Depression is a mental illness that millions of people all across the globe deal with on a daily basis, but the symptoms of depression can vary from person to person. Some days, depression is just a nagging voice in the back of your mind that can be easily ignored while on other days, it’s debilitating enough to the point it drastically affects your daily routine. So, what are some ways that you can go about managing your depression, no matter what form it takes?
Track Triggers and Symptoms
The first step to dealing with your depression is to identify what sends you into a depressive episode. Triggers can be anything and anyone – a specific phrase, an overbearing friend or family member, or a particular situation. It’s different from person to person, and they can be hard to spot, so be sure to keep an eye out for what triggers your episodes.
After coming out of a depressive episode, make sure to go over what led up to it with a fine-tooth comb. Identifying triggers is the first step to possibly avoiding another full-blown depressive episode later on.
Build and Maintain a Support Network
Depression makes it easy to forget about all of the friends, family, and co-workers who care about you and your well-being. Utilize those around you in a way that can positively affect your mental state. Find people you can be around. Even sitting together in silence will sometimes provide you with the sense of companionship that can help you out of your lowest lows.
Regularly Practice Self Care
Self-care doesn’t necessarily mean a bubble bath with a $40 Lush bath bomb and fancy face mask; sometimes, it just means taking a night in and bingeing whatever you’re fancying on Netflix or going to bed at six o’clock. Self-care comes in a variety of different forms and works differently depending on the person.
A popular form of self-care includes meditation, which has been found to change certain regions of the brain that are directly linked to depression. Guided meditation apps are easy to find for your mobile device and can be used at any time.
Some need more to recover than others, and that’s okay. Just play around with different techniques of self-care and find the one that is right for you—just make sure it’s safe and legal.
Focus on Your Physical Health
Make an effort to eat healthily, drink water, and go to bed at a decent hour. Depression provides an easy excuse for us to brush off the upkeep of our physical health. Make time to exercise, even if it’s at the bottom of your to-do list. Exercise releases endorphins that boost your mood, and studies have shown that exercise helps reduce the symptoms of depression.
Sleep is another major player in helping improve mental health—the less sleep you get, the more your depression flares, which messes up your sleep cycle even more. Setting up a relaxing nightly routine can help
A major tip: avoid alcohol at all costs. Alcohol is a depressant that can trigger more depressive episodes or make current episodes even worse. Not to mention that alcohol can negatively interact with some depression medicines.
Food, in general, can even play a key factor in managing your depression. Some foods to be wary of include sugars (both natural and artificial), gluten (gluten has been linked more than 200 conditions, depression being one), dairy (a chemical in dairy products has been linked to depression, among many other mental illnesses), and refined carbs (craving and eating too many refined carbs like pretzels, white bread, or soda has been linked to depression).
Take Time for the Things You Enjoy
Yes, this is a hard one. Depression makes it next to impossible to enjoy the things you usually love doing, making it feel like more of a chore or inconvenience than anything. Do something creative that exercises your mind, watch a funny movie that’ll force you to laugh, play with a pet (there’s nothing better than playtime with precious animals).
Doing things you enjoy is a sure fire way to help lift your mood, even if it’s hard at first. Take the time to get out of your home or the office and find a change of scenery. Being in the sun also helps out with depression. This will help you connect with something other than what you’re constantly surrounded by.
This is going to sound cheesy, but just spending time doing the things you enjoy with the people you love will help you remember just how much you have to be thankful for. Being thankful is a step in the right direction.
Seek Professional Treatment
Sometimes, it’s impossible to make it through your depression alone, and identifying when you’re at your limit for handling something alone is a hard step for everyone. The stigma surrounding depression makes those with the illness believe they are weak and that they’re lesser than everybody without it. We fear society’s reaction to admitting to something like depression, but it’s too hard to handle alone for anyone.
Seeking professional treatment, such as medication or therapy, can open up the way to improving your mental health and provides a boost to the things on this list. Just medicine or just doing the things on this list won’t cut it for a severe depressive episode or depressive episodes that recur often. A good rule of thumb is to seek help if your depressive mood lasts more than two weeks, is drastically hindering your everyday life, or if you have contemplated suicide.
If you have thought about hurting yourself, please call 1-800-273-8255 or visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.