6 Tips to Combat Depression

Depression is a challenging mental health diagnosis, to say the least. It is a complex mental health disorder and disease of the brain, occurring when certain brain chemicals become imbalanced. Depression has social, psychological, and biological origins, and can be triggered by many factors, including stressful life events, genetics, illness, and more. Due to the complex nature of what causes depression, it can take an equally complex, multi-faceted approach to manage this disorder. 

One of the challenges in managing depression is that hopelessness, lack of motivation, and lack of energy are symptoms of the disorder that make it difficult to do the things that will help control your symptoms. Also, there is often a delay in improvement due to the apathy experienced by depressives that makes it feel as if what you are doing is not paying off; making you want to quit before these coping skills can take effect. Please read the following tips to combat depression with this in mind. Start small and keep going, despite your brain telling you that what you are doing is not paying off. That is the depression talking. The following tips are scientifically proven to help to manage depression:

1. Stay Active.

When you have depression, energy levels can drop drastically. However, last thing you want to do when you are depressed is to remain inactive. It’s scientifically proven that physical activity fights depression. Exercising increases the neuro-plasticity of your brain releases neurochemicals called endorphins, which help to elevate mood. Start small; get your heart rate up 10 minutes a day, then work your way up to 20 minutes. Do your best to get out of the house; take a walk, find somewhere scenic, park, beach, nature trails, or just around the block. Any bit counts!

Do your best to maintain a routine. Sleeping too much or too little, skipping meals or exercise, and neglecting your personal needs all feed into and exacerbate depression, so combatting this with a daily routine that addresses these needs can be extremely beneficial. Start by giving yourself 3 MUSTS to do during the day, such as taking a walk, engaging in one act of self-care, and calling a friend. Do this consistently for a week, then add one item to your routine each week, and before you know it you will have built a routine with healthy habits to keep your depression at bay.

2. Stay Connected.

When depressed, you may experience negative thoughts telling you to isolate and not burden others with your problems. Try not to listen to these thoughts! They are a symptom of the hopelessness of depression not based in reality. Giving voice to your struggles to another person can lighten your burden and start to turn the tides of depression. Instead of being a burden, your friend or loved one will most likely be flattered that you trust them enough to confide in them.

Try to move beyond small talk. In order to develop a connection that will ease your loneliness and depression, it helps to take a risk and truly open up. Sticking to small talk and limiting yourself to a surface connection with others might actually make you feel even lonelier. Open up about what you’re going through, the feelings you’re experiencing. 

If this seems too much, even the simple act of putting yourself in a social atmosphere can alleviate depressive symptoms. Try going to a place where there are people who may have similar interests as you, or even to a public spot like a museum, park, or mall, where you could enjoy being amongst people and feel a sense of connection.

3. Worry Less.

This is easier said than done. Worries are completely normal, but can become problematic when persistent and pervasive. Excessive worrying can hurt your well-being and lead to a state of chronic anxiety or stress, which if left untreated can lead to depression. 

Stopping worrying involves confronting our beliefs, values, and emotions. Explore the origins of your worry, take constructive action when you are able, and accept what is outside of your control. Investigating your worries can be a helpful way to put these thoughts into their proper perspective. Observe your thoughts as an outsider-what would a friend or relative tell me in this situation? Am I being irrational? Is there evidence to combat my worry? 

Bottom line: Don’t believe everything you think!

4. Be Mindful.

Mindfulness is the practice of purposely bringing your attention in the present moment without judgment. This can be beneficial in managing in depression by learning to detach and distance yourself from depressive thoughts. Mindfulness can help you realize that depression-fueled thoughts are just thoughts and not facts. Becoming emotionally attached to these thoughts is them often triggers negative thought spirals, not the thoughts themselves. One exercise that can assist with this is called “thought detachment,” where you imagine your thoughts are drifting clouds or leaves floating by while you practice not engaging them or becoming attached to them.

Also, instead of actively suppressing or resisting depressive thoughts, which may worsen symptoms, try to accept them. Acceptance does not mean resigning or giving up, it means acknowledging the feelings or thoughts are present, and letting go of things outside of your control. Research suggests that practicing acceptance can help improve symptoms of depression, quality of life, and ability to function.

5. Find Positives.

Depression can make things seem even worse than they really are. When you’re depressed, everything is filtered through a lens of negativity. By recognizes this, you can start to change your perspective to a more positive viewpoint.

Find simple sources of joy. A symptom of depression is anhedonia, which means you do not find pleasure in activities you normally found pleasurable. However, push yourself to do things that will boost your mood throughout day. Listening to uplifting music, watching funny television shows or videos, spending time with your pet, or being out in nature are some simple examples of joy-boosting activities.

Find one thing to be grateful for. When you’re depressed, especially at this awful time, it can seem that everything in life is bleak and hopeless. But even in the darkest days, it’s usually possible to find one thing you can be grateful about. It sounds cheesy but acknowledging your gratitude can provide relief from negative thinking and break the negative cycle of depression.

6. Self-Care.

Self-care can be difficult when you are depressed, because of the lack of energy, motivation and feeling unworthy of deserving anything positive that often accompany depression. Start by aiming for small goals like getting up out of bed, getting in the shower, sitting in a different room, and getting some sunlight or fresh air.

Pay attention to your senses. Take the time to see, feel, hear, taste and touch. Things like getting out in the sun, listening to music, getting a hug or eating tasty foods all help to soothe you. Activities that appeal to the senses boost frontal lobe functioning, which is helpful in combatting depression

With all of these suggestions, remember there is no “quick fix.” It may take weeks of developing a routine with the items listed before you start to feel better. However, if practiced regularly, it is scientifically proven that you will feel better with your depressive symptoms. If you feel you need additional support in managing your depression, contact our office, we’d love to help you on your road to recovery.

By Alexandria Baxter, LMSW