Depression can be overwhelming. And, when you’re in the midst of it, you can feel like the only person in the world that is struggling, which can make you feel very alone.
Depression drains your energy, hope, and drive, making it difficult to take the steps that will help you to feel better. Sometimes, just thinking about the things you should do to feel better, like exercising or spending time with friends, can seem exhausting or impossible to put into action.
While recovering from depression isn’t quick or easy, you do have more control than you realize—even if your depression is severe and stubbornly persistent. The key is to start small and build from there.
Below are tips that can help:
- Stay connected:
Typically having depression causes you to want to withdraw from the people around you. However, isolating yourself can actually worsen your symptoms. Making an effort to stay connected to even just a few people can give you the support you need. Also, talking to people can help you focus less on your own feelings and more on what’s going on outside of your depression. You may feel too exhausted to talk, ashamed at your situation, or guilty for neglecting certain relationships but this is just the depression talking. Staying connected to other people and taking part in social activities will make a world of difference in your mood and outlook. 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 if you don’t feel that you have anyone to turn to, it’s never too late to build new friendships and improve your support network. However, you should know that the Internet has made it dangerously seductive to keep to oneself. Studies show that limiting social media to approximately 30 minutes a day decreases depression. Try to get out of the house, get dressed, take a walk, go to the gym, and socialize with real people.
- Challenge negative emotions:
It’s important to actively think of your depression and depressive thoughts (e.g., you’re not good enough, nothing good is happening in your life, etc.) as separate from you. These thoughts and symptoms are not an accurate view of who you are and how your life is going. So, while it is challenging, it is essential to try to challenge negative thoughts stemming from your depression and find positive thoughts to focus on instead. As long as these annihilating beliefs rule your self-image, nothing good might break through. You can write down the wonderful attributes about yourself and keep repeating them when the ‘toxic wheel of self-hating talk’ begins. For extra inoculation against the constant negativity, you can write positive qualities on paper and place them around your house. You can stick “I have gorgeous eyes” on the bathroom door, place “I’m reliable” on the refrigerator and so on.
- Get some sun:
Studies have shown that sunlight can improve overall mood, so making sure to get outside for a few minutes every day can reduce feelings of depression. Expose yourself to funny and lighthearted entertainment. It may seem too simple, but even watching a funny movie or reading a book more suited to a lazy Sunday than a classroom discussion can help you combat depression by making you smile and laugh, pulling you out of grief for a short while.
- Get moving:
When you’re depressed, just getting out of bed can seem like a daunting task, let alone working out! However, exercise is a powerful depression fighter—and one of the most important tools in your recovery arsenal. Research shows that regular exercise can be as effective as medication for relieving depression symptoms. It also helps prevent relapse once you’re well. To get the most benefit, aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise per day. This doesn’t have to be all at once—and it’s okay to start small. A 10-minute walk can improve your mood for two hours.
- Eat a healthy, depression-fighting diet:
What you eat has a direct impact on the way you feel. Reduce your intake of foods that can adversely affect your brain and mood, such as caffeine, alcohol, trans fats, and foods with high levels of chemical preservatives. 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. Aim to cut out as much of these foods as possible.
- Get professional help for depression:
If you’ve taken self-help steps and made positive lifestyle changes and still find your depression getting 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! However, don’t forget about these self-help tips. 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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