Depression Survival Guide
By Larry Godwin | Feb. 10, 2016
Although I am not a health care professional, I’ve seen depression from the inside. My expertise is rooted in the trials and errors of personal experience. Every person is different and therefore not all of these suggestions will work for you, just as they haven’t all worked for me. My hope is that through this list you can gain insight into at least one strategy that helps assuage your depression.
Recognize that Depression Is Not a Sign of Weakness
It’s not just sadness. Unfortunately, a lot of people still don’t understand that. Stigma still exisits that prevents people from getting help, but know that you are not alone. Millions, including everyday people and celebrities, have talked about their struggles with depression, received help and are in recovery.
Don’t Be Afraid to Get Help From a Professional
Make an appointment, whether it’s with your family physician, a licensed mental health professional or a psychiatrist. It’s important to find someone that you feel comfortable with. If you can’t afford the cost for a private visit, SAMHSA provides a treatment locator or you can call your local county health services department or mental health center for assistance. Healthcare providers draw from their areas of expertise and personal experiences. That means if one doesn’t work for you, there’s another out there who might be a better fit. Here are some more tips for finding a mental health professional.
Be a Part of Forming Your Treatment Team
Being a team is important. Being included in decisions about what works for you can make sure you help decide what’s important for you in recovery. Members of your treatment team can include your therapist, psychiatrist, or other health care provider, a trusted family member or friend, and a support group.
Don’t Struggle in Silence
Confide in those you trust, whether it’s your spouse or partner, a relative, a close friend, or your healthcare providers. You can also join a support group, either a face-to-face one in your community or online. Warmlines are also an option. They are free, peer-run support lines that provide the opportunity to speak to a peer. At the same time, be selective in how much you disclose about your illness when a casual friend or acquaintance asks how you are.
Although some treatments can bring results within a few days, many take weeks to make a difference. Follow your physician’s directions—don’t exceed what he or she recommends, and look for gradual improvement rather than huge changes overnight.
Keep a List of Things That Make You Smile and Laugh
In other words, create a rainy day fund for your mental health. Depression can come in cycles so having things that you can call on quickly that you know will help pull you up can be important. These might include a friend you can call, a compilation of funny cat videos, pictures from a fun vacation, a playlist of your favorite songs or an inspirational quote.
If Traditional Treatments Don’t Work, Explore Other Options
If common services and supports like therapy and prescription medications and supplements don’t seem to work, there are other types of treatment you can try. For example, repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), which stimulates nerve cells in the brain to improve symptoms of depression, meditation, and complementary health approaches like yoga, acupressure and acupuncture.
Engage All of Your Senses
Being aware of your surroundings and your body can help ground you and connect you to the moment. This awareness is a practice known as mindfulness. Becoming mindful takes lots of practice (and often training), but there are small things you can do on your own. For example, try to pay attention to the soft rug under your feet or the scented candle in your room. Also, you may find eating flavorful foods like chocolate can help.
Do Things That You Find Relaxing or Fun
Color, listen to uplifting music, garden, pet a furry friend and spend time doing whatever it is that makes you feel at peace. Take a vacation or staycation if you can. Doing what you love can have lasting effects after you finish.
Spending time outside improves your mood, reduces stress and anxiety, gives you energy and improves focus. Find the time to soak up some rays and get your daily dose of Vitamin D.
Explore Your Thoughts and Feelings in a Private Place
Journaling isn’t a new idea, it’s hard to get started and you may find it tedious—but it can make a difference! Just writing down your thoughts can bring validation and relief. Let any anger or frustrations that you have out on paper instead of bottling them up.
Make plans to look forward to
Fill your agenda every day. Idle time can cause you to dwell on negative thoughts, so instead keep yourself occupied. Take up a new hobby, enroll in an interesting class or volunteer to help others. Try to establish daily routines and stick to them, for they can provide structure and stability, providing mileposts to carry you through the day.
It’s been said before, but exercising releases feel-good endorphins into your brain and can lift your mood. Take long walks, jog, play tennis, join a fitness club or find another form of exercise that you enjoy. Make an exercise routine and stick to it. Start small. If you haven’t exercised in a while—or have never really gotten into it—that’s OK! Set a small goal to start out with—just 10-15 minutes a few times a week. Once you get used to the routine, keeping it going will get easier.
Surround Yourself with Positive People
A positive attitude can be infectious, so stick around the people that make you happy and avoid those who don’t. Negativity breeds more negativity and it’s hard to stop the cycle. Try to stop the cycle from starting!
Be Compassionate Towards Yourself
Forgive yourself for your blunders and for angry remarks you may have made. Realize you’re doing the best you can, but don’t become complacent. Resolve to do better in the future. Keeping your inner dialogue positive isn’t easy, but positive thinking can go a long way toward increasing your resilience.