There are a number of steps you can take to manage, and navigate depression. Making small changes to your daily routine, diet, and lifestyle habits can all have a positive effect.
Depression can drain your energy, leaving you feeling empty and fatigued. This can make it difficult to muster the strength or desire to get treatment. Small lifestyle changes may help you manage these feelings.
If a person feels sustained, intense, feelings of sadness or loss of interest in activities, they may have clinical depression. People also refer to this condition as major depressive disorder.
However, there are small steps you can take to help you gain more agency in your life and improve your sense of well-being.
Read on to learn how to incorporate these strategies in a way that makes sense for you.
Depression is common. It affects millions of people, including some in your life. You may not realize they face similar challenges, emotions, and obstacles.
The key to navigating depression is to be open, accepting, and loving toward yourself and what you’re going through.
Every day with this disorder is different. It’s important to take your mental health seriously and accept that where you are right now isn’t where you’ll always be.
On days when you feel as if you can’t get out of bed, exercise may seem like the last thing you’d want to do. However, exercise and physical activity can help to lower symptoms of depression and boost energy levels.
Even when you have the feeling that you’re unable to or have very little energy, see if you’d be willing to do the opposite of what your mood is telling you to do, such as curling up in bed. Instead, set a small goal for yourself, such as taking a walk around the block.
Internal emotions and thoughts can change from day to day. Tracking experiences through journaling or keeping a mood diary can help to remember this.
If you were unsuccessful at getting out of bed or accomplishing your goals today, remember that you haven’t lost tomorrow’s opportunity to try again.
Give yourself the grace to accept that while some days will be difficult, some days will also be less difficult. Try to look forward to tomorrow’s fresh start.
Depression can tinge recollections with difficult emotions. You may find yourself focusing on things that are unhelpful or perceived as difficult.
Try to stop this overgeneralization. Push yourself to recognize the good. If it helps, write down what was meaningful about the event or day. You can track what you achieved that day, and which activities were enjoyable.
Seeing the weight you’re giving to one thing may help you direct your thoughts away from the whole and to the individual pieces that were helpful.
The automatic, unhelpful voice in your head may talk you out of self-help. However, if you can learn to recognize it, you can learn to work through it.
If you believe an event won’t be fun or worth your time, say to yourself, “You might be right, but it’ll be better than just sitting here another night.” You may soon see the automatic thought isn’t always helpful.
A lengthy to-do list may be so weighty that you’d rather do nothing. Instead of compiling a long list of tasks, consider setting smaller goals. Setting and accomplishing these goals can provide a sense of control and accomplishment, and help with motivation.
Attainable goals can include:
- Don’t clean the house; take the trash out.
- Don’t do all the laundry that’s piled up; just sort the piles by color.
- Don’t clear out your entire email inbox; just address any time-sensitive messages.
When you’ve done a small thing, set your eyes on another small thing, and then another. This way, you have a list of tangible achievements and not an untouched to-do list.
All goals are worthy of recognition, and all successes are worthy of celebration. When you achieve a goal, do your best to recognize it.
You may not feel like celebrating with a cake and confetti, but recognizing your own successes can be a very powerful weapon against depression’s negative weight.
The memory of a job well-done may be especially powerful against unhelpful talk and overgeneralization.
If depressive symptoms disrupt your daily routine, setting a gentle schedule may help you feel in control. These plans don’t have to map out an entire day.
Focus on creating a loose, but structured, routine that can help you keep your daily pace going.
Depression can push you to give in to your fatigue. It may feel more powerful than preferred emotions.
Try to push back and do something you love — something that’s pleasurable or meaningful. It could be playing an instrument, painting, hiking, or biking.
The byproduct of engaging in meaningful activities can be a lift in your mood or energy, which can further motivate you to continue to engage in helpful activities that help with navigating symptoms.
Music may be especially beneficial when performed in group settings, such as a musical ensemble or band.
You can also reap some of the same rewards simply by listening.
Spending time in nature can have a powerful influence on a person’s mood.
Time in natural spaces may improve mood and cognition, and lower the risk of mental health disorders. However, there’s only limited research on the direct effect of nature on those with clinical depression.
Consider taking a walk at lunch among the trees or spending some time in your local park. Or plan a weekend hike. These activities can help you reconnect with nature and soak in some rays at the same time.
Depression can tempt you to isolate yourself and withdraw from people you love and trust, but face-to-face time can help wash away those tendencies.
If you’re unable to spend time together in person, phone calls or video chats can also be helpful.
Try to remind yourself these people care about you. Resist the temptation to feel like you’re a burden. You need the interaction — and they likely do, too.
Consider writing or journaling about what you’re experiencing. Then, when the feelings lift, write about that, too.
Writing down your thoughts can help you express what you’re feeling more clearly. It can also help you keep track of what symptoms you’re having each day and identify what causes them.
You can make a goal to write for a few minutes each day or week. Most importantly, what you want to write about is completely up to you.
When you do the same thing day after day, you use the same parts of your brain.
Research shows doing new things can feel rewarding improve your overall well-being and strengthen your social relationships.
To reap these benefits, consider trying a new sport, taking a creative class, or learning a new cooking technique.
Knock out a few birds with one stone — spending time with other people and doing something new — by volunteering and giving your time to someone or something else.
You may be used to receiving help from friends, but reaching out and providing help may actually improve your mental health more.
Bonus: People who volunteer experience physical benefits, too. This includes a
When you do something you love, or even when you find a new activity you enjoy, you may be able to boost your mental health more by taking time to be thankful for it.
What’s more, writing down your gratitude — including writing notes to others — can be particularly meaningful.
Stress and anxiety can prolong your depression symptoms. Finding relaxation techniques can help you lower stress and invite more joy and balance into your day.
There’s no magic diet that will treat depression. But what you put into your body can have a real and significant impact on the way you feel.
Some people also feel better and have more energy when they avoid sugar, preservatives, and processed foods.
If you have the means, consider meeting with a doctor or registered dietitian for guidance.
Eating a diet rich in lean meats, vegetables, and grains may be a great place to start. Try to limit stimulants such as
caffeine, coffee, and soda, and depressants such as alcohol.
Substances such as
On the other hand, people who live with addiction may experience
You may want to consider limiting or avoiding the use of alcohol and other substances to help your depressive symptoms.
Aim for 8 hours of sleep per night. Try to get into a healthy sleeping routine.
Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day can help you with your daily schedule. Getting the proper amount of sleep may also help you feel more balanced and energized throughout your day.
Suppressing and compartmentalizing your feelings may seem like a strategic way to cope with the difficult symptoms of depression. But this technique is
If you’re having a down day, acknowledge it. Notice and name your emotions and try to bring your attention to engaging in activities that are helpful instead of focusing on the emotions.
Seeing the ebb and flow of depressive symptoms can be instructive for both self-healing and hope.
You may also find it helpful to speak to a professional about what you’re going through. A general practitioner may be able to refer you to a therapist or other specialist.
They can assess your symptoms and help develop a clinical treatment plan tailored to your needs. This may include various options, such as medication and therapy.
Finding the right treatment for you may take some time, so be open with your doctor or healthcare professional about what is and isn’t working. They’ll work with you to find the best option.