Depression can affect anyone. It can be triggered easily and unexpectedly. Some triggers include grief and loss, stress, illness, poor sleeping, financial struggles, and isolation. Learning how to cope with depression is essential for your overall well-being—depression impacts not only your mental health but can affect your physical health as well.
Symptoms of depression do not always fall into the stereotypes we see in the media or have heard over the years. Depression does not always mean feeling sad or hopeless, although those are certainly symptoms that some people experience. For others, depression may mean difficulty concentrating or getting tasks done, not enjoying activities that you previously enjoyed, changes in your appetite or sleep or energy. And for some, depression manifests as irritability or anger…feeling less patient with others or reacting more strongly that we usually would to stressors.
One way to combat depression is to plan for the future. This can seem impossible right now, but it won’t be like this forever. Loosely plan for activities for the next year. Also, planning for the future doesn’t have to be big plans. It can be as simple as scheduling time to tackle a home project. Forcing yourself to have a future orientation can help us feel less stuck when we are depressed.
Another way to combat depression is to do something you would normally enjoy even if it does not appeal to you. This is the idea of “going through the motions” or “fake it til you make it”. Feelings often follow behaviors, meaning that even if the activity does not appeal to us now, we may get enjoyment out of it if we force ourselves to engage. Whether this includes finding a hobby, playing with animals, cuddling up with a good book, spending time outside, or listening to music, finding something simple that makes you happy is a great way to combat depression.
Choosing a nutritious diet and engaging in physical activity is another great way to combat depression. Physical activity might include taking walks outside, running, going to the gym, doing yoga, participating in a dance class, or hiking. Spending time outside and movement have been found to improve symptoms of depression. Cutting back on sugar and alcohol can also be helpful for regulating our moods.
Accomplishing small tasks throughout your day is another way to combat depression. This includes making your bed, taking a shower, or making dinner. Depression can sometimes make it difficult to complete everyday tasks, but taking the time to complete these tasks can give you a sense of accomplishment. Each time we accomplish something or “check it off the list,” we get a boost of hormones that help us feel happier.
Completing a task that you have been avoiding can also be extremely beneficial. This may look like completing a load of laundry, doing the dishes, or cleaning your home. When we have tasks or projects we are avoiding, this can drain our mental energy and contribute to our feelings of failure…by completing one of these tasks, we have one less mental burden to carry.
Participating in activities that fit your values can also help you to combat depression. This may include helping someone with their grocery shopping, helping an older neighbor by making them a meal or helping them with yard work, making a donation of food, household essentials, money, etc., and safely volunteering in your community.
Each of these types of activities have been found to improve symptoms of depression and release the “happy hormones” that help us feel better. Choose one or two and commit them to your routine…you should start to see the benefits in decreasing depression and improving your overall mood with consistent practice.