Do you feel persistently anxious, sad, or detached?
Is your sleep cycle off? Either too much of it, or too little?
Have you lost interest or pleasure doing the things you normally love to do?
Feel more irritable or restless?
Do you find it more difficult to focus on tasks or to make decisions?
Feel a loss of energy or a nagging fatigue?
Ever feel like you’re not good enough, or struggle with guilt about choices you’ve made in the past?
Have you thought of committing suicide?
If you answered yes to one or more of those questions, you may well be suffering from depression.
If you have, or are, contemplating suicide, please reach out, now, to a suicide hotline, call 911, go to an emergency room, or call your doctor, immediately.
If your symptoms are milder, here are 16 coping skills to manage depression and turn your mental health around.
1. Learn About Depression
Congratulations! You are already doing this. You’ve taken the first step to educate yourself. It is not easy to admit how you are feeling. We found some additional resources that may be helpful for you to consider as well.
2. Challenge Your Negative Thoughts
Depression comes with a load of negative thought patterns. The first step is to question those thoughts and assumptions. Is what I’m thinking actually the truth? Is it factual? Or is it just a thought? Notice the difference between your thoughts and feelings.
3. Practice Awareness & Curiosity
Once you’ve identified those patterns, pay more attention to them. Become aware when they pop up. Instead of fear, try curiosity.
“Hm, I wonder where that thought came from?”
Don’t worry if the answer isn’t immediately apparent. Your curiosity will be rewarded.
4. Talk to Someone
Often when we’re feeling depressed, we insulate ourselves from others. It’s natural to do that, but it doesn’t help. Find someone to talk to: a friend, family member, co-worker, or neighbor, even if it’s not about your mental health. Talking about anything is good, if for no other reason than it gives your mind something other than your negative thoughts to focus upon.
This one seems counterintuitive.
“If I could laugh, I wouldn’t be depressed!”
You’re right. You can’t simultaneously hold a negative thought and a funny one in your mind. Watch your favorite funny video or movie, and see what happens. Didn’t work? Watch another one! Those cat videos tend to do the trick often.
6. Have Fun
Again, this seems impossible when we’re really down. But do your favorite things, even if you don’t think they will help. They will. If you think to yourself, “This isn’t working!,” just give it more time. Stick with it.
Here’s some advice on doing the opposite of your feelings.
Write your thoughts down: negative and positive. What did you do today? Try to find three good things you did or that happened during the day. They don’t have to be big things. It could just be that great cup of coffee you had, or that the sun came out.
When you write down your three items at the end of each day, it helps your mind relax before bed and makes you appreciate the small things in life. This activity also helps you find the positive aspects of your life with more ease.
8. Destress and Relax
This will be nearly impossible to do at first.
Simply find things you love to do and do them. Maybe it’s art? Or music? Or watching a movie with a friend. Anything that can bring down your stress level is good.
But if stress–from work, home, or some other source–is bringing you down, do something about it.
If there’s nothing you can do, discuss it with your doctor or therapist.
9. Sleep More
The right amount of good sleep is one of the keys to all aspects of our health. If you’re struggling with this, here are some tips on how to sleep better.
10. Exercise and Get Outside
Physical activity is magical. Moving the body stimulates endorphins and other hormones that help with mood, as well as sleep. If you once had an exercise routine, get back to it. If you didn’t, find something easy to do at first.
Go for a walk outdoors. Don’t overdo it. Try not to think of it as ‘exercise,’ just go for a peaceful walk. Over time you can increase the length of the walk, as well as the speed.
Try five minutes in one direction; turn around and head back to where you started. Increase the time to seven minutes after four or five weeks. Then increase the time to 10 minutes after another four or five weeks. Repeat until you are doing 20 minutes out and 20 minutes back for a total of a 40-minute walk.
11. Eat Better
What we eat affects our mood, through the chemistry in our body. Don’t try to make huge changes when you’re feeling depressed, but do try to avoid eating things you know aren’t good for you in the long run: empty carbs, sugar, and junk food.
Make a conscious choice to eat more fresh veggies and fruits. The nutrients will go a long way to helping your mental health.
Look for Farmers’ Markets on the weekends to find local, fresh produce to eat throughout the week.
12. Drink Your Water!
A dehydrated brain is a dysfunctional brain. Drink actual water, not sugary, caffeinated sodas. You want to consume between 9 and 13 cups per day.
Some studies show that drinking 50 to 60% of your body weight in ounces is ideal, if that helps you figure out the best number of cups to drink daily.
13. Avoid Alcohol and Recreational Drugs
Resist the urge to drown your depression in chemical substances. While booze and recreational drugs may give you a temporary ‘high,’ when it dissipates, you’ll feel worse than before.
14. Work On/Set Goals
What were your life goals before you began feeling depressed? Did you have any? If so, get back to work on them. If not, set a goal. Try not to make it too big. If you have a big goal, make sure to break it down into tiny pieces and steps.
Start with the smallest step in the direction of your goal, a step you’re guaranteed to achieve. Do that. Maybe it’s just researching ‘how to plant tomatoes,’ or ‘how to find a new job.’ Start there, and then move to the next step.
Do one small thing each day. That’s all it takes.
15. Restart/Build a Routine
Do you have one? If not, it’s time to start one.
Make a daily list of things to get done:
- Make my bed
- Eat breakfast and drink my coffee
- Take a shower
- Go to work
If you have a routine but it’s become a rut, then shake it up! Do something different!
Help someone else. Help your neighbor with their yard-work. Make a dish and deliver it to your mom, aunt, or a friend.
Volunteer with a non-profit. Help people who really need it. Giving happiness will ensure it comes back to you.
16. Seek Professional Help
If these things don’t work for you, or you’re struggling to get started on any of them, don’t hesitate to seek professional counseling.
If you live in the Raleigh or greater RDU-Wake County area, give us a call.
We’re RDU Counseling for Change. We offer mental health counseling for individuals, couples, and families, in person or via Telehealth.
Contact us, today, and let’s get started!