Reviewed by Laura Angers, LPC
There’s a lot to take into consideration when looking for strategies to treat depression. While we tend to think of it as a mental health challenge, because it is, depression also impacts our physical and emotional health. Taking medication may be the treatment conclusion that many people think about right off the bat, but other successful strategies can help, such as mindfulness. Depression has a way of impacting the way a person thinks along with how they feel. Thankfully, there are treatment strategies to address all the different symptoms that come with it.
Am I Struggling With Depression?
While many people think of depression as sadness, there's a lot more to it than that. There are many different types of depressive disorders that a person can be diagnosed with. Some symptoms that many of these disorders have in common include:
- Feeling more irritable or angrier than normal
- Feeling numb or empty inside
- Not finding enjoyment in activities that you used to love doing
- Not wanting to spend time with friends or family
- Struggling to focus at work or around the house
- Being hungrier than normal or not as hungry as normal
- Feeling fatigued and wanting to sleep nonstop regardless of how much sleep you get
- Not being able to sleep even though you want to
- Headaches, backaches, stomachs, or other unexplained pain
As you can see, not every person that feels depressed feels the same. If you're wondering if you're struggling with symptoms of depression, you can take this online depression quiz to explore the possibilities and treatment solutions that could help.
If you believe that you’re struggling with symptoms of depression, here are some strategies you can use that may help you start feeling better.
Mindfulness – Depression: How It Helps
Mindfulness is a type of therapy that is often used to treat depression. It’s been found to be highly effective at helping people not only overcome periods of depression but avoid going back into a depressive state.
But there are some forms of mindfulness that you can practice at home. You can use it to calm your body and refocus your mind. When you struggle with depression, you may find that it’s easy to struggle with negative self-talk as well. You may think of negative things about yourself and your situation. Or you may think things like “this is never going to get better” or “I don’t know if I can handle this any longer.”
When you allow yourself to focus on negative thoughts or for your thoughts to spiral out of your control, it can cause your depression symptoms to feel even worse. Mindfulness helps break that cycle. It helps you to become more aware of your thoughts and feelings. And it helps you begin recognizing unhelpful thoughts that you’re having so you can interrupt them and replace them with better options.
While mindfulness is often used alongside yoga, it can be something that you do independently. If you’re interested in learning how to use mindfulness in your life, you can talk with a therapist or try one of the many mindfulness apps available on your phone.
Stay Connected With Others
When you're feeling depressed, it's easy to begin to withdraw and pull away from other people. This can happen for many reasons. It may be that you don't feel like you have the energy to put forth in engaging with others. Or it could be that you feel physically bad because of the physical symptoms that depression can cause, so you just don't want to be around other people. Whatever the reason is, it can feel easier than ever not to engage with people.
The problem with isolating yourself is that it becomes even easier to continue spiraling down the cycle of depression. It may feel like a lot of work and energy to have a phone conversation with a friend or get together with another person, but it can be one of the things that help you to start feeling better.
If you sit at home by yourself, it's easy to let your thoughts start to take control. The problem with this, as shared above, is that our thoughts aren't always correct. If you have pushed friends and family away and you're allowing negative self-talk to take over, you don't have any other messages coming in that can help you fight that. This is one reason why it can be important to stay connected with a support circle when you're struggling with depression.
When you're starting to feel anxious or depressed, take the first step to reach out to a friend or family member you can trust. You may also find it helpful to let a few of these people know that you struggle with feeling depressed from time to time. Share with them things that they can do or say that could help you, or at the very least let them know that if you’re not responding to their text messages, that you may need them to keep contacting you anyway.
Your loved ones want to help you, and if you’re able to let them know when you’re feeling well what you need during those lower times, it can help them know how to help.
Engage In Physical Activity
There is a lot of science that backs the theory that exercise and physical activity is good for mental health. Many different sources recommend participating in 30 minutes of exercise each day. However, if you're just getting started, don't let that overwhelm you. Commit to doing some form of exercise or physical activity each day. You may only be able to start with 10 minutes. It's still something that will benefit you.
Physical activity helps your brain to release chemicals that can help improve your mood. When you're feeling depressed, you may not feel like engaging in physical activity, but it can be an important thing to do even though you don't feel like it.
The activity you can do can be simple. The most important thing is that you are up and moving. This can include taking the dog for a walk, dancing, lifting weights, swimming, or doing yoga. Find ways to add regular movement into your daily routine. Many people find that even if it's difficult to get started, the longer they stick with it, the easier it becomes.
Pay Attention To What You Eat
The food that we put into our bodies impacts our physical health and mental health. Being deficient in certain vitamins and minerals can trigger depression symptoms. And sugary foods and processed foods can lead to a rollercoaster of energy and emotions. While you may crave sugary and unhealthy foods, the initial boost of energy they give you can quickly wear off, leaving you feeling worse than you did before eating it.
Choosing a balanced diet can help you to feel your best and fight off depression symptoms. If you're unfamiliar with what foods you should be eating or restricting, you may benefit from working with a nutritionist specializing in mental health challenges.
Soak Up The Sunshine (in a healthy way)
In multiple ways exposing yourself to sunshine can help boost your mood and improve depression symptoms. Exposure to the sun can boost serotonin levels, which can, in turn, boost your mood. You may also find that getting more sunlight during the day can help you sleep better at night.
This doesn't mean that you need to hit the beach and lay out in the sunshine all day. Instead, you could go for a walk outside, sit on a bench outdoors during your lunch break, or keep the curtains open to your window in your room instead of shutting out the light.
Some people who struggle with Seasonal Affective Depression have benefited from light therapy. This may be something that you're interested in exploring.
Talk To A Therapist
While there are many strategies that you can do on your own to overcome depression symptoms that you may be experiencing, they can often be more effective when paired with psychotherapy or other forms of traditional treatment. Working with a therapist can help you explore any areas that could lead to your feelings of depression and help you identify additional strategies that can help you overcome the symptoms and feel better.
Another mental health professional that you may be interested in working with is a psychiatrist. A psychiatrist can prescribe medication that could help you in your process of overcoming depression symptoms.
As you can see, there are many different things that you can do to address depression in your life. Most people benefit from combining multiple strategies. For example, you may benefit from introducing new lifestyle habits such as regular exercise and healthy eating along with a regular meeting with a therapist. Don't be afraid to continue exploring ideas and strategies until you find the right combination of treatments that works for you.