Depression is a very common mental health disease affecting over 17 million American adults in any given year – that’s about 7.1% of the US population aged 18 and older. Coping with depression can drain your energy, often leaving you tired. When you’re feeling depressed frequently, you don’t have the strength or desire to complete daily chores, let alone seek treatment. However, even the most minor steps can help you feel in control of your wellbeing.
What to Do If You Feel Depressed
Next time you’re experiencing a depressive episode, consider incorporating these strategies to calm yourself and re-assess your wellbeing.
1. Practice Mindfulness to Stay Present
Mindfulness is all about meeting yourself wherever you are. Every day with depression feels different, so mindfulness can help you stay in the present. Incorporate mindfulness in everything you do, from eating to working, to stay more present doing everyday activities.
2. Look at Your Evidence to Challenge Negative Thoughts
Depression can quickly make you feel like you’re spiraling out of control. It’s common for a flood of negative thoughts to invade your mind. To fight these thoughts, challenge them with logical explanations. Beware of your surroundings, state what’s happening, and look at the evidence to rule out some of these intrusive thoughts and come back to reality.
To challenge your negative thoughts, look at the objective evidence around you. If you have all-or-nothing thinking like “I’m a total failure,” ask that statement? Look back in life and see what accomplishments you’ve made. Then ask your negative thought, “how can that be true if I’ve accomplished X, Y, Z.”
3. Set Small (Attainable) Goals
Having a lengthy to-do list can trigger people with an anxiety disorder. Instead of looking at a long list, break it down to help you set two or three attainable goals every day. This will help you feel more fulfilled, keeping anxiety symptoms at bay.
4. Celebrate the Small Wins
Reward your efforts, even if they feel small. You don’t need to throw a party, but at least recognizing your small wins is a powerful way of fighting depressive thoughts. It will also help combat the negative talk that’s particularly common in depression.
5. Try Following a Routine
For some people, following a routine is an excellent way of coping with depression. When you can have your day slightly planned, it’s easier to know what to expect from each day. Routines help you fight procrastination, which is something that fuels depression.
6. Spend Time Doing Something That Brings Joy
It seems obvious, but often people with depression have difficulty finding joy in things they previously enjoyed. Start with basic things like listening to music, spending time in nature, or taking a long bath. Then, try to get out of your comfort zone and do something entirely different, like volunteering.
7. Soak Up Some Sunshine
Exposure to sunlight may help increase serotonin levels, providing a temporary mood boost. In addition, spending time in nature can improve your overall mental health. Consider walking around the neighborhood or heading to a park to soak in some sunshine.
8. Start a Gratitude Journal
Depression can easily make you feel unworthy and isolated. Keeping a gratitude journal may help shed some light on the realities of your life. Write down three to five things you’re grateful for and analyze how these things make you feel.
9. Focus On Your Diet
While diet alone cannot help you cope with depression, it can help you manage it. Eating a well-balanced diet rich in vegetables and grains is a great place to start. Stay away from trigger foods like caffeine, alcohol, and fried foods that can fuel depression symptoms.
10. Don’t Dismiss Professional Help
Depression isn’t the same as dealing with a funk. If you believe you’re dealing with depression, consider getting professional help. Behavioral therapy can be beneficial in addressing your depression symptoms. Some people might need medication to manage their depression. Remember that depression has the potential to be a life-threatening disorder that could lead to substance abuse and suicidal ideation.
Finding the proper treatment to cope with depression may take some time. So be open with your mental health care provider about what’s working and what isn’t. While living with depression can be challenging, there is help available. Don’t lose hope.