Depression affects nearly 15 million American adults each year. It affects lifespans, overall health, the economy, and family life. This common mental health condition can be debilitating, and if you have been affected by depression, you know how difficult it can be to manage. The good news is that depression is not a life sentence. Many people with depression go on to defeat the illness and have a long, fulfilling life. Here are nine ways that you can manage depression.
1. Seek Professional Help Sooner Rather Than Later
If you think that you might have depression, it’s important to get the help that you need. Many people with the illness do not seek help. Unfortunately, depression usually does not go away on its own, so this is extending your misery. Start with a trip to your general practitioner; he or she can screen you for depression as well as run some tests to see if a physical health problem is causing your symptoms. From there, you can be referred to a mental health professional if needed.
Some of the symptoms of depression that you should be on the watch for include:
- Overwhelming feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or guilt
- Anger or irritability
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Trouble focusing, concentrating, and making decisions
- Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Physical symptoms such as headaches, digestive problems, or aches and pains
- Thoughts of suicide
2. Have a Routine for Your Days
Having a routine eliminates the job of having to make decisions when it comes to basic daily tasks. If you know that you need to get up, get dressed, have coffee, unload the dishwasher, and walk the dog before work, then you don’t have to decide whether you feel like doing any of the above. The work of decision-making, which is often difficult for those with depression, can be saved for non-routine tasks. Having a routine also gives you something to look ahead to. On days when you are barely hanging on, all you need to do is the next thing on the list.
3. Get Out of the House Each Day
This is easier said than done because depression often makes people want to hide under the covers. Making a plan to get out of the house each day can help manage depression immensely. If you are working outside the home, try to stop somewhere each day on the way to or from work. Or go for a walk outside during your lunch break. If you don’t work or attend school outside the home, make it a point to leave. This will force you to get up and get dressed, which is something you might not otherwise feel like doing.
4. Exercise Daily
This can be done in combination with leaving the house. Research shows that exercise can stave off depression symptoms. Go for a walk or go to the gym. You can even walk around inside of your house or use an exercise show that you find on television or online. Do whatever you enjoy, from yoga to training for a 5K. You can even count your dog’s daily walk as exercise for yourself. Anything that gets your blood moving can be beneficial.
5. Set Goals and Outline Steps for Achieving Them
Having a goal in mind can help you feel as though you are working toward something. Having a goal without knowing how to reach it, however, can be overwhelming. One of the ways to manage depression is to think about what type of goals you’d like to achieve and then write out some actionable steps you can take to get yourself toward your most important goal. You can work those steps into your routine, but make them small and doable.
6. Make Sure You’re Sleeping Enough (But Not Too Much)
Depression can cause sleep disturbances. For some people it causes insomnia. You might have trouble falling asleep or you might have trouble staying asleep. You also might wake up very early in the morning and be unable to go back to sleep. Other people sleep too much and find it very difficult to get out of bed. Some people have both types of problems. They might not be able to fall asleep, then they also can’t get out of bed in the morning, creating a cycle of sleep deficiency. Try improving your sleep hygiene and talking to your doctor about ways to sleep better.
7. Ask a Friend to Call You on a Certain Day
Depression can make you feel socially isolated. Asking one or more friends to call you at a specific time each week can give you something to look forward to and someone to talk to. They might even invite you out or ask if they can come over, giving you some face-to-face interaction. Try to get one friend to call you at the beginning of the week and one to call you toward the end of the week so you know that you’ll have someone contacting you at least every few days.
8. Try New Things
Depression can put you in a rut. Although it’s difficult, make the commitment to try something new every month. It might be as simple as going to a different grocery store or as involved as taking the train into a city you’ve never been to. Start small and then build from there. It’s helpful if you bring a friend along to help you feel more secure at first.
9. Smile, Even If You Have to Fake It
A simple smile can help manage depression. You’ve heard the expression, “fake it until you make it.” This applies to smiling; faking a smile can tell your brain that you’re happy, and before long, you’ll be smiling naturally. It might feel forced and strange at first, but spend a few minutes each day making a conscious effort to smile. Smile at yourself in the mirror and smile at others. They’ll likely return the smile, which can lift your spirits a bit.
If you have attempted to manage depression yourself but are still struggling, contact a mental health professional who can help. You don’t have to feel this way; you will get better with treatment. Take the first step by making the phone call to schedule an appointment today.