Feeling sad, blue, irritable and apathetic might be signs that you’re dealing with depression. Depression can be a serious mental health issue. Mild depression can often be treated with lifestyle changes, but more severe depression requires medical attention. If you think you are depressed, the first thing you should do is talk to your parent or another trusted adult so they can take you to the doctor for an evaluation. If you feel as though you want to harm or kill yourself, don’t be afraid to call 911, because that’s a medical emergency and you need immediate treatment. Whether you’ve been diagnosed with depression or you’re simply feeling a bit blue, try these tips for managing depression.
1. Spend Time Outdoors
Spending time outside every day can boost your mental health. Why? There are several reasons.
One is that nature in general (birds, clouds, trees, flowers) can make us feel more upbeat.
Another is that it will expose you to natural sunlight, which, in turn, prompts your body to manufacture vitamin D. Vitamin D can ward off depression and a vitamin D deficiency can actually cause symptoms of depression. (A simple blood test ordered by your doctor can tell you if you are deficient!)
2. Get Exercise Each Day
Another technique that can be used for managing depression is exercising. Exercise has been shown to reduce symptoms of depression. You don’t have to work out for hours, either; a simple 30-minute walk each day can help tremendously.
How does it work? Exercise boosts the level of endorphins going through your body. Endorphins are “feel good” hormones. To get some more exercise into your daily routine, try getting off of the school bus a stop earlier than the one you normally do or offering to walk the dog after dinner. If you don’t feel like exercising, commit to just 10 minutes; chances are good that you’ll want to continue once you get your heart rate up.
3. Make Plans With Friends
It can be depressing to sit in your house without doing anything. Unfortunately, being depressed makes you want to isolate yourself further. Break the cycle by making a plan with a friend. It doesn’t have to be anything that takes too much effort; you could meet someone for ice cream or coffee or just tag along with them while they run a few errands. Just the act of getting out and spending time with other people can boost your mood and make you feel less depressed.
4. Talk to Someone Your Trust
If you’re being overwhelmed by negative feelings, it’s important to talk about it. Tell your parent, your guidance counselor, or another adult that you trust. You could also tell a friend, but be aware that a fellow teenager is not likely to know how to help you. Your doctor or a counselor is another person you could confide in about how you are feeling. The most important thing is that you don’t keep it to yourself.
5. Spend Time With Your Pet
Pets make special friends. They are always willing to sit on your lap or lay next to you on the couch and they don’t ever judge you. You will always be someone to admire in the eyes of your pet. He or she is also dependent on you, too, so that means you will feel good about taking care of your pet. Finally, some pets, such as dogs, in particular, will help you get more exercise (see tip #2) because they need to be walked regularly.
6. Find Something to Make Yourself Laugh
You might have heard the adage, “laughter is the best medicine.” While it can’t single handedly cure depression, it can make you feel better, at least temporarily. Laughter causes an increase in endorphins (those feel-good hormones again), just like exercise does. It also reduces stress hormones and helps you stay healthier by boosting your immune system. It can be hard to find something to laugh about when you’re depressed, but if you have a store of funny movies or you know that a particular comedian always makes you laugh, those are good places to turn to feel a bit lighter. Just hanging out with a funny friend or watching your pet’s or your little sister’s funny antics can bring a smile to your face.
7. Get Enough Sleep (But Not Too Much)
Depression can affect your sleep in a couple of different ways. First, it can make it hard to fall asleep or to stay asleep; these are forms of insomnia. Another way it can cause havoc with your sleep is by making you want to sleep much more than necessary. You might find it nearly impossible to get out of bed. Getting your insomnia under control can help with the issue of not being able to get out of bed. Aim for about nine hours of sleep each night. You might need to go to bed earlier than you’re used to, particularly if you are waking up early for school. Learn about good sleep hygiene and, if you’re still having trouble, talk to your doctor about ways you can get more sleep to help you with managing depression.
8. Check Your Diet
If you aren’t eating healthy foods, you might feel lethargic and slow. Filling up on salty, sweet, or fatty processed foods can have that effect on you even if you don’t have depression. Switching to a diet filled with fresh fruits and veggies, lean proteins, whole grains, and just a few sweets here and there can work wonders for your mood. Don’t feel like you have to go cold-turkey on your favorite foods, though: You can take baby steps toward improving your diet. Try eating a healthy breakfast each morning. Once you have that habit down pat, add a vegetable to your lunch, and so on. You’ll likely notice that your mood is getting better over time.
9. Seek Professional Help for Managing Depression
If all of the self-help tips aren’t working or your condition seems to be getting worse, it’s time to seek professional help for managing depression. You can start with your general doctor or ask your school’s guidance counselor for help. He or she can talk to you and your parents about finding a mental health counselor or therapist who can treat your depression. There’s no need to suffer from depression any longer. Reach out and ask for the help that you need so you can begin to feel better.