Depression affects over 19 million American each year. For some, the depression is fleeting, while others cope with ups and downs throughout their entire life. Women are more likely to suffer than men, but depression can hit anyone at any stage of life. Severe depression, or depression accompanied by manic phases, often requires medication. However, even those taking medication can benefit from depression self-help techniques.
Maintain a Healthy Body
While exercising may be down at the bottom of the list your priorities when just getting out of bed in the morning seems like a monumental task, regular exercise can help alleviate depression. If jumping on a treadmill or hitting the gym is out of the question, take smaller steps. Walk around the block, take the stairs instead of the elevator, or do some yard work.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet can also go a long way to helping alleviate depression. Avoid sugar and simple carbohydrates, which only provide a temporary rush before sending blood sugar crashing to the floor. Focus on complex carbohydrates, protein, and fruits and vegetables. Some depression sufferers also benefit from taking a B-complex vitamin.
Getting the right amount of sleep can be a challenge for those with depression. For some, tossing and turning for hours every night is a fact of life, while others are unable to do much more than sleep away the day. Try to get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. Establishing and sticking to a nighttime routine can help tell the brain that it is time for bed. A warm bath with lavender salts or bubbles may entice the mind to relax. Meditation, yoga, or any other quiet activity is also helpful.
Find a Creative Outlet
Throughout history, some of the most popular examples of art came from the mind of a depressed person. Numerous poets and writers, from Sylvia Plath to William Faulkner, created their most famous works while suffering from depression. Artists such as Vincent Van Gogh and Jackson Pollock used their depression to create visual masterpieces, while Rodney Dangerfield and Drew Carey used humor to push through dark times. A creative outlet doesn’t necessarily require actual talent- painting by number is just as relaxing as painting a piece worthy of hanging in a gallery. Writing in a journal, singing along loudly to the radio, or dancing around the house when no one is looking are all great forms of self-expression.
Those who have no desire to create something themselves may find joy is reveling in the creation of others. Reading, watching an upbeat movie, or strolling through an art museum can be just as mentally liberating. For some, reading books or watching movies about others suffering from depression is very helpful- it reminds them that they are not alone.
Create a Support Network
Creating a strong network of supportive people is an important depression self-help technique. Psychotherapy with a qualified professional, such as a psychologist or therapist, is a great way to work through depression, but having a network available any time of the day or night helps when the doctor is out of the office. Friends, family members and clergy are often a great source of support. Support groups with others suffering from the same condition may also be beneficial.
Depression self-help is a game of trial and error, not a one-size-fits-all answer. If one technique doesn’t work, try another. Take it one moment at a time, keep moving forward, and remember that depression is a medical condition, not a defining characteristic.
Helpguide.org: Dealing with Depression- Self-Help and Coping Tips
PubMed Health: Major Depression
Mayo Clinic: Depression