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30 Self-Care Suggestions to Cope with Depression
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, approximately 20% of Canadians will experience some form of mental illness in their lifetime, and about 8% of adults will experience a major depressive episode. Depression does not have one specific root cause but is understood to be a result of interactions between a person’s unique genetic, physical, social and environmental circumstances.
For those struggling with depression, even simple daily tasks can be overwhelming, and when it comes to dealing with more difficult aspects of life, someone who is depressed may encounter lows that are magnified beyond their ability to handle. We have put together a list of 30 Self-Care Suggestions to Cope with Depression. If you are seeking support or if someone you know is struggling, consider the list below and reflect on how these concepts may help you and those you love to take better care of yourselves.
A daily meditation practice, even for as little as five minutes per day, may help you to establish a steadier emotional and mental state. Meditation is known to cultivate a greater sense of compassion, and this ability to be more sympathetic may make it easier for you to be present with difficult emotions.
There is a clear link between the health of our sleep and the health of our minds. Inconsistent sleep, getting too much or too little on a regular basis, has been shown to negatively affect mood and mental health, and sleep deprivation can impair a person’s function just as much as alcohol can. To improve the quality of your sleep, try creating a sleep schedule and make your sleeping space as clean, comfortable and quiet as possible. Be consistent, and treat your sleep with as much importance as you would any other therapy.
During exercise, our brains are flooded with endorphins, which are feel-good hormones that trigger positive feelings in the body, reduce our sensitivity to pain, and also boost our immune system. Research has shown that in some cases regular exercise can be just as effective as medication for treating symptoms of depression.
4. Eat Well
Hippocrates famously said, “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.” Diet is as important for mental health as it is for physical, and eating well (and regularly) will help keep your body and mind nourished and balanced. You are what you eat, so choose healthy and nutritious foods, eat a balanced diet, and stay away from processed foods and sugar. Caffeine and alcohol may also aggravate depression symptoms, so be aware of how these can affect you and minimize your intake.
Mindfulness is an exercise of consciously training your attention to the present moment. By cultivating a sense of open and active awareness, you are better able to observe your thoughts, feelings, and emotions without judgment. This clarity of perception may help ground you in what is happening now, and studies have shown that this detachment from depression-related thoughts and feelings may help to lessen depression symptoms, and even prevent recurrence of depressive episodes.
6. Go Outside
In a study published through Stanford University, participants walked for 90 minutes either in a high-traffic urban area, or a natural one. The results indicated that time outdoors, specifically in non-urban areas like a park or treed area, could significantly lower the risk of depression. Studies have also shown that spending more time outside lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and it is well known that being outside boosts feelings of relaxation and peacefulness.
7. Laugh More
It is often said that laughter is the best medicine, but when someone is depressed it can be difficult for them to tap into strong feelings of joy. Seeking out the things you know generate humor for you, whether it is cat videos or stand-up comedy, and exposing yourself to this positive stimulus may make it easier for you to experience these feelings.
8. Practice Yoga
Yoga can create a more balanced and relaxed state of mind. There is evidence to suggest yoga positively impacts the body’s sympathetic nervous system, helping to calm how we respond to stress, and regular yoga (practicing 2-3 times per week) has been shown to improve symptoms of mild to moderate depression.
9. Create A Routine
A successful tactic for some anxiety and depression sufferers is to create a routine of set tasks to get through on a daily basis. People suffering from depression often find themselves weighed down by the severity of their symptoms, but consistently accomplishing even a small set of responsibilities may help them to navigate these heavy states by encouraging feelings of commitment and gratification.
10. Avoid Unhealthy Substances
Many forms of drugs and alcohol have negative influences on depression. Often, addiction and depression go hand-in-hand and a large number of people suffering from depression may develop dependencies on drugs or alcohol to help them cope. Certain substances can even interact with prescribed medication, and although some research has shown positive benefits for using substances like cannabis and even MDMA to aid depression, it is always best to do your research and to discuss any intentions to try these substances with a knowledgeable doctor and pharmacist first.
11. Explore Alternative Methods
Mental illness affects every area of a person’s life, not just their mind. Physical, emotional and spiritual centers are compromised in a person suffering from depression, and it is healthy to want to understand and approach your illness from all angles. Remember that healing comes in many forms, and consider receiving regular massage therapy, visiting an acupuncturist, energy worker, or another spiritual teacher with whom you resonate. Reflect on the health of your romantic relationships and friendships, or review how your job or living situation may be contributing to your current state.
Practicing gratitude is what psychologists call a “Positive Intervention”. It is where we choose to focus on our strengths instead of on what is ailing us. Spending a few minutes each day reflecting on what we are grateful for can help promote feelings of appreciation and connection to what is positive in our lives, which increases our happiness level and enhances our well-being.
Through journaling we are able to externalize our internal experiences into a more tangible form. This can be a cathartic process, as translating these chaotic thoughts, emotions and experiences to something outside of ourselves can help to relieve some of the pressure inside. Getting what we are going through onto paper also makes objective self-reflection easier, as we can look back on the process of what we have been dealing with and gain insights that would otherwise have been lost in the turmoil of our mental and emotional states.
Someone suffering from depression may be more likely to withdraw from social interactions, and to isolate themselves from friends and other relationships. It may be difficult to reach out or to feel safe sharing your struggles with others, but making efforts to connect, even when you aren’t feeling your best, may help to lessen feelings of isolation and loneliness. Socializing doesn’t necessarily mean you need to start going to house parties again, either. Explore ways you can connect that still make you feel comfortable. You don’t even have to leave the house! (Think Disney movies and takeout.)
15. Challenge Yourself
Boundaries exist to help us feel safe, but challenging them may be just what you need to help you feel energized and motivated. If your depression typically has you acting in a certain way, challenge yourself to push beyond your reflexive reaction in order to transcend the tendency. You might not always be successful, but when you are, you will come out of the experience with more resiliency, and a better understanding of what you are capable of enduring.
Engaging in altruistic activities and volunteering to help others may help you feel better about yourself and your situation. Consider offering your time at a Senior’s residence, an animal shelter or to clean up trash around your neighborhood. Even small acts of deliberate selflessness and kindness may encourage you to experience stronger feelings of self-worth and compassion for others, and for yourself.
17. Try CBT
CBT, or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, encourages people to break down the complexity of the issues they are facing into smaller, more understandable sections. By examining a situation or problem you are facing and the thoughts, emotions, physical feelings and actions that immediately surround it, you can gain clearer insight into how these factors influence and amplify each other. CBT may help you to better understand why you think, feel and act the way you do.
18. Know Your Moods
Try keeping a mood diary and include descriptions of what activities your day included, as well as things like medication and what your diet and sleep was like. Tracking how your mood is affected by the different influences in your life may help you develop a better understanding of how and what you react to. It will also help you to see which things are more likely to have positive and negative impacts on how you feel.
19. Pick Your Battles
If you know that exercise is a tried and true way to help you feel better, but today you are so exhausted you cannot get out of bed, honor that. Consistency is important, but true wisdom is the learned ability to recognize when you need to push yourself, and when it is okay to let something go. Pick your battles, and if you do need to pass on a regular activity, remember that you are respecting what is best for you in the moment.
20. Be Kind to Yourself
Approaching your depression with compassion for your struggles is key in learning how to work with it, not against it. Make the most out of your good days, recognize that you are doing the best you can on the not so good ones, and give yourself space and “me time” if you need it.
21. Try Something New
Sign yourself up for something you have always wanted to try. Whether it is an art class, a retreat, or rock-climbing, introducing a new venture to your regular routine can help you break through repetition and give yourself new reasons to feel motivated.
22. Set Goals
Setting realistic goals for yourself can help you stay focused and determined despite your depression. Having something to work towards, and the feeling of accomplishing those goals will help you develop more confidence, and will keep you moving forward instead of getting stuck in a rut.
23. Treat Yourself
Depression can make you feel awful in countless ways, and it’s important to include activities that make you feel good in your every-day routine. Take yourself out to a movie, run a hot bath, or buy yourself a new book. Remember that you deserve acts of love and care the same way you might show them to someone else who is struggling.
24. Join a Support Group
Local support groups foster safe, non-judgmental environments for those suffering from depression to share what they are going through, as well as tips for managing symptoms. Talking with a bunch of strangers about your struggles and feelings might sound like your worst nightmare, but connecting with others who are dealing with similar issues might help you better understand that you are not alone, and could be a source of comfort and inspiration.
25. Build a Toolkit
Create an emergency toolkit of things that can help you feel better when you are struggling. Include items like pictures of your favorite places to travel, a letter to yourself to remind you that where you are is temporary and that you will get through it, tokens from friends and family to remember the love and support you have, and anything else that might boost your mood and help you to feel grounded and safe.
26. Take Care of Yourself
People suffering from depression can sometimes allow their level of self-care and personal hygiene to be affected. Even if you aren’t leaving the house, shower and get ready the way you normally would. Getting cleaned up every day, regardless of how you are feeling, can boost your mood and encourage you to feel more driven and organized.
27. Give Yourself Credit
It is important to recognize that what you are going through isn’t easy and that it takes immense strength to face what you are dealing with. Remember that it is okay to not always be okay, and the fact that you are doing what you can to get better is enough.
28. Seek Professional Help
It is a sign of self-love to be able to recognize when you are in over your head. There is no shame in asking for help, and when we do, most of us feel we wish we had sooner. Psychologists and counsellors are trained in managing different areas of mental and emotional health, and they may be able to provide approaches and insights to help you work through the difficulties of your depression in ways you weren’t able to on your own.
29. Talk About It
Talking to the people you are close with about your depression might sound scary, but having someone you know you can rely on to vent to when things get out of hand may help you gain some peace of mind. Getting your thoughts out of your head by talking to someone about it will likely help to ease the irrationality and chaotic emotions you are experiencing.
30. Contact a Mental Health Helpline
Depression helplines provide non-professional counseling and support services for people suffering from mood and mental health issues. If you are having a tough time coping, or are dealing with thoughts of self-harm or suicide, speaking with a person who is there to listen can help you get through the worst of these difficult emotions, and can even save your life.
These suggestions above are not limited just to those with a diagnosed clinical condition but are important elements for anyone to consider if they are looking to improve their mental health. They may not be able to turn every bad day into a good one, but adding a few of these methods to your mental health and self-love medicine cabinet may help you weather the challenges you are facing with more self-confidence and self-love.
Article provided by Lindsay S. Dunlop.