Depression can be a lot to deal with. It can be draining, frustrating, and even isolating. No two people experience it the same, and that’s okay. You are not alone in experiencing this, and your feelings are valid.
In the Moment
Try to identify how your depression manifests. Do you sleep too much, or too little? How are your eating habits, exercise habits, and social habits? Talk to the people in your support network (professional or otherwise) about your feelings. Figure out what might need to change or be implemented into your daily life to help lift you up. You could try writing out your feelings if you don’t feel like talking. When you’re in a better place, you could look back and examine these thoughts. Take these as a reminder that you are not faking your symptoms. They are real, and you shouldn’t feel guilty for struggling. If you are truly concerned you are faking, then you probably aren’t.
Do you find it hard to convey how you’re feeling to your loved ones, or your therapist? Sometimes words just don’t do our feelings justice. However, we don’t have to be limited to just using words. Don’t be afraid to use metaphors or pictures to express how you feel. You could use paint swatches from the hardware store or pictures of the ocean in different states to express how you’re feeling. Figure out the connection between your metaphor and your emotional state and, discuss it with your mental health provider and relevant people in your social support network.
Talk to your loved ones about the kind of support you need. If you have difficulty starting tasks, you could tell someone you are starting a task, or what your goal is for the day. Having someone know what you are trying to accomplish might help motivate you to start it or even see it through. You should also honest with your mental health provider. They cannot help you if you conceal details about how you are coping.
Getting Ahead of Depression
Much like with anxiety, there are things you can do to get ahead of depression. Eating a healthy diet, and good sleep habits contribute to building and maintaining good mental health and healthy habits. You can see our post for managing anxiety for more details.
Exercise and Yoga
If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, you could incorporate some yoga into your daily or weekly routine. In a study done with veterans experiencing depression, participants took a hatha yoga class twice weekly, for eight weeks.1 Hatha yoga has a focus on exercise, meditation, and breathing exercises.1 The participants in the study experienced reduced depressive symptoms by the end of the study.1 In a second round of study using female participants and Bikram style yoga, those who took the yoga classes also experienced a reduction in depression symptoms as well as increased optimism and cognitive functioning.1
If you don’t have access to a class, or would prefer to stay home, there are YouTube yoga channels, online tutorials, and online classes you can participate in.
Plan for Bad Days
Some strategies for depression may not always take into account the wildly differing amounts of energy you could have in a day. It may be much easier to get out of bed on one day than another.
It can be really hard to stick to a detailed exercise, diet, and work schedule when getting up is struggle enough. Having bad days like that is okay. It doesn’t make you a bad person, and it doesn’t mean you’re lazy or worthless.
If you find you’re having trouble getting out of bed on your really bad days, you could keep essential items near or under it. Keep any medications you need to take on your bedside table. Store some easy to eat snacks and bottles of water within reach. If you like feeling clean but find it difficult to take a shower or bath, you could keep a package of wet wipes and a change of clothes too.
Take care of yourself as best you can. Remember that bad days are not forever. It may be difficult to get through it, but it will pass.
How to Support a Loved One
It can be extremely difficult to see a loved one struggle with depression. If someone you love is experiencing depression, there are a few things you can do in order to be a good ally.
Educate yourself 2
- Learn about the symptoms of depression and how they can affect a person.
- Talk to your loved one and learn what they experience when they have depressive episodes and respect their boundaries.
- Ask them what they struggle with the most.
- Check in with them, see how they’re feeling.
- Ask if they can pinpoint why they’re struggling. Did they recently change schools or lose their job?2 Sometimes there is no direct cause, and that’s okay too.
- Ask what you can do to help. Find out what’s not helpful too, not all strategies work for everyone.
Encourage them to seek help 2
- Tell your loved one you have noticed changes in their behavior, and that you are worried about them without making them feel guilty or ashamed.2
- Encourage them to talk to a mental health professional if they aren’t already doing so.
- If they are nervous, you could offer to go with them to their appointment.2
We can’t take on all the problems of others, or else we would start experiencing emotional burnout. Sometimes it can be detrimental to the other person as well. If we get too focused on solving the problem, we can forget to listen and be empathetic to the other person’s experience. Often times the most valuable thing we can do for others who are struggling is to listen.
Depression treatments are different depending on your age group. Your mental health professional may recommend you take medication or pursue a certain type of therapy. Here are some helpful links from the American Psychological Association that can tell you what treatment methods you might expect to discuss with your mental health provider.
Treatment for Children/Adolescents
Treatment for Adults
Treatment for older adults
This article was written by Caroline Sebren, a senior at the University of South Carolina and current volunteer writer for Carolina Assessment Services, LLC. Caroline is a current Psychology major with a minor in Counselor Education and hopes to pursue work in the future as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.
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