When you are struggling with depression symptoms, your daily activities can become more difficult. You might experience trouble sleeping, changes to your appetite, and a loss of interest in things you used to enjoy.
Depression can feel different for everyone. There is no single cause for depression, but there are effective treatment options for those that are experiencing depression symptoms. Depression doesn’t have to last forever. Here are our best tips for dealing with depression and improving your overall health and well-being.
Ten ways to cope with depression
- Lean on people you trust, who have your best interest in mind
- Participate in activities and hobbies you typically enjoy
- Practice self-care and keep up with personal hygiene
- Get at least eight hours of restful sleep each night
- Avoid drugs and alcohol
- Stay hydrated and eat nutritious foods
- Reframe negative thoughts
- Make plans for things you’re looking forward to
- Use relaxation techniques like mindfulness, meditation, yoga, or breathing exercises
- Speak with a therapist about your symptoms and to explore your treatment options
How friends and family can help you cope with depression
Having a positive support system can help you feel less alone, especially when you are dealing with depression. When you think about who you can rely on, ask yourself if they have your best interest in mind. Friends and family who offer a helping hand, free of judgment, are a great place to start.
Why staying active can help with depression symptoms
One common symptom of depression is a loss of interest in the hobbies and activities you used to enjoy. This is understandable because people with depression can feel overwhelmed at the idea of performing tasks that usually feel easy to do when they are feeling well. Getting out of bed or preparing a meal can sometimes feel impossible.
You can take things slowly and start by doing one task at a time. Self-care can sometimes slip when you’re feeling depressed, so try setting a daily routine of taking a hot shower, getting dressed, and brushing your teeth. In time, you’ll begin to feel energized and you’ll be able to take on more activities like going for a walk or cooking for yourself.
How physical health and mental health are connected
Eating nutritious foods, exercising regularly, and sleeping for at least eight hours each night are three pillars of physical health. But did you know that caring for your physical health can improve your mental health as well?
When you are struggling with depression, you might notice changes in your appetite, your sleeping habits, and your motivation to exercise. Just like staying active and practicing self-care, you can start small. Eat a healthy meal each day and drink water to stay hydrated. Avoid electronics and distractions at bedtime so you can get restful sleep. Get outside for a walk, do a short, at-home exercise routine, or practice a relaxing yoga sequence.
Most importantly, avoid drugs and alcohol when you are feeling depressed or struggling with a mental illness. Drugs and alcohol can make your symptoms worse at a time when you should focus on health and healing.
How to reframe negative thoughts
Reframing negative thoughts is a cornerstone of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). It involves replacing a negative thought with a positive alternative and is an especially useful skill when you are coping with depression.
Here’s how to begin:
- Identify your negative thoughts.
For example, “The rain always ruins my plans. I hate the unexpected. Uncertainty makes me feel stressed.”
- Think of a few positive alternatives to that thought.
For example, “The plants outside will be healthy because of the rain and I enjoy having a beautiful garden. I have a home to live in. I can read a book indoors instead and I love to read.”
You can also practice reframing thoughts related to your depression. For example, reframe the thought, “I feel like I will never get better,” with “I have felt good before so I know it is possible. These feelings are temporary.”
You may also find it helpful to start making plans for things you’re looking forward to. This can help to counteract feelings of hopelessness.
With practice, reframing negative thoughts becomes easier and if you do it often, it will become a habit in no time.
Relaxation techniques for depression
A common symptom of depression is rumination. Rumination is when a person becomes fixated on a thought or feeling which can deepen or worsen their symptoms of depression. That's why mindfulness practices, including meditation and mindful breathing exercises, can be an effective way to cope with any unwanted thoughts and feelings related to depression. Here are a few mindfulness exercises you can practice anytime.
When to start therapy when you have depression
Regardless of how long you’ve been struggling with symptoms of depression, counseling can be helpful. Finding a therapist you can lean on when things get difficult is important. A therapist can help you gain a clearer perspective of what you’re experiencing and can recommend treatment for depression that is tailored specifically to you.
At its worst, depression can cause thoughts of self-harm and suicide. If you find yourself experiencing thoughts like this, speaking with a therapist as soon as possible is crucial to get you the help you need.
If you aren’t able to speak with a therapist immediately, and you are self-harming or feel you may commit suicide, call 9-1-1 and ask that a Crisis Intervention Team be dispatched to you. You can also call 2-1-1 to get immediate help. Sometimes, this can mean you’ll be admitted to your local hospital for observation for up to 72 hours. Just remember that the officers you encounter as well as your doctors and nurses are there to help you and that this is the first step in getting you the life-saving treatment you need.
Wherever you are in your journey, there are treatments that can help. Depression is not a life sentence. Therapy, medication, a reliable support system, and a healthy lifestyle are all tools you can use to get on your way to your best self.
When you’re ready for a helping hand, our counselors are here for you. Learn more about the treatment options available at our counseling centers or request an appointment online. Your best days are ahead of you.