Depression affects tens of millions of Americans each year and is identified as the leading global cause of disability by the World Health Organization. It is critical to understand that depression is a highly individualized condition, occurring in myriad forms with varying degrees of severity.
Common symptoms of depression include (but are not limited to) feelings of prolonged sadness or despair, mental and physical fatigue, loss of interest in activities, changes to sleeping patterns, shifts in appetite and body weight, in addition to reduced focus and attentive capacity.
Depression has no singular cause, but rather it may derive from an individual’s neurochemistry, genetics, or simply their personal experiences. That is to say, the sources of depression may be external or internal – a product of situation or of biological predisposition. Universal to all cases of depression, however, is the need to progress forward; to carry on; to cope. Here, we provide seven tips to help those coping with depression.
Exercise is an excellent technique to incorporate into one’s daily routine while seeking to cope with depression. The body’s physiological response to exercise includes a release of endorphins – a hormone associated with feelings of joy or euphoria. Daily physical activity serves to improve mood and ultimately helps to alleviate symptoms of depression and reduce the probability of relapse.
Nutritionists praise Omega-3 fats for their mood-stabilizing properties, those which can be found in several forms of fish (especially salmon), flax seeds, walnuts, chia seeds, and hemp seeds.
Dietary efforts to combat depression should also include achieving a sufficient intake of B vitamins, which may be consumed in the form of beans, poultry, fish, citrus fruits, leafy greens, enriched breakfast cereals, and even supplements.
While increasing your intake of Omega-3 and B vitamins, you should be working to decrease your intake of refined sugars, refined carbohydrates, alcohol, caffeine, and trans fats.
Journaling can be a therapeutic form of self-expression, an exercise in mindfulness, and a stress management practice – all of which are critical to managing depression.
Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is an effective means of addressing both the symptoms and root causes of depression. Talk therapy can help one to adjust to major life changes, analyze relationships and experiences, reform negative or destructive behaviors, and construct goals for oneself in the time to come.
- Structure + Routine
Those with depression often find themselves at a loss for motivation – absent of the drive for work or the desire to engage in traditional hobbies they may have once had. Creating a routine for oneself helps to add structure and revitalize a sense of purposefulness. It is imperative, of course, that this new routine should balance time between obligatory activities and those that serve to bring one joy.
- Stay Connected
Among the most common errors of those experiencing depression is the tendency to indulge in social isolation. Do your best to continue to partake in activities and attend social events even when you don’t feel up to it. Surrounding oneself with friends and remaining actively engaged in social activities may initially seem taxing, but rebuffing isolationist tendencies may ultimately help to mitigate the effects of depression.
Capitalize on the support of loved ones, and when given the opportunity – reverse this direction of support. Studies have demonstrated people tend to achieve a greater level of emotional satisfaction and mood improvement from providing support as opposed to just receiving it. This may mean it is in one’s interest to adopt a pet, do some form of volunteer work, or help one’s friends to maneuver obstacles of their own.
- Regular, Sufficient, and Productive Sleep
Maintaining regular sleeping patterns is essential for people experiencing depression. Irregular or insufficient sleeping habits tend to amplify the effects of depression and further hinder one’s ability to engage in the positive behaviors discussed here, such as exercise and social interaction. It ought to be understood that the average adult requires 7-9 hours of sleep each night and should aim to go to bed and wake up on a regular schedule.
For those who believe they may be experiencing depression, it is highly advised you seek professional help. This may mean contacting your primary care provider or finding a therapist near you. There are multiple forms of treatment for depression including behavioral therapy, medication, and alternative self-help regimens. Know the resources at your disposal and don’t hesitate to ask for help.