There is a range of ways to deal with depression, and often they are best used in conjunction with each other. The primary medical options are Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), antidepressant medication, and in some severe cases, Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT). Education and coping strategies are also important when learning to manage your depression.
The symptoms of depression can be addressed to help you feel better. Here are some ways to deal with these symptoms:
- Set goals for daily activity. Plan full days of useful activity by making a list of the activities you are going to engage in at different times during the day. Try to stick to this plan as closely as possible.
- What activities do you enjoy? Try to increase the amount of time you spend on these enjoyable activities.
- Avoid comparing the way you are behaving or feeling now while you are depressed with the way you used to behave or feel before becoming depressed.
- Reward yourself for your efforts. Ask others around you to encourage and praise you for each small step you take. Recovering from depression is a bit like learning to walk again after breaking your leg.
- If a task seems too difficult, do not despair. Break the task down into even easier steps and start again more slowly.
LOSS OF APPETITE
Eat small portions of food that you particularly like. Take your time and do not feel pressured to finish if you are eating with others. Drink plenty of fluids. What you eat has a direct impact on the way you feel. Reduce your intake of foods that can adversely affect your brain and mood, such as caffeine, alcohol, Trans-fats, and foods with high levels of chemical preservatives or hormones (such as certain meats).
LOSS OF INTEREST IN SEX
Seek nonsexual activities with your partner that you still enjoy. Explain to your partner that your loss of interest and affection is a symptom of your depression, not a rejection of him or her, and that these symptoms will be temporary.
- Get up at the same time every morning.
- Avoid sleeping during the day.
- Reduce tea and coffee intake if excessive (no more than two or three cups per day and none after about 4:00 p.m.).
- Do not lie awake for more than about thirty minutes—get up and find a relaxing activity.
- Try relaxation exercises.
MISERABLE FEELINGS, UNPLEASANT THOUGHTS
These negative thoughts and feelings tend to focus your attention on things you do not like about yourself or your life situation. These thoughts also tend to make your problems seem worse than they really are. As well as concentrating on your negative features and experiences, when you are depressed, you tend to underestimate your positive characteristics and your ability to solve problems. A number of strategies may help you achieve a more balanced view of things:
- Make a list of your three best features—perhaps with the help of a friend or relative. Carry the list with you and read it to yourself whenever you find yourself focusing on negative thoughts.
- Keep a daily record of all the small pleasant things that happen and discuss these events with your friends when you see them.
- Recall pleasant occasions in the past and plan pleasant occasions for the future (this may best be done in conversation with a friend).
- Consider alternative explanations for unpleasant events or thoughts. Although your initial explanation may be that you are at fault, rethink these conclusions and write down all other possible explanations for these events or thoughts.
- Keep yourself busy doing useful activities. Avoid sitting or lying about doing nothing.
WORRYING OR INEFFICIENT THINKING
Put your worry to a useful purpose. Rather than endlessly pinpointing your problems, pick out one or two that seem really important and make a decision to resolve them. You may like to ask a friend to help you.
Go through the following steps:
- Say exactly what the problem (or goal) is.
- List five or six possible solutions to the problem. Write down any ideas that occur to you, not merely the good ideas.
- Evaluate the good and bad points of each idea in turn.
- Choose the solution that best fits your needs.
- Plan exactly the steps you will take to put the solution into action.
- Review your efforts after attempting to carry out the plan. Praise all efforts. If unsuccessful, start again.
DON’T ISOLATE YOURSELF
When depressed, you may hear thoughts telling you to be alone, keep quiet and not to bother people with your problems. Again, these thoughts should be treated like parasites that try to keep your body from getting healthy. Do not listen to them. When you feel bad, even if you feel embarrassed, confiding in a friend or voicing your struggles can lighten your burden and begin a process of ending your unhappiness. Talking about your problems or worries is not a self-centered or self-pitying endeavor. Friends and family, especially those who care about you, will appreciate knowing what’s going on.
WATCH A FUNNY TV SHOW OR MOVIE
It may seem silly or all too simple, but anything that makes you laugh or smile can actually help convince your brain you are happy. If you look at depression as your critical inner voice having tricked you into feeling bad, then you can have your own tricks ready to fight depression. Play your favorite sitcom, watch a funny movie or read a comical writer. Don’t think of this exercise as merely a distraction, but as an effective tool in reminding your brain that you can feel good again.
SEE A THERAPIST
Talking is a powerful way of combating your depression. If you feel bad, don’t let anyone tell you it’s no big deal or that you’ll just get over it. There is nothing shameful about recognizing you have a problem you alone cannot seem to resolve and to seek the help of a therapist. Asking for help is a brave act and speaking to a therapist is a healthy, productive endeavor from which every individual would benefit. Learning about the source of your pain can truly help alleviate its impact on your life by helping you to recognize and combat your critical inner voice.
With assistance, the right treatment, and a solid understanding of the disorder, you can overcome depression.
Adapted from This Way Up: https://thiswayup.org.au/how-do-you-feel/sad/