The best strategies for dealing with depression often come from the trenches—those that have lived through depression and have wisdom to share. Some professional tips can be helpful too, particularly strategies that are supported by research. Each sufferer must decide what is right for him or her. There is no “cookie cutter” formula here. In no particular order, you may find some of the following helpful:
- Start small. Make one small goal for the day. For example, this may be making one’s bed or making a sandwich. Depression is known to be overwhelming. Following through on a small, simple goal for the day is more likely to be accomplished than several larger goals, and has the bonus of being achievable, which boosts confidence.
- Get out of the house, even for 5 minutes. Even walking to the end of your block is a step in the right direction. Just this small action helps to reduce isolation and promote activity.
- Allow yourself to be supported. Identifying at least one supportive friend or family member to talk to, or receive practical help from, can help. Isolation deepens depression and promotes the faulty view that one is alone in this world. Having a trusted person to talk to can help reduce some of the internal emotional pressure.
- Keep easy, sustaining foods on hand. Cooking is often the last thing you want to do when you’re depressed. The effort it takes can render it an impossible task. Instead, reach for convenience foods that will keep you going such as pre-washed baby carrots, nut butters, yogurt and frozen meals. Juice, milk, soy milk or Ensure also provide extra calories which can help if you are barely eating in the day.
- Have small, regular meals or snacks, even if you’re not hungry. Many people completely lose their appetite when they’re depressed. This doesn’t mean, however, that our nutritional requirements change. Look for healthy convenience foods if cooking is impossible.
- Take a break. Although the temptation may be to spend the day in bed, or in front of the television, try instead taking 10-20 minute breaks when your mood seems overwhelming. A low-stimuli environment can be very helpful.
- Promote relaxation. Choose an activity, however small, that helps you soothe yourself. This could be anything from a soak in the bathtub to a yoga class. Some people find relaxation audio downloads or apps helpful.
- Keep a daily schedule, when possible. This can introduce some order in the day, especially because depression is experienced by many as chaotic and unpredictable. Sometimes it can help to write this out.
- Keep paper and a pencil handy. Memory is often impaired with depression so it can be helpful to write things down. This can also help prevent anxiety that often comes with trying to remember things.
- Think of things you liked doing when you weren’t depressed. Choose something small. Even if you don’t enjoy it right away, chances are you will again. The point is that you are taking a step in the right direction and are starting the process of reactivation.
- Avoid drugs and limit alcohol. Alcohol, for example, is a “downer” or depressant which worsens your already low mood. If you are taking antidepressants, it can also change the way your body experiences the medication. Alcohol, when combined with some medications can also cause serious side effects.
- Have a list of crisis numbers on hand that you can call should your depression worsen, or if suicidal thoughts are part of your depression. In British Columbia, people can call 1-800-SUICIDE for immediate help. The Access and Assessment Centre (AAC) at Vancouver Hospital is also available until 11:30 pm each day for Vancouver residents.
- Keep a regular sleep schedule when possible. Napping during the day often will throw off our sleep at night.
- Have a trusted mental health professional in your corner. This could include your family doctor, psychiatrist or counsellor/therapist. Regular visits can provide hope and promote a plan for change.
The above information is meant for general information purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. For medical advice specific to your situation, please see your physician.
If you are seeking individual help with your mood, I welcome you to book an appointment or consultation to learn how a customized approach may benefit you.
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