Reviewed by Heather Cashell, LCSW
Depression or major depressive disorder is seen as one of the serious and common mental health challenges characterized by feelings of sadness and loss of interest in activities that are once enjoyable to you. This implies that depression can negatively affect your feelings, actions, and thoughts. Clinically, it's observed to tend to interfere with your day-to-day life both at home and at work. The National Alliance on Mental illness shows that when proper treatment is not given to depression, it can affect devastatingly those who are suffering from it and even their loved ones.
Depression is not an untreatable ailment. There are different methods used in dealing with mental health illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and stress. Some of these include psychotherapy and medications. The use of self-help strategies is another reliable method that many individuals adopt in managing their conditions. When it's early detected, diagnosed, and managed properly, those battling with it will get to live their life in a better way. You can get some potential clarity on the symptoms you’re experiencing by clicking here and taking a test.
What are the Symptoms of Depression?
The symptoms of depression are in different aspects. They can be physical, social, and psychological.
- Physical symptoms: These include changes in appetite, sleeping problems, pains and aches, low energy, tiredness, gastrointestinal problems, and sexual problems (lack of interest in sex and erectile problems)
- Social symptoms: These include relationship problems, poor performance/ low efficiency at work or school, finding it difficult to complete everyday tasks, isolation (from friends and family), and loss of interest in hobbies or activities that you once enjoyed.
- Psychological symptoms: These include the feelings of anxiety and guilt, suicidal thoughts, relying on drug or alcohol to cope with your condition, crying obsessively for no obvious reason, intense sadness, flat affect/reduced emotional reactions, feelings of anger towards loved ones for minor reasons, difficulty concentrating, unable to make decisions, not taking good care of yourself (personal hygiene or physical appearance), and the feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness.
What are Self-care Approaches if you have Depression?
Self-care approaches refer to how people can help themselves rather than the assistance professionals can render. Even though there are other approaches such as medications and different forms of therapies that a doctor can recommend for the treatment of depression, there are certain conditions that may require you to take a self-help approach to manage depression.
Clinically, self-help approaches are considered to be additions to other treatment options professionally prescribed by your doctor to treating depression. Ensure you seek the assistance of your doctor before treating engaging in any treatment plan or using any method of depression self-care.
What are the Benefits of Self-care Approaches?
A Self-help approach as one of the treatment options for depression has many benefits. Some of these benefits include:
- It saves time: A self-help approach emphasizes how you can be of help to yourself. Instead of spending a lot of time with a counselor or therapist, it can easily be assessed and used without having to spend a lot of time.
- It is confidential: Several people suffering from depression may have difficulties discussing what they're going through with others. Based on the fact that self-help is confidential, it helps prevent you from the feelings of embarrassment attached to sharing your problems with someone else.
- It is inexpensive and available: For self-help, you don't need to spend a lot of cash and sometimes you don't even need to spend at all. This makes it affordable. Also, it is always available and can be engaged at any moment in time at your convenience.
- It helps with self-improvement: When you engage in self-help, it never leaves you the same. It offers relevant experiences and makes you better. Through self-help, you will be able to learn how to identify potential problems to know how to deal with them before they begin to appear (increased self-awareness capabilities). It also increases your ability to be objective with situations. This implies that you will be able to see things the way they are. Consequently, you will be able to make good decisions when going through your condition.
- It helps customize your efforts: Technically, self-help is a "customized plan". With self-help, you can easily design your efforts to suit your weaknesses and strengths and reflect the choices you've made personally about the best way to deal with your specific challenges.
- It empowers you: Engaging in self-help enables you to learn some methods and skills that will greatly be of assistance across different areas of your life. Also, it feels satisfying emotionally when you deal with tour issue on your own rather than mental health professionals helping out. In simple words, it offers you a sense of responsibility and capability.
- It makes other people appreciate you: When you engage self-help strategies, people around you who notice your efforts to deal with your mental health issues will appreciate you and will also make them live understandably with you.
What are the Self-care Methods for Depression?
Sometimes, dealing with depression through self-care strategies can be difficult if you're severely suffering from it. Before you engage in self-help try to talk with your doctor or therapist to know the best ways you can add self-help methods to your treatment program. The following are the methods of depression self-help:
- Exercise: This is one of the available methods you can incorporate in your treatment program for depression. It's a very effective method because of the antidepressant effect it has. Also, exercise helps to distract you from unwanted or intrusive thoughts that make concentration difficult or makes you have negative self-awareness.
- Acceptance: Several individuals, especially men, may find it difficult to accept that they are depressed. This may be because they feel weak or too ashamed to admit it or strongly believe that they can handle their conditions themselves. Nevertheless, accepting your diagnosis is very important. It won't do you any help if you sabotage your therapy. It may even make your condition worse if your ego pushes you into hiding what you're going through from those who care for you or those that can be of help. Also, it may make you forget missing doses on schedule.
- Expressiveness: This is one of the effective methods of depression self-care. Try to express yourself to those that can be of help. These may include your family members, friends, or therapist. If expressing your thought through words is not as comfortable as you may have wanted, you may try to keep a journal (expressive writing). Talking or writing about how you feel and what you think helps a lot in reducing pressure or stress which can boost your mood.
- Lifestyle Changes: Changing your lifestyle has a lot of positive impact on both your physical and mental health. Your feelings can be influenced by different things. This is why your doctor or therapist may advise you to take your sleep and food seriously. Sleep deprivation can seriously affect your mood the next day. If the foods you take are rich with nutrients, they may help boost your mood. Other things to take into cognizance include avoidance of alcohol, drugs, processed foods, and caffeine. Your spiritual and social habits can also positively improve your lifestyle which can lead to the improvement of your mood.
- Social engagements: One of the common symptoms of depression is isolation. When you're depressed, you can easily be predisposed or prone to shut yourself away from other people. To help yourself, you can do the contrary to this by participating with others emotionally and socially. Here, your loved ones can greatly be of help— don't reject invitations to occasions and try to maintain your specific social schedule even if you have already lost interest in them. Social engagements can help with social support, creating distractions from your intrusive or obsessive thoughts. Over time, there may be an improvement in your condition.
- Use your pets: There are animals, such as service dogs that can help you overcome depression. Spending time with these pets can offer needed comfort and companionship, make you feel confident, remind you of important things (such as taking your medications), and helping to handle some responsibilities. Also, taking your pets out for a walk will frequently make you spend more time outside which can help deal with loneliness and isolation.
- Prioritizing: Different things can result in depression. Sometimes, the amount of stress you experience can overwhelm you and make you depressed, so it's good to seek ways to reduce this stress. You need to know those tasks that are causing your stress. Try to make the most pressing tasks your priority and look for easier ways you can get them done.
- Understand your Condition: Depression is a mental illness that can make you lose your real self or your sense of control. To deal with this, you should try to seek ways to know about your illness. This can be done by listening to what people who had a similar condition in the past say, talking to your doctor or therapist, or reading about it in books, articles, journals, or blogs. The more your mind is broadened and filled with relevant information about your depression and its treatment, the better chance you have of knowing the different methods you can use which may include combining the effective treatments and techniques that can help deal with your condition.
- Know your triggers: Most mental health challenges usually are triggered by different things such as events or situations. The worst part of it is that triggers can lead to relapse. In order to avoid depression relapse, you should know what stimulates and deteriorates your functioning. Knowing your triggers helps you deal with them and most importantly reduce the symptoms.
- Staying away from toxic people: Depression has a strong connection with negative thoughts. Negative thoughts can get worse if you keep on being in the company of those that make you feel unpleasant about yourself. These sets of individuals may be judgmental, envious, and competitive. Ensure you avoid them or limit your exposure to them. To help yourself, keep the company of healthier individuals that can make you feel good about yourself.
- Make yourself happy and smile: One basic antidote against sadness is happiness. There are different ways you can make yourself happy. You can watch movies that make you laugh. Also, places, people, or pets can make you happy. Including them in your daily life, will help you get better.
Also, learn to smile at other people. Although smiling may be difficult when you're depressed, it may be an effective way to deal with it. This is because smiling releases some brain chemicals that can make you smile more and can reduce the symptoms of depression.
- Don't be too hard on yourself: What you tell yourself matters a lot. It may interfere with what you think and how you act. Criticizing yourself for not achieving a set goal can affect your mood. So, be mindful of what you tell yourself such as “I’m bad at that" or “I’m a failure” or how you treat yourself. Rather than beating yourself up, try to act kindly.
Also, try to treat yourself daily. Engage in positive activities that you find interesting such as reading, having a bath, or listening to music you love. These may distract you from intrusive or unwanted thoughts and keep you connected to the present moment. Through this, you can deal with depression by yourself.
- Create a healthy environment: Where you live can influence your mood sometimes. From research, it is claimed that your body, soul, and mind can be revitalized by creating a nurturing space. Surround yourself with helpful houseplants such as lavender and lemon (they can help relieve the symptoms of depression). Also, it is observed that scent can reduce stress, boost your immunity, and improve sleep. These are very important to your mental health when dealing with depression. By living in a healthy environment with these characteristics, you are assured of better health.