Build a Support Network
Depression can often make you want to isolate yourself from the people around you. You may feel you shouldn’t burden them with your problems or that they won’t understand if you try reaching out. However, withdrawing yourself from others is actually harmful if you’re working to beat your depression. Sitting with your negative thoughts and feelings alone is a sure way to get buried deeper in those thoughts.
Building a support network is easier said than done. If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably cut friends off during depressive times and weren’t sure how to reconnect. The first step is to acknowledge your depression and talk about it with your friends. This way, the people around you will better understand some of the reasons for your changes in mood or behavior.
Construct a strong group of supportive people who you can turn to when your depression gets bad. These should be people you trust to help you with constructive advice and feedback. Avoid any toxic or negative people who will only feed into your depression. Avoid people who don’t “believe” in depression or are so positive they leave you feeling worse. Not everything is rainbows and sunshine, but we want to keep a positive outlook on life when possible.
Family and friends can be great parts of your support network, but you may also find it helpful to join a support group with others who suffer from depression. Sometimes, groups like these can give you the best techniques for coping with your emotions. No one will understand what you’re going through quite as well as someone who has suffered similarly and made progress in overcoming their depression.
The most important thing is knowing that you aren’t alone. Everyone struggles at some point, and that’s why we’re all here – to support each other. Don’t hesitate to reach out, and it’s the most courageous thing you can do when you’re suffering in a way others can’t see.
Get Physically Active
Exercise has several healthy benefits, and battling depression is just one of them. It has been scientifically proven that exercise can reduce the symptoms of depression as well as anxiety. It helps your body release endorphins, which boosts your mood and causes you to feel happier.
Being active helps your brain be more open to receiving serotonin, a hormone that increases happiness and reduces feelings of depression. However, there’s no need to run out and join a gym to battle your depression. That can bring with it a whole new host of uncomfortable feelings.
You can start by walking around your neighborhood and bring a friend if possible. A 30-45 minute walk each day, even if it’s the last thing you want to do, can actually have an extremely positive impact on your mood. Start small and expand your walking perimeter as you get more comfortable getting up and moving daily!
Just like putting premium fuel into your vehicle can make it operate better, putting the proper nutrients into your body can help you feel better. Avoid eating too many carbs and processed foods. Instead, opt for healthy meats, fruits, and vegetables that supply your body with the nourishment you need to fuel your day.
Stay away from stimulants such as coffee or alcohol as well, as they can harm your mental health. Eliminating any and all outside stimulants or depressants is essential when you’re working toward establishing a mental health baseline. Caffeine and alcohol are just two examples of things that can make your moods more erratic and difficult to manage.
This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy food or a night out with friends. Eating healthy is all about balance. Healthier foods will make your body feel healthier, though, because you’re providing yourself with the best fuel possible. Think about this and choose foods known to support cognitive function to keep your mind sharp and your body in its best shape.
Keep a Journal
Journaling is an effective way to release depressing thoughts from your mind. Even if you are feeling withdrawn from your support network, you can still get the depression out of your head by writing. Once the thoughts are out of your head, you can reflect and analyze the feelings with a new perspective.
Journaling when you aren’t as depressed helps as well. This way, you can start to see patterns in your mood that can help you recognize triggers to stay away from in hopes of reducing depression in the future. Just 10 minutes of writing each day can help you through depressive bouts and help you have better control over your mental health.
If you find it difficult to know what to write, look up journaling prompts or thought inquiry methods. You can use thousands of questions, quotes, or fill-in-the-blank phrases to get the words flowing. There are also guided journals available on online that can help you decide what to write each day.
Learn to Love Yourself
None of the steps toward addressing depression are easy, but finding ways to practice self-love may be one of the most challenging and rewarding. Depression can cause us to see ourselves in a very negative light, which only strengthens its power over our minds. The more you love yourself, the less depression can impact how you view yourself.
Let go of all the negative thoughts you currently have about yourself. Recite a few positive affirmations each day in the mirror to help train your mind to think more positively, especially when viewing yourself. Begin to recognize and acknowledge the difference between a negative thought and a fact.
Find small details to appreciate about yourself. It may take time to find a few things you truly love about yourself beyond doubt. Cherish these things and continue exploring yourself to discover other aspects of yourself you feel proud of.
Having hobbies and being creative can help you express negative feelings and release them, so consider these options as potential coping mechanisms as well. Painting, writing, crafting, making music, cooking, singing, dancing, or drawing are just a few potential avenues to explore.
These are all forms of self-care worth making a regular part of your routine. You are the most important person you’ll ever have to care for. The better we are at caring for ourselves, the more we will have to give to loved ones and other endeavors.
Reduce Your Stress
Ironically, if those who fight depression could eliminate our stress, we probably wouldn’t be depressed, or our depression would be much less. Stress can manifest itself in our bodies in several ways, with depression being a very common one. Reducing stress depends on our ability to better manage our outside responsibilities and the expectations we have of ourselves. This includes your relationships with your spouse, children, and career.
Once you have your priorities in order, you can start to release anything that isn’t of value to you in some way. Detoxing your life in this manner helps to reduce stress in so many ways. You’ll no longer feel obligated to take on new responsibilities you won’t enjoy, therefore lessening the potential for overwhelming and depressing thoughts to swirl.
Consider a digital and social media detox as well. Dealing with negativity online can be just as harmful as dealing with it face to face. Online, people tend to say things that are so cruel they’d never say them to your face. Pair that with depression and isolation, and it’s a bad, bad mix. Detoxing can help you take a step back from online negativity, which will change your perspective when it’s time to get back online. You’ll be better prepared to set boundaries and enjoy your newfound peace.
Work on Sleeping Better
When we’re tired and run down, it’s easier for negative thoughts and emotions to get the better of us. Quality sleep is vital in fighting off depression, so make it a priority in your life. Create your ideal resting environment by keeping the room temperature cool and investing in comfortable bedding and pillows. If you’re a light sleeper or struggle to fall asleep, consider using a white noise machine to quiet your thoughts.
Develop a consistent sleep schedule where you go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day. This routine helps your body learn how to rest better by knowing when it’s time to sleep and when it’s time to wake up. Many times we forget and underestimate the power of opposites. If the body can be triggered to have a negative reaction, it can also be triggered to have an equally profound positive reaction. Developing healthy habits like a sleep routine is just one example of a positive trigger.
A healthy bedtime routine can also be helpful. Give yourself time to wind down before your head hits the pillow. Unplug from your screens at least an hour before bedtime, too. Use that in-between time to read, relax, and practice self-care.
There are many positive ways to overcome depression. Remember, mental health is a practice that takes time and will improve through consistent effort. You’re not alone on this journey, and there are no deadlines or awards to win, so go at your own pace. Treat your body and mind like a best friend, and do things that spark joy and happiness in your life. Implementing a few of the methods mentioned above should help you notice a difference in how you cope with depression in your day-to-day life.
With online options like BetterHelp and 7Cups, you can have access to a therapist and someone to help you talk through some of your toughest times. Self-care is wonderful, but it cannot take the place of medication. If medication is something that helps you, don’t feel ashamed. It’s just one tool in your depression-fighting toolbox.
If you’re ever struggling and it feels too much to handle, reach out to The National Alliance on Mental Illness at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)