What is depression?
Depression involves a persistent feeling of sadness or feeling down and losing interest or pleasure in performing activities. The most common symptoms include fatigue, loss of energy, losing interest in activities, depressed mood, and thoughts of death or suicide or an attempt at suicide. The cause of depression may a combination of biological, environmental, physiological and genetic factors. It is important to fight back depression to regain a normal and healthy life.
Why is it difficult to overcome depression?
Depression drains energy, drive, and even hopes to perform simple day-to-day activities. These thoughts make it difficult to beat depression. Fighting with depression is not an easy or quick task. Lots of control, determination, and support are required to deal with depression. If you start taking small steps, slowly and steadily, you will start feeling better. Fighting with depression is a time-taking process, but you can overcome depression by making the right choices for yourself each day.
Ways to Deal with Depression
The following steps will help you deal with depression:
Reach Out and Stay Connected
It can be difficult to maintain healthy outlook and make efforts to fight depression on your own. Support from friends, family, and dear ones plays an essential role in overcoming depression. Depression does not allow connecting with people around you. It leads to detachment and isolation from close family members and friends.
During depression you may feel exhausted to talk, ashamed at your situation, and guilty for neglecting certain relationships. If you try and make an effort to stay connected and take part in social activities, then it will make a great difference in your mood and outlook.
The following steps will help to stay connected with people around you:
Look for Support from People Who Make You Feel Safe and Care for You
Support is not physical or mental support which will help fix up all the troubles you are facing; rather, look for people who can be good listeners. People those who listen attentively and compassionately without being distracted or judging you will be a great help in coping up with depression.
Make Face-Time a Priority
You should make a point to stay in touch with people through either in person or through any electronic media such as phone calls, texting, and social media. The best and simplest way to talk to someone is face-to-face about your feeling. You can even call or email your old friends.
Try to keep up with Social Activities
During depression you feel more comfortable in your shell alone, but you should make an effort to connect with people around you. This connection will make you feel better and fight with depression at a faster pace. You can socialize by accompanying someone to movies, a concert, or a small get together.
Find Ways to Support Others
When you help people around you, it could be a great mood booster. You can support others by volunteering in their work, listening to your friend, or simply doing something nice for someone.
Care for a Pet
Pets bring joy and companionship in your life and also help you feel less isolated. Caring for a pet provides us with the most powerful antidote to depression. It helps in getting us out of our shell and provides a sense of being needed. Antidotes are extremely helpful in overcoming depression.
Join a Support Group for Depression
Joining a support group withdraws feeling of isolation and loneliness and we start connecting to new people. It involves sharing you own experiences, which provides encouragement to each other and give and receive advice on how to cope up with depression.
Do Things Which Make You Feel Good
You should perform small activities which will make you feel relax as well as energize you. These include following a healthy lifestyle, learning how to better manage stress, setting limits on what you are able to do, and scheduling fun activities in your routine.
During depression, you may not feel like doing any kind of work, but a small effort can make you upbeat and energetic, as you make time for fun activities.
The following steps will help during depression:
Pick up a Hobby
You can pick up any hobby or sport you like. Express yourself through music, art, or writing. You can also go out with friends or visit a museum or mountains or ballpark.
Aim for Eight Hours of Sleep
You may experience sleep difficulties during depression such as insufficient sleep or excessive sleep. These sleep difficulties can cause frequent mood swings and make to feel upset and uncomfortable. The quality of your sleep affects your mental sharpness, productivity, emotional balance, creativity, physical vitality, and weight. One can get a healthy sleep by practicing some healthy sleep habits.
Keep Stress in Check
Stress can prolong and worsen depression and also trigger it. It is vital to identify the causes of stress such as work load, money issues, or unsupportive relationships. You can find ways to relieve pressure caused owing to stress and regain control.
Practice Relaxation Techniques
Practicing simple relaxation techniques on a daily basis will help fight depression symptoms, reduce stress, and boost feeling of joy and well-being. You can perform yoga, deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation exercises, and meditation.
Develop a Wellness Toolbox to Deal with Depression
Make a list of small activities which can boost your mood. You can perform some of these activities daily, even if you feel good. By performing certain mood-lifting activities, you can gradually overcome depression. These activities include:
- Spend some time with nature
- List what you like about yourself
- Read a good book
- Watch a funny movie or TV show
- Take a long, hot bath
- Take care of a few tasks
- Play with a pet
- Talk to friends or family face-to-face
- Listen to music
- Do something spontaneous
Face up your Fears
You should not avoid difficult situations. Facing your fears will help you motivate and the situations may become easier.
Exercise is a powerful and important tool to fight depression. It releases endorphins which improve our natural immunity and mood. It also prevents the occurrence of certain lifestyle disorders such as low blood pressure, heart diseases, and cancer as well as boosts our self-esteem. Research indicates that regular exercise can be more effective than meditation to fight symptoms of depression. It also reduces the chances of a relapse.
You should exercise for at least 30 minutes daily. In the beginning 10 minutes of walk will be beneficial as it will enlighten your mood for 2 hours.
Exercising on a daily basis will help you overcome depression in the following ways:
Exercise will improve your Fatigue
During depression, you may feel exhausted and it will be difficult to start exercising. Slowly as you start doing some exercise, you will feel energized and less fatigued and your energy levels will rise steadily.
Find Exercises which are Continuous and Rhythmic
Rhythmic exercises are most beneficial to deal with depression. These include movement of both hands and legs such as walking, dancing, swimming, weight training, and martial arts.
Add a Mindful Element
A mindful element is added during exercise, if your depression is due to unresolved trauma or fed by excessive, negative thoughts. It involves focusing on how your body feels as you move such as sensation of your feet hitting the ground or feeling of wind on your skin or the rhythm of your breathing.
Pair up with an Exercise Partner
Exercising with a partner helps you socialize and also motivates you to continue exercising on a daily basis. You can join a running club, take up water aerobics or a dance class, seek out tennis partners, or enroll in a soccer or volleyball league.
Take a Dog for a Walk
If you have a pet dog, make a routine to take him to walk on a daily basis. If you don’t have a pet dog, then you can volunteer to walk homeless dogs for an animal shelter or a rescue group. This will help you socialize and boost your energy levels.
Eat a Healthy Depressing Fighting Diet
Your mood and energy levels are greatly affected by the food you eat. You should closely monitor the food you consume. Certain food habits which will help to beat depression include:
Avoid Feel-Good Foods
You should reduce the intake of food items which adversely affect your brain and mood such as caffeine, alcohol, Trans-fats, and foods containing a large amount of chemical preservatives or hormones.
Don’t Skip Meals
Having a long gap between meals can make you feel tried and irritable. You should eat something at least every 3-4 hours.
Minimize Sugar and Refined Carbohydrates in your Diet
You should minimize the intake of sugary and refined carbohydrates such as sugary snacks, baked goods, comfort foods such as pasta and French fries. These food products will help you feel good for a short duration and then lead to a crash in your mood and energy.
Boost your B-Vitamins
Deficiency in vitamins such as folic acid and vitamin B12 can trigger depression. You can take vitamin supplements or consume foods rich in vitamins such as citrus fruits, leafy green vegetables, beans, chicken, and egg.
Eat Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids play an essential role in stabilizing your mood. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, tuna, and some cold-water fish oil supplements.
Have an Iron Rich Diet
Low levels of iron cause fatigue, difficulty to concentrate and also decrease your mental awareness. Thereby, it makes it difficult to cope up with depression. You should consume foods rich in iron such as cow meat, lamb meat, fish, green beans, broccoli, and whole wheat bread.
Get a Daily Dose of Sunlight
Sunlight helps in increasing your serotonin levels and improves your mood. You should expose yourself to sunlight for at least 15 minutes daily. You can take the following steps to get adequate amount of sunlight on a daily basis:
- Take a walk outside during the lunch break
- Have your coffee outside
- Enjoy an alfresco meal
- Spend time gardening
- You can exercise outside such as hiking, walking in a local park, or playing golf or tennis with a friend
- You can increase the amount of sunlight inside your home by opening up the blinds and drapes or sitting near the windows
- If you live where there is little winter sunshine, then you can try light therapy box.
Some people feel depressed due to the less daylight hours during winters; such a condition is known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). A SAD patient may feel completely different during winter season. He/she may feel hopeless, sad, stressed, and have no interest in friends or activities he/she loved to do. You can use a 300 watt sunlamp bulb within three feet for 20 minutes, three times in a day. The sunlamp will be helpful in beating depression during winters.
Challenge Negative Thinking
Depression causes a negative mindset toward yourself and your expectation for future. People tend to accept this negative identity as a true representation of who they are. You may have cognitive distortions which are irrational and pessimistic attitude toward life and your own self. It is quite difficult to break the pessimistic mind frame.
Slowly we make a life-long pattern of thinking, which does not even make us aware when we are actually engrossed in our thoughts. The best way to deal with negative thoughts during depression is to identify which type of negative thought you are experiencing and replace them with a more balanced way of thinking.
The different negative, unrealistic ways of thinking that fuel depression include:
All-or-nothing thinking involves thinking between black-or-white categories, and there exists a middle ground. This majorly involves extremely negative thoughts or evaluation of people or events around you. Example: ‘If I fall short of perfection, I am a total failure’.
Overgeneralization involves generalizing your life on the basis a single negative experience and expecting it to hold true forever. Rather, you should stick to facts and observations which will help you deal with depression. Example: ‘I can’t do anything right’)
The Mental Filter
Mental filter involves focusing on negative events and ignoring the positive ones. You may start noticing only the things which went wrong rather than all the things which went right.
Diminishing the Positive
Diminishing the positive involves to come up with reasons why positive events don’t matter. Example: ‘She said she had a good time on our date, but I think she was just being nice’.
Jumping to Conclusions
Jumping to conclusion involves making negative interpretations without actual evidence. You may act like a mind reader or fortune teller. Example: ‘He must think I’m pathetic’.
Emotional reasoning involves believing that the way you feel reflects reality. Example: ‘I feel like such a loser. I am really no good!’
‘Should’ and ‘Should-not’
When you hold yourself to a strict list of what you should and shouldn’t do and also punish yourself up when you don’t live up to those rules, it indicates that you may suffer from ‘should’ and ‘should-not’ type of negative thoughts.
Labeling involves classifying yourself or others on their mistakes and perceived shortcomings. Example: ‘I’m a failure, a loser’.
Doom thinking involves thinking that one bad thing will trigger more bad things and everything will turn out into a disaster. Such a thought may take away your self-esteem, drive, and motivation.
Upon identifying the type of negative thought you may experience, you can start challenge them with these simple steps as:
- Write down what triggers a negative thought against you or your behavior
- ‘What the evidence is there that this thought is true? Or not true?’
- Write down the evidence that these thoughts are actually true
- Compare the arguments for and against a particular negative thought and try to eliminate each thought which did not proved to be strong evidence.
- ‘What would I tell a friend who had this thought?’
- ‘Is there any other way of looking at this situation or an alternative explanation for it?’
- ‘How might I look at this situation if I didn’t have depression?’
- Find a more balanced thought
As you analyze your negative thoughts in this manner, you may start removing them from your mind. This technique is extremely helpful in gaining a balanced perceptive and overcoming depression. This technique may be difficult at times; you can consult a doctor or a professional therapist.
You should lower your expectation toward yourself and others to stop disappointments and should also stop punishing yourself. It is all right if you cannot complete all activities and expectations in life.
If you start setting realistic goals and work steadily toward them, then you may increase the chances of experiencing success, which will bring back drive and joy to live a happy life. Setting unrealistic goals will be difficult to achieve and may increase your depression symptoms.
Ways to setup long-term and short-term goals for your life include:
- Close your eyes and picture yourself 5-10 years from now.
- Think of what you would have achieved by then
- Try to picture this event with different aspects
- Note these points down
- Reread the written point and add some if you had missed any point
- Repeat this process 2 more times to identify three different long-term goals
- Take one long-term goal and answer the following question: ‘what do I need to do to get their?’
- Write down the process
- Keep continue to answer these question.
- All these points will be the short-term goals
- Repeat this process for all the long-term goals you had listed
If you face difficulty in setting up long-term goals for 5-10 years, then you can set them up for 1 year and work toward them. Setting realistic goals will be easier to achieve and bring back happiness in your life.
Use Touch Therapy
Research has proven that touch therapy can be extremely helpful to cope up with depression. It lowers your stress hormone cortisol and increases the level of feel-good hormone oxytocin in your body. Some common touch therapies include acupuncture, acupressure, massage, reiki, and reflexology.
Try your best to distract yourself from over thinking. Over thinking will aggravate your condition during depression. You can distract yourself by any activity which can take your mind off from your worries and tensions such as playing with your pet, reading a book, or finishing a puzzle. Keeping yourself busy is an effective way to overcome depression.
When do you require professional help to deal with depression?
If you have taken self-help steps and have made lifestyle changes, but still your condition is worse than you should consult a doctor. During depression, you may have negative thoughts about the treatment or medical help you may undergo, but depression can be effectively treated and you can regain a normal life. The doctor may recommend talking therapies, antidepressants, and self-help activities to fight back depression.
The doctor may recommend cognitive therapy for the treatment of depression. It involves understanding of your current thought pattern and identifies any harmful or false ideas and thoughts which can trigger depression or make it worse. Cognitive therapy helps you avoid such ideas and thoughts and help your thought pattern to be more realistic and helpful.
Along with medication and tests performed by your doctor, you can continue with self-help activities. These self-help activities can speed up the recovery process and prevent the relapse of depression.