Rudy Nydegger says think again.

With so many stresses in everyday lives, especially in these tough economic times, anyone is susceptible.

“People will often say to me that they thought they were stronger than that,” said Nydegger, who has practiced clinical psychology for nearly 40 years and is chief of the Division of Psychology at Ellis Hospital in Schenectady. “If you place enough stress on a person, there is going to be a problem.”

But there are things that can relieve the pressures that barrage lives and put people at risk for depression. Nydegger, who is also a professor of management and psychology at Union Graduate College, will discuss how everyone can maintain mental fitness and productivity Tuesday at the Schenectady County Public Library. “Challenges of Coping with the Brave New World,” which will conclude with an extensive question-and-answer session, will offer suggestions on staying healthy, many of which he has compiled in his book “Understanding and Treating Depression: Ways to Find Hope and Help.”

More people worried

The book, his second, surveys four case studies, chronicling the struggles that triggered depression in three men and one woman . Unlike other books on the subject, Nydegger then explores how the disease manifests in various groups, old and young, men and women, white and black, gay and straight, rich and poor, and how these different groups experience the disease. He also writes about the latest research, treatments and responses. But the main thrust of the book, said Nydegger, is discussing the disease with the layman in mind. That’s important as situational depression looks to be on the rise.

‘Challenges of Coping with the Brave New World,’ with Dr. Rudy Nydegger

WHERE: Schenectady County Public Library, 99 Clinton St., Schenectady

WHEN: 7 p.m. Tuesday


MORE INFO: 388-4533

“There are more people who are worried and apprehensive about the future,” he said. “You see your retirement slither away and it’s hard to feel good about it.”

Nydegger has seen it firsthand in his own practice and is trying to help his patients cope with everything from joblessness and foreclosures to caretaking for an elderly parent. And even if depression cannot be avoided, Nydegger believes there are things that anyone can do to alleviate depression’s severity.

One of the main things is to avoid substance abuse — a common antidote for many who are distraught.

“Self-medicating? Bad choice,” said Nydegger, who added that drugs and alcohol are not only costly for the patient, but for society. “It doesn’t work.”

Exercise and Interaction

Conversely, staying physically active is a wise choice. So too is being socially involved.

“This is especially true with people with seasonal affective disorder,” said Nydegger. “Take a walk or call a friend.”

The psychologist said that intensive workouts are not necessary. He recommends that everyone move, moderately and regularly. Rhythmic exercise such as biking, walking, jogging and swimming are most effective. He also recommends layering any routine with relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation.

Exercise lends a sense of accomplishment, releases feel-good endorphins and serves as a distraction from problems. Calling or going to lunch with a friend can do the same. Good nutrition is also vital. So too is having something to look forward to.

“It doesn’t have to be big,” said Nydegger. “Something little is fine. For me, I’m looking forward to my son playing in a basketball tournament in Boston. It can be going to a conference or going to my friend’s house for dinner. These things help you get through this stuff.”

Nydegger feels it’s important that everyone consider these measures, because in tough times we are all more stressed. And mental-health services are among the first items to be cut from private and public budgets. At the same time, this is when the services are more necessary.

“I’m very concerned that this tough situation will get worse,” said the doctor. “If insurance coverage pulls back any more, the situation will erode. We will pay a price for that.”

Get necessary help

Most important, says Nydegger, is this: If you or someone you know is suffering from depression warning signs — such as changes in diet and sleeping, feeling fatigued and hopeless, they must seek help. And the first person they need to talk with is their primary care physician, who will refer the patient to a therapist.

“Not getting help is the worst, worst, worst thing anyone can do,” said Nydegger. “Depression is not something you can work through on your own.”

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