Living with depression is tough. No one ever wants to feel depressed, but sometimes depression is unavoidable. Letting depression control your life isn’t healthy. Luckily there are ways to make coping with depression manageable.
The following eight depression tips focus on how to manage the disorder and address the unhealthy habits that can trigger depression in some people.
Article at a Glance:
- Living with depression means understanding the condition and seeking help when needed
- Being around people who care about you and eating healthy foods make a difference in your mood
- Being kind to yourself and thinking positive thoughts help lower stress levels
- Crisis plans and hotlines can help you in times of need
1. Understand Your Depression
You’ll want to learn as much as you can about your depression. Be careful though, vast amounts of misinformation exist online. Always consult with a mental health professional for a thorough diagnosis.
Understanding your depression is essential since there are several types of depression. Knowing which variety you have can enrich your understanding of your specific disorder.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, the different depressive disorders include:
- Major depressive disorder
- Persistent depressive disorder
- Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder
- Premenstrual dysphoric disorder
You may also have periods of depression caused by bipolar disorder. Other people will experience depressive symptoms from sources like grief, seasonal changes, pregnancy, childbirth and substance abuse.
Symptoms linked to the different types of depression may overlap, but treatment methods may vary. Track your symptoms and experiences and speak to a mental health professional to better understand your depression.
2. Create a Support Network
Establishing a network of people who care about you is a wonderful coping skill for depression. Whether they are friends, family members, co-workers or classmates, your support network can:
- Listen to your thoughts and feelings
- Offer you helpful, personal feedback
- Engage in fun activities with you
- Provide affection and comfort through physical contact like hugs
- Reassure you during moments of frustration
- Keep you focused and motivated to achieve your goals
Support networks are great, but they can sometimes be hard to come by, especially if your depression prevents you from wanting to be around people. Sometimes when people are depressed, they push away helpful supports and choose isolation. Periodically check-in with friends so they can recognize the signs depression-driven social isolationism and act on it when they realize what is happening.
Supports groups are another way to expand your network. Available depression support groups like the National Alliance on Mental Illness peer-education programs or Depression Recovery Groups offer online and in-person options.
3. Reduce Your Stress
While experiencing stress is a natural part of day-to-day life, too much stress can lead to increased depression among other mental health issues like anxiety.
Pushing back against stress is challenging, but possible. Take a look at the most significant stressors in your life and consider where they come from.
If these stressors are avoidable, work to adjust your lifestyle to eliminate them. If they are unavoidable, you will have to adapt by changing your behaviors or thoughts to decrease the amount of stress.
For example, you might have a person in your life who ends up creating a lot of stress and drama. Limiting your contact with that person will limit the stress they cause you. Alternatively, yoga, meditation, listening to music and journaling can offset the high stress caused by unavoidable stressors.
4. Practice Healthy Eating Habits
Your diet has an enormous impact on your physical and mental health. By eating well, you supply your body with the nutrition it needs to function healthily. Poor eating habits can cause weight gain and lead to physical discomfort and depression, so eating healthily is a great way to manage your depression.
Not all healthy eating habits need to be extreme, life-changing diets. Try eating:
- More fruits and vegetables
- Fewer processed foods
- Less sugar
These changes might take some adjustment, but preservation is key. You may also find that cutting out dairy and gluten makes a positive difference.
Pay attention to what you drink as well. Too much caffeine or alcohol can disrupt your mood and increase your depression.
5. Reframe Negative Thoughts
The way you think has a major impact on how you feel. Sadly, depression can distort your thinking patterns to make them harder to reframe.
Negative thoughts can change the way you see the other people, the world and yourself. They can make you think:
- There is no point in trying
- Everyone is against you
- You’re stupid, wrong or unlovable
- Things would be better off without you
Reframing negative self-talk involves recognizing the unwanted thought patterns and modifying your thoughts to be more hopeful and realistic. With repetition and consistency, you can retrain your brain to focus on positive thoughts.
6. Be Kind to Yourself
Being kind to yourself is one of the best ways to manage depression. Doing so can be difficult because depression can make you overly critical of yourself by causing you to ruminate on your failings instead of accomplishments.
Practice patience, understanding and kindness with yourself to negate negative self-thought. Take the initiative to notice something positive about yourself and offer yourself support and encouragement for things you do throughout the day. Even thinking about small acts of kindness, like holding the door open for someone, can serve as starting points to build positivity on.
Spend more time doing the activities you enjoy with people you love. Remember, the most important person to show kindness to is yourself.
7. Seek Treatment
Living with depression is a complicated and frustrating journey, but you’re not alone. If you feel that your depression is holding you back in life, seek out professional treatment.
Mental health professionals offer numerous services. You may benefit from:
- Therapists, social workers, counselors and psychologists can provide talk therapy services.
- Psychiatrists can prescribe medications to improve symptoms.
- Case managers focus on helping with activities like managing finances, housing issues and transportation concerns.
Mental health professionals offer the support, encouragement and tools you need to manage depression. Some people may try to use substances to self-medicate.
8. Create a Crisis Plan
People with depression sometimes experience crises when symptoms are high and support resources are limited. These periods require crisis plans.
Don’t wait until you find yourself in a crisis to build a crisis intervention plan. By devising a plan when symptoms are dormant, you can think clearly and rationally while planning.
Crisis plans include information like:
- The situations that could trigger higher symptoms
- Behavioral options to reduce symptoms including (e.g., supportive places to go, positive people to talk to and healthy coping skills to use)
- Thinking skills to reduce depression including a list of optimistic thoughts, hopeful messages and reminders of your strengths
- Emergency contact information and guidelines for when to seek emergency care
To keep emergency contacts at hand, consider adding these numbers into your phone:
If you are not in crisis, you can contact The Recovery Village for more information about depression and depression treatment options.
If you or a loved one developed a substance use disorder alongside depression, professional treatment is available. Contact The Recovery Village to speak to a representative to discuss how individualized treatment plans help people address addiction and co-occurring depression.
American Psychiatric Association. “What is Depression?” January 2017. Accessed on February 23, 2019. American Psychological Association. “Depression.” (n.d.) Accessed on February 23, 2019. Better Health Channel. “10 Tips for Living with Depression.” September 2012. February 23, 2019. Harvard Health Publishing. “Nutritional Psychiatry: Your Brain on Food.” November 16, 2015. Accessed on February 23, 2019.
American Psychiatric Association. “What is Depression?” January 2017. Accessed on February 23, 2019.
American Psychological Association. “Depression.” (n.d.) Accessed on February 23, 2019.
Better Health Channel. “10 Tips for Living with Depression.” September 2012. February 23, 2019.
Harvard Health Publishing. “Nutritional Psychiatry: Your Brain on Food.” November 16, 2015. Accessed on February 23, 2019.