When depression hit’s, not all of us have external support to help drag us back to some sort of stability. The good thing is you can be your own hero by using thesse self help strategies to beat depression.
Depression is not the type of illness to fight on your own. You need to use the resources available to you to improve your state of mind. Self-help includes asking for help from the right people around you when you need it.
Use these 17 self help strategies I have put together as a toolbox for beating your depression. They are not the typical answers you will find all over the web. There are so many articles out there written by people who have no idea how depression really feels. Unless you have experienced it, you will never understand how to tackle this beast.
The strategies which are recommended are by someone who suffers from Major Depressive Disorder for over a decade, that is me.
NAMI has a range of groups that support people who suffer from mental illness as well as loved ones who are affected by someone who suffers from a mental disorder.
There is nothing more soothing than sitting in a circle with others that suffer from the same illness. It allows you to feel less alienated. The acceptance of others that understand how you feel is disarming as people that do not suffer from depression find it very hard to understand. Working with like minded individuals is a great self help strategy for depression.
NAMI’s support groups are:
By sharing your experiences in a safe setting, you can gain hope and develop supportive relationships. This group allows your voice to be heard and provides an opportunity for your personal needs to be met.
You’ll benefit from other’s experiences, discover your inner strength and empower yourself by sharing your own experiences in a non-judgmental space.
NAMI Family Support Group will help you:
Group therapy was and still is a powerful self help strategy for my depression. In my personal experience was more helpful that 1:1 therapy.
It’s time to ditch the labels. It is very common for someone to say I am depressed or I am anxious. We hear people say he or she is crazy. Or you are so ADD. What we don’t hear is she is so diabetic, or I am heart disease.
Why is that? Most people don’t define themselves by their medical condition. Unless it comes to mental illness. Why do people and most importantly sufferers label themselves as their condition when it comes to mental health?
It is really important that you identify that your depression is not who you are. You are You who suffers from depression at times. You are not depression.
Once you dump the label it can help you feel less guilty and ashamed. It brings new hope and a fresh outlook. You are not labeled by your levels of dopamine you are labeled as you, as perfect and unique as you are.
If you are medicated check that you have been taking it regularly as prescribed. If you forget you can:
If you are not on medication it is always good to seek the advice of a medical professional. There is a very big difference between being sad and depressed. Depression will not just fade away the next day. Sometimes we need to reach out to someone that is more qualified to help ourselves beat depression.
Being depressed can be physically and mentally exhausting. It may be too much for you to get out of bed for days or weeks. I try to permit myself a time out day or maybe two.
This allows me to not feel guilty as to all the things I ‘should be doing’ and let my body rest. My time out days usually include:
Just remember its not good for your depression to lay around and not do anything for a long time. But I do like to give myself a 1-3 day pass and then I will move into the must-do activities.
I know I know this one is easier said than done. If you really struggle with trying to get out of the house try and stand on your balcony, backyard or an open front door. Breathe in the fresh air.
If you can get out go for a gentle walk, get some sun on your skin and say hi to the people as you walk by. A little light non-personal human connection helps.
This is one of the most important self help strategies for depression. Knowing what brings episodes on allows you to prepare for the rough seas ahead.
Take note of recent events, dreams, interactions with people or reoccurring thoughts. Write them down in a notebook or keep a mood journal this will help you identify triggers so that you can begin to process what the root cause is.
It’s not a short journey but you do need to start somewhere.
Having people around can raise your spirits. When your down you may want to keep it low key. Why not invite a friend over to watch a movie and order in some pizza? A few other fun low key things to do are:
I like to opt-in for movies because you don’t have to talk a lot and sometimes our depression is not something we want to open up about.
Sunlight is a natural depression fighter. It’s full of serotonin (SSRIs) in which a chemical is found in antidepressant medication.
When the body receives sunlight, the natural serotonin levels increase. The more sunlight the human body is exposed to, the more serotonin the brain produces.
Don’t go and get yourself fried, do go out and catch some rays.
We all know that sleeping all day when your depressed is not good for you, it just exacerbates the insomnia giant that comes like a thief in the night. Short naps of twenty minutes can be good for you as it does not tell your body that you have already slept.
If you are struggling to sleep at night make sure you have a good sleeping pill to give you a good night’s sleep. When insomnia kicks in it will only make your symptoms worsen, so make sleep a priority.
If over the counter medicine is not doing it for you to seek help from a medical professional for help. If your depression is situational or from trauma I would advise against using Ambien as it can produce trauma-related nightmares. That is the last thing you will need!
A great way to help you sleep is to create a sleeping haven.
Creating a great space for sleep is important for those who struggle with insomnia is a great self help strategy for depression.
Read the full article on self help sleep remedies here.
Gratitude and mood journals can keep an active log of how you are feeling each day. This is a powerful tool in helping you identify triggers, mood and medication changes.
For my mood journal, I like to put on a scale of 1-10 how I am feeling that day. I also use words like happy, content, indifferent etc. I have a gratitude journal that incorporates both gratitude and mood journaling in one.
You can find it in this article on improving self-esteem here.
According to the Positive Psychology Progress; A five-minute daily gratitude journal can increase your long-term well-being by more than 10 percent. That is more than a pay increase!
As someone who struggles with MDD (Major Depressive Disorder) a gratitude journal is something that has made a big difference in the way, I start my day off. After joining an outpatient center that specializes in MDD after the birth of my second child we had to report how we felt every day and give one highlight of the day before.
This really changed my way of thinking about Gratitude journals. I had always thought that I needed to put big grand gestures in there but hearing the groups highlight of their day and mine really made me appreciate the simple things. It’s the small and simple things that we’re bringing everyone true happiness. Many of the daily highlights were:
If you’re wondering how you can start your day with a Gratitude journal and your day has not started I always base my questions and answers on the day before. This puts me in a good mindset and eliminates negative self-talk.
A simple DIY gratitude journal would be to simply write down the highlight of your previous day in the morning.
Q: What was the highlight of your previous day or night?
A: Going for a swim in the warm water.
The three good things gratitude journal comes from therapistaid.com. I like how this journal has different questions every day and it prompts you to write three positive aspects of your day.
This is not something I would recommend to someone who is suffering from depression as it may be a little overwhelming and you may just want to stick with V1. Below are the questions:
Meditation is a great way to notice the thoughts and feelings that are popping up inside you. This allows you to recognize these thoughts and practice reframing them. (Find out more about reframing here)
Realizing that they are only thoughts and these thoughts may possibly be very untrue, we do not need to act or react due to these negative thought processes.
“This helps provide some distance from those negative thoughts or stressful feelings, allowing you to recognize that, although they affect you, they are not you,” says Dr. Denninger.
“Meditation trains the brain to achieve sustained focus, and to return to that focus when negative thinking, emotions, and physical sensations intrude — which happens a lot when you feel stressed and anxious,” says Dr. John W. Denninger, director of research at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.
Meditation is very simple to do, but hard to tackle internally. In today’s society we are not trained to sit still, especially in silence. Meditation could be as simple as sitting with your breath. Place your attention on your nostrils and feel the cold air coming in and the warm air coming out.
If you need a vocal guide then simply listen to my beginner’s meditation below:
If you are finding it hard to sit still then a moving meditation could be for you.
Moving meditations can include:
If your depression is making it really hard for you to leave the house then try this moving meditation that can be done in your bed.
So you have probably let yourself roll around in your sweat pants for days. By day three you need to get dressed. It doesn’t matter what you wear as long as its not sweat pants or pajamas. Try to opt for an outfit that makes you feel good.
Yes, we have all heard it before, exercising is good for depression. Get outside so that you can combine your serotonin exposure with some feel-good endorphins.
Now I am biased but I do love aerial for beating depression. When we spend time upsidedown it flushes our brains with oxygen. This refreshes the brain. Not only do we get endorphins from exercising, but we receive powerful adrenaline from aerial too. It’s a win-win.
Personal hygiene gets a little neglected when we are down in the dumps. To fight your depression make sure you still keep a hygiene routine of:
If you have the energy to do more that is great! If not try and implement the four strategies above.
Mental illness is not simply all in our heads. There are biological differences in the brain between someone who suffers from depression and someone who does not.
Make sure you find a good Psychiatrist and Psychologist. These doctors need to be used as part of a complete wellbeing plan for you.
Your Psychiatrist should be able to stabilize your mood while your Psychologist can help you discover what is hidden in your subconscious. There could be triggers that are happening that you have no idea of.
Make it clear to your psychologist that you do not want to simply talk. You want to work on CBT cognitive-based therapy. This will help shift your thoughts and emotions into a better place.
Did you know that so many of us are well fed yet lack essential nutrients to feed our bodies the right fuel it needs?
When the body is nutritionally deficient it can result in depression. Increase your uptake on fruit and veggies and maybe the blues may have had to do with your diet.
While not all of us are that lucky. It is still really important to fuel your body right. 3 meals and 3 snacks a day will help keep your blood sugars stable and avoid the hangry mood swings.
While there is no permanent cure for depression it is something we will have to manage for the rest of our lives. (Unless you have situational depression)
Just remember when you are overwhelmed by the darkness that this too shall pass. Ride the wave and know that you will be feeling better soon.
I hope you enjoyed my 17 self help strategies to beat depression. Do you have additional self help strategies for depression that you use? I would love to hear them and I am sure our readers would too.
Keep fighting that good fight,
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