Dealing with Depression
Self-Help and Coping Tips to Overcome Depression
Depression drains your energy, hope, and drive, making it difficult to do what you need to feel better. But while overcoming depression isn’t quick or easy, it’s far from impossible. You can’t just will yourself to “snap out of it,” but you do have some control—even if your depression is severe and stubbornly persistent. The key is to start small and build from there. Feeling better takes time, but you can get there if you make positive choices for yourself each day.
Recovering from depression requires action, but taking action when you’re depressed is hard. In fact, just thinking about the things you should do to feel better, like going for a walk or spending time with friends, can be exhausting.
It’s the Catch-22 of depression recovery: The things that help the most are the things that are the most difficult to do. There’s a difference, however, between something that's difficult and something that's impossible.
The key to depression recovery is to start with a few small goals and slowly build from there.Draw upon whatever resources you have. You may not have much energy, but you probably have enough to take a short walk around the block or pick up the phone to call a loved one.
Take things one day at a time and reward yourself for each accomplishment. The steps may seem small, but they’ll quickly add up. And for all the energy you put into your depression recovery, you’ll get back much more in return.
Depression Self-Help Tip 1: Get Support
Getting the support you need plays a big role in lifting the fog of depression and keeping it away. On your own, it can be difficult to maintain perspective and sustain the effort required to beat depression, but the very nature of depression makes it difficult to reach out for help. However, isolation and loneliness make depression even worse, so maintaining your close relationships and social activities are important.
The thought of reaching out to even close family members and friends can seem overwhelming. You may feel ashamed, too exhausted to talk, or guilty for neglecting the relationship. Remind yourself that this is the depression talking. Reaching out is not a sign of weakness and it won’t mean you’re a burden to others. Your loved ones care about you and want to help. And remember, it’s never too late to build new friendships and improve your support network.
Turn to trusted friends and family members. Share what you’re going through with the people you love and trust, face to face if possible. The people you talk to don’t have to be able to fix you; they just need to be good listeners. Ask for the help and support you need. You may have retreated from your most treasured relationships, but they can get you through this tough time.
Try to keep up with social activities even if you don’t feel like it. Often when you’re depressed, it feels more comfortable to retreat into your shell, but being around other people will make you feel less depressed.
Join a support group for depression. Being with others dealing with depression can go a long way in reducing your sense of isolation. You can also encourage each other, give and receive advice on how to cope, and share your experiences.
10 tips for reaching out and building relationships
Depression Self-Help Tip 2: Beat Negative Thinking
Depression puts a negative spin on everything, including the way you see yourself, the situations you encounter, and your expectations for the future.
But you can’t break out of this pessimistic mind frame by “just thinking positive.” Happy thoughts or wishful thinking won’t cut it. Rather, the trick is to replace negative thoughts with more balanced thoughts.
Think outside yourself. Ask yourself if you’d say what you’re thinking about yourself to someone else. If not, stop being so hard on yourself. Think about less harsh statements that offer more realistic descriptions.
Allow yourself to be less than perfect. Many depressed people are perfectionists, holding themselves to impossibly high standards and then beating themselves up when they fail to meet them. Battle this source of self-imposed stress by challenging your negative ways of thinking. Socialize with positive people. Notice how people who always look on the bright side deal with challenges, even minor ones, like not being able to find a parking space. Then consider how you would react in the same situation. Even if you have to pretend, try to adopt their optimism and persistence in the face of difficulty.
Keep a "negative thought log." Whenever you experience a negative thought, jot down the thought and what triggered it in a notebook. Review your log when you’re in a good mood. Consider if the negativity was truly warranted. Ask yourself if there’s another way to view the situation. For example, let’s say your boyfriend was short with you and you automatically assumed that the relationship was in trouble. It's possible, though, he’s just having a bad day.
Types of negative thinking that add to depression
All-or-nothing thinking – Looking at things in black-or-white categories, with no middle ground (“If I fall short of perfection, I’m a total failure.”)
Overgeneralization – Generalizing from a single negative experience, expecting it to hold true forever (“I can’t do anything right.”)
The mental filter – Ignoring positive events and focusing on the negative. Noticing the one thing that went wrong, rather than all the things that went right.
Diminishing the positive – Coming up with reasons why positive events don’t count (“She said she had a good time on our date, but I think she was just being nice.”)
Jumping to conclusions – Making negative interpretations without actual evidence. You act like a mind reader (“He must think I’m pathetic”) or a fortune teller (“I’ll be stuck in this dead end job forever”)
Emotional reasoning – Believing that the way you feel reflects reality (“I feel like such a loser. I really am no good!”)
‘Shoulds’ and ‘should-nots’ – Holding yourself to a strict list of what you should and shouldn’t do, and beating yourself up if you don’t live up to your rules.
Labeling – Labeling yourself based on mistakes and perceived shortcomings (“I’m a failure; an idiot; a loser.”)
Depression Self-Help Tip 3: Take care of yourself
In order to overcome depression, you have to take care of yourself. This includes following a healthy lifestyle, learning to manage stress, setting limits on what you’re able to do, adopting healthy habits, and scheduling fun activities into your day.
Aim for eight hours of sleep. Depression typically involves sleep problems. Whether you’re sleeping too little or too much, your mood suffers. Get on a better sleep schedule by learning healthy sleep habits.
Expose yourself to a little sunlight every day. Lack of sunlight can make depression worse. Make sure you’re getting enough. Take a short walk outdoors, have your coffee outside, enjoy an al fresco meal, people-watch on a park bench, or sit out in the garden. Aim for at least 15 minutes of sunlight a day to boost your mood. If you live somewhere with little winter sunshine, try using a light therapy box.
Keep stress in check. Not only does stress prolong and worsen depression, but it can also trigger it. Figure out all the things in your life that stress you out. Examples include: work overload, unsupportive relationships, taking on too much, or health problems. Once you’ve identified your stressors, you can make a plan to avoid them or minimize their impact.
Practice relaxation techniques. A daily relaxation practice can help relieve symptoms of depression, reduce stress, and boost feelings of joy and well-being. Try yoga, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or meditation.
Care for a pet. While nothing can replace the human connection, pets can bring joy and companionship into your life and help you feel less isolated. Caring for a pet can also get you outside of yourself and give you a sense of being needed—both powerful antidotes to depression.
Do things you enjoy (or used to)
While you can’t force yourself to have fun or experience pleasure, you can choose to do things that you used to enjoy. Pick up a former hobby or a sport you used to like. Express yourself creatively through music, art, or writing. Go out with friends. Take a day trip to a museum, the mountains, or the ballpark.
Push yourself to do things, even when you don’t feel like it. You might be surprised at how much better you feel once you’re out in the world. Even if your depression doesn’t lift immediately, you’ll gradually feel more upbeat and energetic as you make time for fun activities.
Develop a wellness toolbox
Come up with a list of things that you can do for a quick mood boost. Include any strategies, activities, or skills that have helped in the past. The more “tools” for coping with depression, the better. Try and implement a few of these ideas each day, even if you’re feeling good.
Spend some time in nature
List what you like about yourself
Read a good book
Watch a funny movie or TV show
Take a long, hot bath
Take care of a few small tasks
Play with a pet
Talk to friends or family face-to-face
Listen to music
Do something spontaneous
Depression Self-Help Tip 4: Get regular exercise
When you’re depressed, exercising may be the last thing you feel like doing. But exercise is a powerful tool for dealing with depression. In fact, studies show that regular exercise can be as effective as antidepressant medication at increasing energy levels and decreasing feelings of fatigue.
Scientists haven’t figured out exactly why exercise is such a potent antidepressant, but evidence suggests that physical activity triggers new cell growth in the brain, increases mood-enhancing neurotransmitters and endorphins, reduces stress, and relieves muscle tension—all things that can have a positive effect on depression.
To gain the most benefits, aim for 30 minutes of exercise per day. You can start small, though, as short 10-minute bursts of activity can have a positive effect on your mood. Here are a few easy ways to get moving:
Take the stairs rather than the elevator
Park your car in the farthest spot in the lot
Take your dog for a walk
Pair up with an exercise partner
Walk while you’re talking on the phone
As a next step, try incorporating walks or some other enjoyable, easy form of exercise into your daily routine. The key is to pick an activity you enjoy, so you’re more likely to keep up with it.
Exercise as an Antidepressant
The following exercise tips offer a powerful prescription for boosting mood:
Exercise now… and again. A 10-minute walk can improve your mood for two hours. The key to sustaining mood benefits is to exercise regularly.
Choose activities that are moderately intense. Aerobic exercise undoubtedly has mental health benefits, but you don't need to sweat strenuously to see results.
Find exercises that are continuous and rhythmic (rather than intermittent).Walking, swimming, dancing, stationery biking, and yoga are good choices.
Add a mind-body element. Activities such as yoga and tai chi rest your mind and increase your energy. You can also add a meditative element to walking or swimming by repeating a mantra (a word or phrase) as you move.
Start slowly, and don't overdo it. More isn't better. Athletes who over train find their moods drop rather than lift.
Adapted from Johns Hopkins Health Alerts
Depression Self-Help Tip 5: Eat a healthy, mood-boosting diet
What you eat has a direct impact on the way you feel. Aim for a balanced diet of low-fat protein, complex carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables. Reduce your intake of foods that can adversely affect your brain and mood, such as caffeine, alcohol, trans fats, saturated fats, and foods with high levels of chemical preservatives or hormones.
Don’t skip meals. Going too long between meals can make you feel irritable and tired, so aim to eat something at least every three to four hours.
Minimize sugar and refined carbs. You may crave sugary snacks, baked goods, or comfort foods such as pasta or French fries, but these “feel-good” foods quickly lead to a crash in mood and energy.
Focus on complex carbohydrates. Foods such as baked potatoes, whole-wheat pasta, oatmeal, and whole grain breads can boost serotonin levels without a crash.
Boost your vitamins, eat more citrus fruit, leafy greens, beans, chicken, and eggs.
Try super-foods rich in nutrients that can boost mood, such as bananas, brown rice and spinach.
Omega-3 fatty acids play an essential role in stabilizing mood, the best sources are fatty fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, and sardines. When cooking fish, grill or bake rather than fry.
Depression Self-Help Tip 6: Know when to get additional help
If you find your depression getting worse and worse, seek professional help. Needing additional help doesn’t mean you’re weak. Sometimes the negative thinking in depression can make you feel like you’re a lost cause, but depression can be treated and you can feel better!
Don’t forget about these self-help tips, though. Even if you’re receiving professional help, these tips can be part of your treatment plan, speeding your recovery and preventing depression from returning.
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How much exercise do you need to stay well?
Adults should be active for at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) every week.
It has long been known that regular exercise is good for our physical health. It can reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease and strokes.
In recent years, studies have shown that regular physical activity also has benefits for our mental health. Exercise can help people with depression and prevent them becoming depressed in the first place.
Dr Alan Cohen, a GP with a special interest in mental health, says that when people get depressed or anxious, they often feel they're not in control of their lives.
"Exercise gives them back control of their bodies and this is often the first step to feeling in control of other events," he says.
FEELING DEPRESSED ? Coping with depression is a daily trauma for many people
You can’t really generalise how struggling to cope can make you feel or act, but if you think these symptoms sound like you or someone you know, please get in touch with us now.
Lacking energy or feeling tired
Feeling restless and agitated
Not wanting to talk to or be with people
Not wanting to do things you usually enjoy
Using alcohol or drugs to cope with feelings
Finding it hard to cope with everyday things
How do some people cope with depression?
Instead of talking about how they feel, some people use alcohol or drugs to feel better. This usually makes things worse, certainly in the long run. Your work will suffer and alcohol often leads to irresponsible, unpleasant or dangerous behavior. You also focus more on work rather than relationships or home life. This can cause conflicts with your husband, wife or partner.
Men are around 3 times more likely to die by suicide than women. Suicide is commonest among men who are separated, widowed or divorced and is more likely if someone is a heavy drinker.
When depressed talk to someone by reaching out for help.
The kind of treatment depends on the type of depression you have.
Mild depression - this may improve by itself.
exercise – there is evidence that exercise may help depression and it is one of the main treatments if you have mild depression. Talking through your feelings can be helpful. You could talk either to us, a friend or relative.
Mild to moderate depression – if you have mild depression that isn't improving, or you have moderate depression, you may need counselling.
Moderate to severe depression - antidepressants are tablets that treat the symptoms of depression. There are many different kinds of antidepressants which have to be prescribed by a doctor. If you have severe depression, you may be referred to a mental health team made up of psychologists, psychiatrists, specialist nurses and occupational therapists. These teams often provide intensive specialist talking treatments as well as prescribed medication.