Depression is more than simply feeling unhappy. It is a debilitating disorder that drains your energy, your motivation, and your self-worth. The major difference between depression and unhappiness is that depression is a persistent feeling.
It can be as frustrating dealing with someone who has depression as it is dealing with depression yourself. But know that one of the worst things you can do is tell someone who is depressed to “just snap out of it” or something similar. Just like any disorder, it takes time to work through it, so it’s important to be patient.
However, part of having depression means losing sight of how much control you actually have. While feeling better does take time, and it’s a gradual process, being persistent about your healing process is what will get you through.
The following are six steps to taking control of your emotions and overcoming your depression.
1. Practice Mindfulness
Someone in a depressed state of mind tends to hyperfocus on the negative. This can breed anxiety and further support the miserable cycle of worthlessness that comes with depression. It’s not a helpful habit to fall into when trying to overcome your depression.
The first and most simple thing you can do is breathe. Mindful breathing is scientifically proven to reduce anxiety, as it helps your nervous system shift from the animalistic “fight or flight” response to the parasympathetic nervous system which is far more relaxed.
Bringing your mind into the present moment takes your mind off of the negative thoughts. This can be accomplished through meditation. Try using your senses– sight, smell, touch, sound –to anchor yourself in the present. Practicing this helps you regulate your negative thoughts, and it gets easier to shift into the present moment.
Another mindful practice you can use is gratitude. By recognizing the good in your life– the people, things, and experiences you’re grateful for –you reinforce positivity. If you practice this enough, it becomes easier to focus on the positives in your life rather than the negatives.
Writing in a journal is also mindfulness practice. It can help move your negative thoughts out of your brain, and it also helps you gain some perspective when you’re able to read back your thoughts from a piece of paper.
2. Get More Active
It can be incredibly difficult to even roll yourself out of bed when you’re depressed, much less exercising. But exercise is highly combative of depression. It’s proven that working out on a regular basis can serve as effectively as medication for relieving symptoms of depression.
Because your body releases endorphins when you exercise, working out naturally boosts your mood. It can be hard to get started when you’re drained of energy, and all you want to do is lay in bed. But if you can just manage to begin and stick with it, that feeling of fatigue will dissipate, and your energy levels will rise.
This consistent practice of exercising also improves your immune system. It’s recommended to exercise for at least 30 minutes each day. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be 30 consecutive minutes. If you can manage a 10-minute walk, three times a day, you will be doing your mental health a huge favor.
3. Reach Out and Connect with People You Trust
This seems like a simple act, but it is often one of the hardest things to do when you’re depressed. The nature of depression keeps you feeling isolated and uninterested in connecting with others, even your closest friends and family members. But social support is vital to overcoming depression, and anxiety too.
Connecting with others when you’re depressed can help you with your perspective, and even if it’s just for a little while, it can help you feel better. There’s even research that shows people with close friends are more likely to survive traumatic life events. If you feel like you don’t have anyone to reach out to, it’s never too late to build that support network– yes, even if you’re depressed.
Here are some suggestions for how you can reach out and connect with people when you’re down:
- Talk to someone trustworthy and good at listening about your feelings
- Ask a loved one to check in with you on a regular basis
- Meet new people by taking a class or joining a club
- Call or message an old friend
- Volunteer and support somebody else
- Love on a pet
If you’re worried someone you know may have depression, they may not reach out to you. Remember that this is characteristic of depressed individuals and that you don’t have to wait for them to connect with you. In many cases, you can help someone by reaching out to them first.
4. Eat a Healthy Diet
Surely you’ve heard the phrase “you are what you eat.” In a way, that’s true. What you eat has a direct effect on how you feel. That’s why it’s so important to be mindful of what you eat, especially if you’re depressed.
According to research on depression, many sufferers of depression are frequently lack in a fatty acid called EPA. Omega-3 fatty acids have proven to decrease symptoms of anxiety and depression like sleep disorders, suicidal thoughts, and lacking sex drive. You can find these healthy fats in foods like salmon, tuna, sardines, herring, walnuts, and flaxseed. Shoot for two servings of Omega-3 per week.
Another good idea for eating healthy is to cut down own sugar and carbs. Comfort foods like pasta or baked goods will make you feel good in the moment, but give you drops in your energy later on.
If you lack in B vitamins, this can also make your depression worse. Make sure you either take a B vitamin supplement or eat more leafy greens, citrus fruits, beans, or eggs.
5. Seek Treatment
If you’ve taken all the steps you can to try to overcome depression and find it’s getting worse rather than better, it may be a good idea to seek professional help. There is no shame in pursuing treatment through therapy or medication.
A therapist can help you find healthy coping skills and to understand thought patterns and beliefs that may be hurting you.
A psychiatrist can prescribe medication that will help relieve your symptoms. If you’re not comfortable taking medication, a visit to a psychiatrist may still be helpful in understanding other treatment options out there.
6. Don’t Give Up
If you start all of these steps today, it’s highly unlikely you will feel completely better tomorrow. Overcoming depression takes time. But by building better habits, such as eating better, exercising, practicing mindfulness, and connecting with others when you’re sad, you can gradually recover from this disorder.
If you are prescribed medication, it’s important that you are committed to taking it every day. The same goes for therapy. If you’re investing in it, commit to going and working through your issues, however painful it may be. It will take time before you start seeing the effects of professional treatment.
Many people experience depression; you are not alone. The key to overcoming it is not to get rid of it but to learn how to manage it. Hang in there and keep persevering.