Regardless of what you hear about the power of positive thinking, depression isn’t something that can just be “cured” with the right attitude. Depression is a persistent mood disorder that can be best characterized as general intense feelings of sadness, coupled with a loss of interest in hobbies once enjoyed and a struggle to manage daily activities.
But depression is more than just feeling down. While there are cases of high-functioning depression, depression typically affects your ability to function in all aspects of life: emotional, cognitive, physical, and even behavioral. Keeping up on your normal day-to-day activities can feel virtually impossible and lead to crippling depression.
“Many people describe depression as a hyperfocus on things in their life that are not going well. They describe a genuine inability to see the positive aspects of their life because the negative things have overwhelmed them. Know you don’t have to feel this way forever – consider working with a therapist or psychiatrist if you’re noticing symptoms of depression. ”Talkspace therapist Meaghan Rice, PsyD, LPC
If you’re seeking advice for how to deal with depression, or if you’re hoping to understand more about this often debilitating condition, read on. We’re teaching you everything you need to know about how to handle depression, so you can learn techniques for treating depression and how to live the best life possible.
Top Tips For Managing Depression
Knowing how to deal with depression can help you live a fuller, more productive life. It is also important to understand the different types of depression so you can learn how to manage your condition. Whether you are dealing with major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, seasonal affective disorder, postpartum depression, the following coping techniques can help ease the burden of living with this mental health condition and may help reduce your depressive symptoms.
Talk to someone
It may sound simplistic, but it’s effective. Staying connected can go a long way toward helping you manage your depression. This is the kind of support that reminds you that you’re not alone. According to research, increased social connection and feeling connected (even with a therapist) can help decrease depressive symptoms among many other benefits. Asking for help from a friend, loved one, doctor, or online therapist is a sign of strength, one that proves (even if it’s just to yourself) that you’re not going to let depression defeat you.
Look for a therapist
A mental health professional, like a licensed therapist, can be extremely helpful for treating depression, as they can make an educated assessment about your mental health condition and can create a treatment plan for you. They can also refer you to other professionals (like a skilled psychiatrist or psychologist who has extensive experience with treating depression) who can make your treatment that much more effective.
“Therapists are often multifaceted. They can treat presenting symptoms by developing a treatment plan individually designed to cater to your needs. But they can also provide resources that can connect people to their community, build relationships with others, and assist in helping them find an economic contribution that they feel good about.”Talkspace therapist Meaghan Rice, PsyD, LPC
Explore your resources
We mentioned a therapist above, but that’s not the only resource available if you’re looking for help with how to manage your depression. Suicide hotlines, group sessions, community clinics, and dedicated organizations like the American Psychological Association can all be instrumental in helping you cope.
There are even more groups, such as the Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPA), available to help cover the costs of therapy and medications. You still can find help, even if you’re unable to afford treatment or medication.
Explore and challenge your thoughts
Depression can surface through a lot of negative thoughts (both intrusive and suicidal thoughts), but you can learn how to challenge them with know-how and effort. This doesn’t mean just telling yourself everything’s fine. Rather, it’s a way to strategically look at the reality of your situation and refocus your negative thoughts to be healthier and more positive.
For instance, you might remind yourself that your loved ones do care about what happens to you, and then give specific examples to support this new thought pattern (for example, they call you, they want to see you, you have fun when you spend time together, etc.). This is a long-term process, but one that can be rewarded with long-term lasting effects.
Develop a positive routine and engage in rewarding activities
Developing a routine can help you stay active and out of the mire of depression. This routine can involve scheduled activities or a daily repetition of mental health strategies. For example, you can start your day with a positive self-affirmation and end it by writing down something you are grateful for (more on that later). Research has found that incorporating rewarding activities (seeing friends, movement, engaging in things you enjoy) into your routine can help with depression.
When you’re struggling with depression, it can be difficult to be grateful. Nonetheless, acknowledging small aspects of your life you can be grateful for has mental health benefits, including an increased sense of well-being.
An attitude of focusing on gratitude can help you to transform your perception of belongings and abilities into sources of gratitude.Keeping a gratitude journal can help you track these evaluations. You can look at it as part of a daily routine.
Move around and exercise
Exercise, even if it’s just a walk around your neighborhood (or your house if that’s manageable), is a powerful way to fight low mood levels (and the potential for a relapse). Getting exercise can be an effective coping technique for depression.
For the best results, try to get about 30 minutes a day of physical activity. Dancing, walking, yoga, or anything you enjoy that gets you moving can help. If a half-hour feels too overwhelming, even just 15 minutes a day can be beneficial. Physical activity can do wonders to help reawaken the body and mind.
Get out into the sun
Depression can make you want to close all the curtains and hunker down in the dark, but the isolation can actually make things much worse. Instead, try getting outside for a daily dose of sun, no matter how difficult it feels. Some studies have shown that vitamin D can trigger a boost in a low mood and improve depression symptoms, so aim for at least a few minutes of sunshine a day when possible.
Change your diet
Anti-depression diets look similar to many other diets: minimize treats, eat more veggies, and avoid long fasting periods. More specifically, you can consider adding in foods rich in Vitamin B, like leafy greens, citrus fruits, whole grains, and legumes. There are many supplements, vitamins, drinks, and minerals that have positive effects on depression.
Research has found that adding more fatty acids from fish or fish oil can help in treating depression. It’s also recommended to try eating on a regular basis so you can avoid irritability from hunger. Beyond incorporating healthier foods that can help with depression, you should limit substances with negative effects on mental health, including alcohol and caffeine. It’s recommended you consult with your doctor before incorporating these supplements or diets into your routine.
Learn to accept it
It can be difficult to accept living with depression. Sometimes people feel forced to append their identity or apply a label they didn’t want. It is a mental health condition, but it doesn’t need to be part of an identity. Struggling to accept its existence might only bring more pain.
Depression can be tricky to spot in oneself, so when loved ones approach you with concern that you might be experiencing this condition, it shouldn’t be dismissed. Accept that they may be seeing something you are not and look to find a therapist that can support you.
Accepting depression can also have some value; it helps you more quickly become open to figuring out what led to the depression. Depression is one of the mind and body’s ways of saying you need to make a change, so accepting it and listening to it will help facilitate that change.
Treatment Options for Dealing With Depression
Learning coping techniques for depression is a great start because knowing how to handle depression and treat your depressive symptoms means you can begin feeling more like yourself again. For more severe depression, a mental health professional can help you map out a depression treatment plan that’s personalized for your exact needs. It may include a variety of treatments like medication, an intense talk therapy schedule, finding a support group, or any combination of those.
Working with a licensed psychotherapist is an effective treatment for reducing any symptom and learning to cope with depression. A therapist can help clients with depression by:
- Determining the form of depression you may be experiencing and helping you find tools to manage your depressive symptoms
- Identifying events, negative beliefs, patterns, behaviors, and people that contributed to the development of the depression and then working on strategies to address these issues
- Setting realistic, specific, and actionable goals for dealing with depression. They can then help you maintain accountability for these goals
- Helping develop skills to cope with a symptom or problem
There are many types of therapy, and some might work better for you than others.
Online therapy provides the same benefits as traditional therapy and is also clinically proven as an effective treatment for depression. If you are looking for a more cost-effective and convenient option, it might be right for you.
Medication for depression
Mental health medication, including antidepressant medication, is effective in reducing symptoms of depression. They often work well as a supplement to therapy or short-term solution for depression symptoms that might initially be severe. Nonetheless, even their short-term effects can take two weeks or more to activate. If you are considering medication, consult a mental health care provider or an online psychiatrist.
Taking the Next Step to Treat Your Depression
When it comes to how to manage depression, the biggest takeaway to keep in mind is that healing can take time. While all of the methods, treatments, and techniques in this article can help you learn to deal with depression, you don’t need to try all of them. Even one is a great start. Develop a pace and a set of tactics that work for you and your depression.
By working with a therapist or thinking strategically about the treatment modalities and lifestyle changes you want to try, you can integrate them and execute several at once.
Here are a few ways you can combine methods of dealing with depression:
- Exercising in nature rather than in a gym
- Practicing gratitude while you are outside
- Working with a therapist who specializes in mindfulness-based approaches
Dealing with depression is an enormous challenge, one you might need to approach in many ways. By learning and opening yourself to methods of coping, you’re taking the first step toward a happier life.
Luckily, there are some amazing resources out there for you to learn how to manage depression. Therapists, psychiatrists, online therapy, support groups, antidepressant medication, and in- or outpatient treatment options are all excellent starting points.
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2. Burkhardt H, Alexopoulos G, Pullmann M, Hull T, Areán P, Cohen T. Behavioral Activation and Depression Symptomatology: Longitudinal Assessment of Linguistic Indicators in Text-Based Therapy Sessions. J Med Internet Res 2021;23(7):e28244. https://www.jmir.org/2021/7/e28244. Accessed March 22, 2022.