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What is depression?

Depression drains you of energy, hope, and drive, making it hard

to do what you need to feel better. Although overcoming depression

isn’t quick or easy, it’s not impossible. It is not as simple as willing yourself to

“snap out of it,” but you do have some control—even if your

depression is severe and persistent. The key is to start small and

build from there. Feeling better takes time, but you can get there if

you make positive choices for yourself every day. Everyone

occasionally feels down or sad. But these feelings are often

short-lived and pass within a couple of days. When you have

depression, it interferes with daily life and causes pain for both you

and those who care about you. 

Signs & Symptoms

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" feelings

  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism

  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness

  • Irritability, restlessness

  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex

  • Fatigue and decreased energy

  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions

  • Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping

  • Overeating, or appetite loss

  • Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts

  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment.

 

Tips for Dealing with Depression

The key to depression recovery is to start with a few small goals and slowly build from there. Draw upon whatever resources you have. You may not have much energy, but you probably have enough to take a short walk around the block or pick up the phone to call a loved one. 

 

#1 Get Support, Reach Out & Build Relationships

Getting the support you need plays a big part in lifting the fog of depression and keeping it away. On your own, it can be hard to keep perspective and maintain the effort needed to beat depression, but the very nature of depression makes it difficult to reach out for help. However, isolation and loneliness make depression even worse, so maintaining your close relationships and social activities are important.

The thought of reaching out to even close family members and friends can seem overwhelming. You might feel ashamed, too exhausted to talk, or guilty for neglecting the relationship. Remind yourself that this is the depression talking. Reaching out is not a sign of weakness and it won’t mean you’re a burden to others. Your loved ones care about you and want to help. And remember, it’s never too late to build new friendships and improve your support network.

  • Turn to trusted friends and family members. Share what you’re going through with the people you love and trust, face to face if possible. The people you talk to don’t have to be able to fix you; they just need to be able to listen. Ask for the help and support you need. You may have retreated from your closest relationships, but they can get you through this tough time.

  • Try to keep up with social activities even if you don’t feel like it. Often when you’re depressed, it feels more comfortable to retreat into your shell, but being around other people will make you feel less depressed.

  • Join a support group for depression. Being with others dealing with depression can help decrease your sense of isolation. You can also encourage each other, give and receive advice on how to cope, and share your experiences.

 

Tips for reaching out and building relationships

  • Talk to 1 person about your feelings

  • Help others by volunteering

  • Have lunch or coffee with a friend

  • Ask a loved one to check in on you regularly

  • Go with a friend to the movies, a concert or a small get together

  • Call or email an old friend

  • Go for a walk with an exercise buddy

  • Arrange a weekly dinner date

  • Meet new people by joining a class or club

  • Talk to a counsellor

 

#2 Challenge Negative Thinking

Depression puts a negative spin on everything, including the way you see yourself, the situations you encounter, and your expectations for the future.

But you can’t break out of this pessimistic mind frame by “just thinking positive.” Happy thoughts or wishful thinking won’t cut it. Rather, the trick is to replace negative thoughts with more balanced thoughts.

 

Tips for Challenging Negative Thinking

 

  • Think outside yourself. Ask yourself if you’d say what you’re thinking about yourself to someone else. If not, stop being so hard on yourself. Think about less harsh statements that offer more realistic descriptions.

  • Allow yourself to be less than perfect. Many depressed people are perfectionists, holding themselves to impossibly high standards and then beating themselves up when they fail to meet them. Fight this self-imposed stress by challenging your negative ways of thinking

  • Socialize with positive people. Notice how people who always look on the bright side deal with challenges, even minor ones, like not being able to find a parking space. Then consider how you would react in the same situation. Even if you have to pretend, try to adopt their optimism and persistence in the face of difficulty.

  • Keep a "negative thought log." Whenever you experience a negative thought, jot down the thought and what triggered it in a notebook. Review your log when you’re in a good mood. Consider if the negativity was truly warranted. Ask yourself if there’s another way to view the situation. For example, let’s say your boyfriend was short with you and you automatically assumed that the relationship was in trouble. It's possible, though, he’s just having a bad day.

 

#3 Take Care of Yourself

In order to overcome depression, you have to take care of yourself. This includes following a healthy lifestyle, learning to manage stress, setting limits on what you’re able to do, adopting healthy habits, and scheduling fun activities into your day.

 

  • Aim for eight hours of sleep. Too little or too much sleep will affect your mood.

  • Expose yourself to a little sunlight every day. Aim for at least 15 minutes of sunlight a day to boost your mood. 

  • Keep stress in check.  Figure out all the things in your life that stress you out and make a plan to avoid them or minimize their impact.

  • Practice relaxation techniques. Try yoga, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or meditation.

  • Care for a pet. Caring for a pet can also get you outside of yourself and give you a sense of being needed.

  • Do things you enjoy (or used to). While you can’t force yourself to have fun or experience pleasure, you can choose to do things that you used to enjoy. Pick up a  hobby or a sport you used to like. Express yourself creatively through music, art, or writing. Go out with friends. Take a day trip to a museum, the mountains, or the park.

  • Push yourself to do things, even when you don’t feel like it. You might be surprised at how much better you feel once you’re out in the world. Even if your depression doesn’t lift immediately, you’ll gradually feel more upbeat and energetic as you make time for fun activities.

  • Make a wellness toolbox

  • Make a list of things you can do to boost your mood, including anything that has helped in the past, the more tools the better. Do a few of these each day even if you are feeling good.

  • Spend time in nature

  • List what you like about yourself

  • Read a good book

  • Watch a funny movie

  • Have a bath

  • Do some things you have been putting off

  • Play with a pet

  • Talk to friends or family face to face

  • Listen to music

  • Do something spontaneous

 

#4 Get Regular Exercise

When you’re depressed, exercising may be the last thing you feel like doing. But exercise is a powerful tool for dealing with depression. In fact, studies show that regular exercise can be as effective as antidepressant medication at increasing energy levels and decreasing feelings of fatigue. Aim for 30 minutes exercise a day, however any small start will make a difference.

 

  • Take the stairs rather than the elevator

  • Park your car in the farthest spot in the lot

  • Take your dog for a walk

  • Pair up with an exercise partner

  • Walk while you’re talking on the phone

 

#5 Eat a healthy Diet

 

What you eat has a major effect on the way you feel. Aim for a balanced diet of low-fat protein, complex carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables. Reduce foods like  caffeine, alcohol, trans fats, saturated fats, and foods with high levels of chemical preservatives or hormones (such as certain meats) which can negatively affect your mood.

 

  • Don’t skip meals. Skipping meals can make you feel cranky and tired.

  • Reduce sugar and refined carbs.  These foods lead to a crash in mood and energy.

  • Focus on complex carbohydrates. Baked potatoes, whole-wheat pasta, oatmeal, and whole grain breads can boost serotonin without a crash.

  • Boost your B vitamins. Deficiencies in B vitamins  can trigger depression. Take a B-complex vitamin supplement or eat more citrus fruit, leafy greens, beans, chicken, and eggs.

  • Try super-foods rich in nutrients that can boost mood, like bananas, brown rice and spinach.

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