If you are struggling with depression, the thought of fighting back and regaining control over your life can seem overwhelming and impossible. Although depression is powerful, you can learn to cope and live better each day.
Here are seven suggestions for dealing with depression and moving forward with your life:
1. Avoid isolation
One of the biggest ways depression affects most people is causing them to withdraw and isolate themselves from friends and family. Because of the numbness that often accompanies depression, you may find it difficult to emotionally connect to the people and places that once filled your days—but, to successfully combat depression, you must push through the slumps. Surround yourself with loved ones even when, and especially if, you don’t feel like it. Just being in the same room with other people can help lift your spirits and you will be less likely to engage in negative behaviors if you are not alone.
2. Spend time outdoors
Sunshine is nature’s remedy for depression—and even a few minutes of exposure each day can make a large difference. Go for a walk, have a picnic in the park, spend time with your neighbors, or simply sit in your backyard. Fresh air and sunlight can make all the difference if you tend to stay inside—particularly if your depression worsens during the fall and winter months.
3. Take care of yourself
As depression lingers in your life, it becomes more and more difficult to do the little, daily things: getting out of bed on time, showering, eating well and regularly, exercising, etc. Now, more than ever, it is important to take care of your body. The connection between your body and your mind is very strong, and a body that is neglected and uncared for will cause the mind to deteriorate also. Set realistic goals for yourself and do not be afraid of taking baby steps—if all you can do in a day is get out of bed, shower, eat breakfast, and then go back to bed, start there. As your body gets stronger, your mind will reap the benefits.
4. Keep to a schedule
While it can be incredibly challenging to complete insignificant daily tasks, keeping a schedule is one of your best weapons against depression. In a depressed state, you can feel as though your daily routine is unimportant or too difficult to keep up with—but you absolutely must try. If you have tasks to complete and places to be, you fight against your depression in multiple ways by: 1) challenging yourself to leave the house, 2) gaining interaction with other people in your community, 3) feeling a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day, and 4) proving to yourself that you can still function and make progress.
5. Be kind to yourself and challenge your negative thinking
As you strive to better cope with your depression, promise to be kind to and patient with yourself. Depression is a difficult battle to fight, and nothing will hinder your progress faster than criticizing yourself and letting your negative thinking take hold. Actively challenge negative thoughts like, “I can’t,” “I’m not good enough,” and “I am less because of my struggles.”
Have patience and accept that some days will be better than others. It’s okay to struggle, and it’s okay to have bad days when you don’t feel like trying. The key, however, is to never let one bad day become a bad week or a bad month. Treat yourself as if you are a close friend or family member, and embrace the kindness that follows.
6. Consider adopting a pet
Pets can play a huge role in depression management, especially if you live alone or do not have children. Knowing that another living thing is depending on you for survival can trigger the desire to live better and take care of yourself. The unconditional companionship and love pets provide will help you feel less alone, and you never need to fear judgment or reprimands from an animal. If your depression is severe, consider a low-maintenance animal like a fish, cat, or reptile.
7. Seek professional help
There is no shame in seeking the help of professionals during your battle with depression—and for many people, psychotherapy and proper medication are the key turning points toward recovery. No one should have to fight depression on their own, and the structure, support, and assistance counseling provides can be life changing. If you are not progressing and you feel overwhelmed and discouraged, consider the difference professional help could make in your life.