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Self-Help Tips for Managing Depression

With numbers as high as 1 in 6, there are many, many people who are impacted by mental health disorders and one of the most common is depression. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that more than 16 million people in the United States, over the age of 18 will experience at least one major depressive episode in a year. Statistics show that 50% of people do not seek treatment. 

Depression is a serious illness and many people respond best to intensive treatment, which may include psychotherapy and medication. However, there are some self-help tips that many people find helpful in the management of their symptoms. These self-help strategies are not meant to replace treatment, but to be a supplement and additional assistance to help combat depression and put people on the path toward betterment. 

Symptoms of Depression: 

  • Depressed mood

  • Sadness

  • Hopelessness

  • Diminished interest or pleasure in activities

  • Significant weight loss or weight gain

  • Sleep disturbance (oversleep or inability to sleep) 

  • Psychomotor agitation

  • Fatigue and loss of energy 

  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt

  • Diminished ability to concentrate

  • Indecisiveness or recurrent thoughts of death


10 Tips for Managing Depressed Mood:


1. Good Nutrition:

It comes as no surprise, but there is a strong link between healthy eating, good nutrition, and mental health. As we know, there is a strong mind-body connection and therefore, taking care of your body also helps with the care of your mind. This means eating healthy whole foods and cutting out the processed, sugary and refined carb foods can help to improve mood. It is also important to manage caffeine and alcohol intake as both of these substances can play a direct role in mental and emotional wellbeing.


2. Journaling: 

The act of writing is a method to process emotions by fully and honestly disclosing how you are feeling. Processing of your feelings is essential to the management of emotions. Journaling provides an outlet to express your feelings in a safe and non-judgmental space. One specific example of journaling that may be helpful is a gratitude practice. By journaling each day on something or several things that you feel grateful for, it can help to shift your mindset onto something positive, which can improve mood and reduce depression. 


3. Exercise & Physical Activities:

Trying to get more physically active can be very beneficial during times of depression. It is often the opposite of what someone feels like doing, but there is a lot of research that shows the benefit of exercise and the increase of endorphins and other chemicals in the brain during physical activity, which helps to combat depression. So try and push yourself to try a quick walk several times a week.


4. Social Support:

Get involved with social groups or engage with friends. It can be helpful to talk and express your feelings to others. Having meaningful connected relationships are important in times of need and support. Be sure to surround yourself with positive and healthy people. There are also places to find new friends through groups and social networks, such as events on facebook.com or interest groups through sites such as meetup.com. 


5. Mindfulness:

Engaging in mindfulness meditation can serve as a key element in managing difficult moods. Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present, aware, and in the moment. This allows you to calm yourself through breathing and a meditative state to be very aware of your emotional state and how you are feeling. This is important during a depressive episode because emotions can be overwhelming and very stressful. This is especially true if you are finding yourself obsessing over your thoughts or that your negative thinking is controlling you and/or your mood. Take a few moments each day to implement a mindfulness practice to allow you to calm your thoughts, mind, and better manage your mood. 


6. Outdoor activities/Sunshine & Fresh Air:

Research shows getting outdoors and surrounding yourself with nature can actually be helpful in lifting one’s mood. As we already know, physical activity can be helpful, but so can getting sunshine. Spending time outside and in sunshine has been found to be effective in combating depression, especially if someone is dealing with a seasonal depression, which occurs more in the cold winter months. 


7. Keep Stress Down:

Managing of life’s stressors is essential for overall coping. Many of the same coping skills that people use and find effective that keep stress levels down, also play an important role in reducing depression. When someone is struggling with depression, they can also feel overwhelmed with feelings of stress. Implementing coping strategies that focus on relaxation and the management of stress, can also help cope with depression.


8. Hobbies & Happiness Activities:

When we are feeling down, it’s important to try to find activities to engage in. This is helpful as a distraction, it also gets you physically and mentally active and depending on the activity, it can help you to express emotions and boost feelings of happiness. Be sure to look for new and engaging hobbies or even everyday activities that could bring enjoyment. Again, it is common that when someone is feeling depressed, they often do not want to engage in a hobby or activity, but just remember it’s these activities, which can help with the management of depressed mood. 


9. Reduce Negative Thinking:

While this is incredibly challenging to do, especially if you are feeling depressed, it does play an important role in managing mood. The power of positive thinking can have strong positive outcomes and is essential in reducing depression. There are several techniques which can help to boost positive thoughts including keeping mood journals, tracking and altering negative thinking, positive thinking apps and engaging in daily affirmations. Positive affirmations are a simple technique to say positive things to yourself which will help to increase the positivity in your thought process. This means starting each day with saying things like, “I can do this,” “I am strong,” or “I deserve to be happy.”


10. Seek Professional Help: 

Major Depressive Disorder is very real and can be a difficult condition. Although this blog is about some example self-help strategies to manage depression, it is important to point out that for many people, self-help strategies will not be as effective as medical treatment. Many people often need a jump start to fighting their depression either by seeking psychotherapy or with medication or both. This is especially true if you ever have thoughts of suicide. Seeking treatment is essential. Depression is a very real and extremely difficult condition to face. There are several treatment options available.

You can search for psychologists in your area for psychotherapy strategies that treat depression, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. An online directory that may be helpful in finding psychologists in your area is psychologytoday.com. It may also be helpful to check with your health insurance plan to find out what your mental health treatment plan options are and search directly through your health insurance for providers in your area. Psychiatrists can also be very effective in prescribing appropriate antidepressant medication that may be helpful in treating depression. You may check with your general practitioner for recommendations and referrals for psychiatric treatment in your area. 


Resources:

For More Information on Depression: https://www.depression.org

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:

(800) 273-8255


ONLINE SESSIONS

For more information on virtual counseling services, see Online Coaching with Dr. Shelley. Remote services are provided online through Zoom, Skype or FaceTime, which allows for you to be in the comfort of your own home during your sessions and have increased privacy. Online appointments may also be booked online or simply email Dr. Shelley with any questions or appointment requests.


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Blog written by: Dr. Shelley Sommerfeldt, Clinical Psychologist, Relationship Coach & Founder of the Loving Roots Project, an online wellness practice specializing in personal growth, mental wellness, & relationship betterment.

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