It is important to learn how to deal with depression as major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability in the United States between the ages of 15 and 44. In fact, depression affects more than 16.1million American adults in any given year.
Dealing with depression can be very difficult as there are a number of symptoms that are associated with the disorder, including a persistent feeling of sadness and a loss of interest. The severity of depression can vary from one person to the next and severe cases can dramatically impact a person’s quality of life. Those who experience depression are far more likely to have multiple episodes of depression throughout their lifetime. Those who develop chronic depression may have symptoms that last for years, if untreated.
In learning how to deal with depression, it is important to review the common symptoms of depression in order to readily be able to recognize the disorder. The most common symptoms of depression include:
- Persistent and chronic feelings of hopelessness, emptiness or sadness.
- Angry outbursts, increased irritability and frequent frustration.
- Disturbances in sleep, including getting an amount of sleep that is too much or too little.
- Fatigue and an overall lack of energy.
- Slowed thinking, speech or body movements.
- A reduced or increased appetite that results in unintended weight loss or gain.
- An increase in anxiety, agitation and restlessness.
- Feelings of worthlessness, guilt or self-blame.
- Trouble concentrating, trouble with recollection or trouble making decisions.
- Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.
- Suicide attempts.
Overcoming depression can be a challenge to those afflicted, but it is more than possible through a combination of therapy, medication and lifestyle changes. While depression is common within the United States, there are certain risk factors that increase the overall risk of developing the condition, including:
- Biological differences within the brain.
- Changes in brain chemistry function or effects.
- A family history of depression.
- Hormonal changes and hormonal imbalances.
- Alcohol or recreational drug abuse.
- Certain personality traits, including dependency and low self-esteem.
- Certain medications, including some medications used to treat high blood pressure or sleep disorders.
Statistically, women are more likely to be diagnosed with depression. However, experts believe that those statistics may be, in part, due to the fact that women are far more likely to seek treatment for depression symptoms. While depression can occur at any age, it is most commonly seen in teens and adults in their 20’s and 30’s.
Tip 1. Develop a Strong Support Network
Living with depression can be far more difficult if you feel alone or if you have isolated yourself. One of the best ways to begin overcoming depression is by creating a strong social support network, reaching out to others for help and staying connected to that social support network. You can reach out for support for your depression by:
- Looking for support from people who make you feel safe, heard and cared for.
- Spending time with others face to face rather than through phone calls, texting or social media.
- Finding ways to support others, such as through listening to a friend in need or volunteering.
- Joining a support group for depression in order to reduce your isolation and share your experiences.
- Engaging in social activities, even if you “do not feel like it”.
While developing and maintaining a strong social network can be very difficult when afflicted with depression, having great support has been shown to play an essential role in overcoming the disorder.
Tip 2. Improve Your Sleeping Habits
Living with depression can become more difficult if you are not getting enough sleep each night. In fact, one 2014 study found that up to 80 percent of people diagnosed with a major depressive disorder also experienced sleep disturbances. Sleep disturbances then increase a person’s risk for depression, creating a vicious cycle.
Improving your sleeping habits and striving for a good sleep hygiene can improve both the quality and quantity of sleep, potentially alleviating some of the symptoms of depression. To improve sleeping habits:
- Wake up at the same time each morning and strive to go to bed around the same time each night.
- Reserve your bed for sleep.
- Turn all of your electronics off at least an hour before you go to bed.
- Ensure that your bedroom is dark and at a comfortable temperature.
- Do not eat any heavy meals within three hours of bedtime.
Tip 3. Start Eating a Well Rounded and Healthy Diet
There are several correlations between managing depression and making a conscious decision to eat a healthy diet. Several studies have shown that improving nutrition not only assists in the treatment of mental illness, but can also assist in preventing episodes of depression.
While there is no magic diet that solves depression, experts recommend a balanced diet and to avoid overeating. If overweight or obese, a diet that promotes weight loss can ease the symptoms of depression as well as improve a person’s overall health. Additionally, there is some evidence that certain foods, such as foods with omega-3 fatty acids and folic acid, can ease depression symptoms.
Tip 4. Reduce Your Overall Stress Levels
When learning how to deal with depression, it is important to understand the effects that stress can have on your mental health. When under stress, the body produces a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol can be beneficial, however, too much cortisol over a long period of time can have detrimental effects, including weight gain and depression.
By reducing your overall stress levels, you can reduce the production of cortisol, therefore potentially reducing the symptoms of depression that you may be experiencing. Additionally, by developing new coping skills, you may be better equipped to deal with future episodes of depression.
Tip 5. Curb Your Negative Thinking
Living with depression can make it easy to perpetuate the negative thoughts that lead you to further depression. By challenging negative thinking, you can empower yourself, improve your situation and find new ways to see yourself and your expectations for the future.
Negative thinking is a common symptom of depression. However, to manage depression, it is crucial that you understand that these thoughts are irrational, pessimistic attitudes. Common negative and unrealistic ways of thinking include:
- All-or-nothing thinking that results in looking at things in a “black and white” perspective.
- Overgeneralization and negative expectations about the future due to a single negative experience.
- Noticing all the things that go wrong, rather than the things that go right.
- Diminishing positive events.
- Jumping to conclusions.
If you feel that you may have destructive thought patterns that are furthering your feeling of depression, you can initiate change by challenging these thoughts. Challenge these thought patterns with questions such as:
- Is there evidence that the thought or idea is true?
- If a friend had the same thought, what would you tell them?
- Is there another way of looking at the situation?
- Would you look at the situation the same way if you were not depressed?
Tip 6. Find a Hobby or Job That Brings You Joy
If you are dealing with depression, you are likely experiencing a loss of interest in many of the activities that you once enjoyed. However, to better manage depression, it is important to commit to those activities, regardless of whether or not you feel up to it.
It is likely that the disinterest that you feel is a symptom of your depression and that, once you engage in the activity, you may still find enjoyment out of it. Having fun and feeling joy are powerful combatants to depressive symptoms. Therefore, even if it sounds difficult, it is important to work at having fun, even if the idea of these activities initially sound like a chore.