Middle age — I hate the term, but let’s define it.
Middle age begins around 50 and last until about 65, and it can be a tough transitional time for women. You often have lifestyle changes like retirement and empty nesting, accompanied by the hormonal changes of menopause.
These are some of the many reasons that depression is so common when you reach your 50s — especially for the current generation of women. We often don’t have the support of family and community that past generations have had. You may end up feeling lost when it comes to your identity, your purpose, and even your physical health.
As an integrative physician, I’ve worked with thousands of women and have heard their stories about struggling with depression during this season of their lives. Middle age doesn’t have to be so hard. In fact, it can be a beautiful period of change and growth if you approach it with care.
If you or someone you love is struggling with depression, I recommend the following:
1. Build a community of support
Counselors, doctors, a spiritual group, friends, family — being a part of a supportive group is essential for pulling out of depression.
If you don’t feel you’re ready to talk to a doctor or therapist, reach out to family and friends. You can also start going to a group class (yoga, dancing, painting), or go online and find a support group for depression. Virtually everyone struggles with depression on some level. You aren’t alone, and a community can make a big difference in helping you feel supported as you sort out depression.
2. Watch for changing nutritional needs
Your dietary needs change when you hit middle age, largely thanks to the shifting hormones of menopause. What worked at 30 may not work at 50, and that’s okay.
You may need less overall food, more protein, and more healthy fats as you enter your 50s. You may also benefit more than ever from an anti-inflammatory diet that decreases oxidative stress on your body and brain.
If you aren’t sure where to start with diet, talk to a nutritionist. You can also read my articles about diet to get a better sense of how to eat for the best version of yourself.
3. Take mood-boosting supplements
Supplements can make a big difference in your day-to-day outlook on life. Here are two of my favorite natural supplements that boost mood:
- Vitamin D regulates more than 1000 different processes in your body. Your body makes vitamin D by absorbing sunlight, and unless you spend a lot of time outside with exposed skin, odds are you’d benefit from a vitamin D supplement. Vitamin D is comparable to a prescription antidepressant when it comes to relieving depression . Start with 2500 iu of vitamin D a day and see if you feel a difference.
- B vitamins boost mood and energy, especially when you combine them with folic acid . The two work together to balance mood-regulating brain chemicals like serotonin, which can help with depression. My favorite mood-booster, EastWest Boost, has both B vitamins and folic acid in the right forms and doses.
- St. John’s Wort is a mountain flower and an effective alternative to prescription drugs for relieving mild to moderately severe depression, without major side effects .
Mood-boosting supplements can help your body find balance and relieve depression.
4. Check your hormones
Your hormones undergo a huge shift during menopause. Your thyroid hormones and insulin levels often change, and you see a big drop in estrogen and progesterone, which can translate to depressed mood.
Check out this article on testing and balancing your hormones, and talk to an integrative doctor about how to manage the hormonal shift that menopause brings.
5. Find a sense of purpose
Middle age can be a time of transition. Maybe your kids move out and you’re an empty nester, or you retire and find your days are more free than they were in the past. Figure out the next chapter in your book — what have you always wanted to do, if you could only find the time?
These are your golden years. They’re the time for you to renew your sense of purpose and pursue the things you want to pursue. Middle age can be a chance to take a new lease on life. Use these tools to ward off depression and become the best version of yourself you can be.
- Spedding, S. (2014). Vitamin D and depression: a systematic review and meta-analysis comparing studies with and without biological flaws. Nutrients, 6(4), 1501-1518. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4011048/
- Coppen, A., & Bolander-Gouaille, C. (2005). Treatment of depression: time to consider folic acid and vitamin B12. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 19(1), 59-65. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15671130
- A., Maher, A. R., Shanman, R., Booth, M. S., Miles, J. N., Sorbero, M. E., & Hempel, S. (2016). A systematic review of St. John’s wort for major depressive disorder. Systematic reviews, 5(1), 148. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5010734/