Living with major depressive disorder (MDD) can take a physical and emotional toll on your life. There are days when you enjoy spending time with friends and family. Yet on other days, you may isolate yourself and can’t get out of bed. Symptoms of MDD include:
- poor concentration
- poor appetite
- low energy
- persistent sadness
- suicidal thoughts
Depression can be ongoing battle, but it doesn’t have to control your life. Some people develop depression after stressful events or trauma, whereas others are predisposed to this disease because of a family history.
Many living with MDD feel better with the help of antidepressants and other therapies. But even when these measures are effective, self-care is important to successfully managing depression.
Feeling better involves taking care of your mental and physical health. Medication is often the first line of defense, but it’s also helpful to learn ways to relax and recharge. Here are seven self-care tips to improve your mental health.
1. Get a good night’s rest
Insomnia affects your well-being. It causes poor concentration and fatigue, and it can increase the risk of depression.
The relationship between depression and sleep is intricate. Depression often makes it harder to fall asleep or sleep through the night. Yet some people develop depression because of a lack of sleep.
Improving your sleep quality and ensuring you receive adequate rest can help you manage depression. Limit your intake of caffeine during the day to help you fall asleep faster at night.
Also, avoid or shorten the length of daytime naps. Sleeping too much during the day also makes it harder to fall asleep at night.
You should avoid stimulation before bed, such as exercising or playing video games. And it’s important to create a comfortable sleep environment. Darken the room and alleviate noise, which means no sleeping with the radio or television on.
If you’re unable to sleep after making these adjustments, see a doctor.
Exercise may be the last thing on your mind when you’re battling depression. But if you force yourself to engage in physical activities, you may feel better.
Exercise and other types of physical activity can be a natural antidepressant. When you’re active, your body increases the production of hormones like endorphins and serotonin. Higher levels of these hormones can improve mood and relieve depression symptoms.
If possible, aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise every day or most days of the week. It doesn’t need to be strenuous exercise. Go for a walk or jog, ride your bike, or take a hike. Find an activity you enjoy, and it’ll be easier to stick with a routine.
3. Eat a healthy diet
There isn’t a specific diet to treat depression, but you may improve your symptoms by including mood-boosting foods in your diet.
These include foods rich in B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin D. Good sources of these vitamins include:
- leafy green vegetables
- poultry and other lean meats
If you have a vitamin deficiency, seek advice from your doctor before taking vitamin supplements.
Supplementation isn’t the only option for a deficiency. You should also eat balanced meals to receive proper nutrition and improve your mental health. Because depression can change your appetite, you may not eat enough, or you may eat too much if you’re an emotional eater. Consuming five or six small meals a day can boost your energy level and ensure your body receives the nutrients it needs for better mental health.
4. Schedule “me time”
Anxiety and depression can go hand-in-hand. Anxiety can set in if you have a hectic schedule and you’re juggling too many personal responsibilities. You may neglect making time for yourself, which is dangerous because there isn’t an opportunity to relax.
To reduce the risk of anxiety and depression, schedule alone time for yourself every day if possible. Even if it’s only 30 minutes or an hour, do an activity you enjoy or treat yourself. Read a book, soak in the bathtub, or sit alone on your patio with a glass of iced tea. Do whatever makes you happy for these few moments each day. This clears your mind and recharges your body, giving you the mental strength to cope.
5. Soak in the sun
A vitamin D deficiency is also linked to depression. You can correct a deficiency with supplements and certain foods, such as:
- orange juice
Another option is to spend a little time outside and get natural vitamin D from the sun.
Go for a 20- to 30-minute walk, garden, or enjoy other outdoor activities. This is especially important if you also have seasonal affective disorder. This type of depression is common during the winter due to shorter days and less sunlight.
6. Declutter your home
Did you know that a cluttered home plays a role in depression? Clutter can be mentally exhausting and induce stress. The more stress in your life, the greater your risk for depression.
Getting organized and decluttering, on the other hand, can have a tremendous influence on your mental health. Seek help from family or friends. Get rid of items you don’t use or that take up too much space.
Take baby steps and start with cleaning out a cabinet, drawer, or closet, and then move to bigger stuff. If you don’t know where to start, consider working with a personal organizer.
7. Turn down the noise
Quiet time is just as important as “me time.” Yet some people never enjoy moments of complete silence. Constant sound in your ear can affect your mental health. In fact, noise pollution is sometimes responsible for higher anxiety levels, high blood pressure, and muscle tension. It can also worsen symptoms of depression.
You can’t remove all noise from life. But if possible, occasionally seek out quiet places to recharge and relax. If traffic noise is an ongoing problem where you live, sleep with nature sounds in the background or use earplugs for uninterrupted rest.
Depression can affect you physically and mentally. When you’re dealing with emotional highs and lows, finding ways to relax and recharge can help you gain control of your mental state. Regardless of whether you’re prescribed an antidepressant, don’t neglect self-care. The more proactive you are about your health, the better you’ll feel.