45 Lifestyle Recommendations on How to Get Through Depression

On a day-to-day basis, separate from, or concurrently with therapy or medication, people suffering from depression have their own methods for getting through the worst times as best they can. The following comments and ideas on what to do during depression were solicited from people in the alt.support.depression newsgroup. These recommendations might work for you, or might not. Just keep trying them, modifying them for your own lifestyle and personal preferences, until you find the set of techniques that work for you most efficiently.

  1. Write. Keep a journal. Somehow, writing everything down helps organizing better your thoughts and feelings, keeping the misery from running around in circles.

  1. Listen to your favorite "help" songs (a bunch of songs that have strong positive meaning for you and relief for the depression nightmare).

  1. Read (anything and everything). Go to the library and check out fiction you've wanted to read for a long time. You also might find useful reading books about depression, spirituality, and morality; or on the people who suffered from depression but still managed to do fairly well with their lives, like Winston Churchill and Martin Luther, for example.

  1. Sleep for a while. Even when busy, do your best to get a good sleep. Notice if what you do before sleeping changes how you sleep in terms of length and rest quality. Follow the pattern, which helps you and verify how consistent the results are.

  1. If you might be a danger to yourself, don't be alone. Find people. If that is not practical, call them up on the phone. If there is no one you feel you can call, suicide hotlines can be helpful, even if you're not quite that badly off yet. You will get professionals and trained volunteers to talk to you and may be show a different angle to your troubles, to start with.

  1. Hug someone or have someone hug you. Personal touch is so important, and we almost lost it in our high-tech individualistic society.

  1. Remember to eat. Notice, how eating certain things (e.g. sugar or coffee) may influence on our mood and feelings. Keep “comfort food” always handy in the house to be able to get it as needed.

  1. Make yourself a fancy dinner, maybe invite someone over.

  1. Take a bath or a perfumed bubble bath. Go to spa, massage, or hot springs resort. You may find that spending just couple of hours there may change your mood and bring calmness to your life.

  1. Mess around on the computer. Talk to friends in social networks, blog, answer surveys, watch cartoons, and look if you can find relief in virtual life.

  1. Rent comedy videos. Try to concentrate on the fun of what you are watching.

  1. Go for a long walk. Look around, notice people, nature, birds. Watch the sky and the moon at night.

  1. Dance. Dance alone at home, or go out with friends. Experiment with different music and its influence on your well-being. Try 5-rithms, Ecstatic, or Zen Dancing, as it is the best if you want to dance alone.

  1. Eat well. Try to alternate foods you like with the stuff you know you should be eating.

  1. Spend some time playing with a child. There is no other activity, more rewarding emotionally.  

  1. Buy yourself a gift. O yes, shopping therapy works excellent for some people. Do not have money – try windows shopping, or browse goodies on eBay or Amazon. Do not worry that you might not actually need the staff. If you just want it – buy it. That works pretty good as clothes for women, or electronic gadgets for men.

  1. Phone a friend. Hopefully, you do have a close friend who will be able to listen to your troubles, or an opposite, will talk you out of your problems.

  1. Read the newspaper comics page. Stupid jokes? So what? May be that what you need at the moment?  

  1. Do something unexpectedly nice for someone or for yourself. Break the boring routine, go out, and be creative.

  1. Get involved in physical activities, get exercise at home, play active sport on WII. Get out to the fitness club and work to feel your body. Maybe, you get better, when depressive state will evaporate with your dew.

  1. If you have garden or backyard, get there, pull the weeds, or cut the grass. Therapeutic gardening is a scientifically proved approach to get better with depression.

  1. Sing. If you are worried about responses from critical neighbors, go for a drive and sing as loud as you want in the car. There's something about the physical act of singing old favorites that's very soothing. Maybe the rhythmic breathing that singing enforces does something for you too. Lullabies are especially good.

  1. If you cannot force yourself to any activities, try again. Pick a small and easy task, like sweeping the floor, and do it. This helps you feel better because you actually accomplish something, instead of getting caught up in abstract worries and huge ideas for change. For example say "hi" to someone new if you are trying to be more sociable.

  1. If you can meditate, it's really helpful. But when you're really down you may not be able to meditate. Your ability to meditate will return when the depression lifts. If you are unable to meditate, find some comforting reading and read it out loud.

  1. Bring in some flowers and look at them.

  1. If you're anxious about something you're avoiding, try to get some support to face it.

  1. Getting Up. Many depressions are characterized by guilt, and lots of it. Many of the things that depressed people want to do because of their depressions (staying in bed, not going out) wind up making the depression worse because they end up causing depressed people to feel like they are screwing things up more and more. So if you've had six or seven hours of sleep, try to make yourself get out of bed the moment you wake up...you may not always succeed, but when you do, it's nice to have gotten a head start on the day.

  1. Volunteer work. Doing volunteer work on a regular basis seems to keep the demons at bay, somewhat... it can help take the focus off of yourself and put it on people who may have larger problems (even though it doesn't always feel that way).

  1. In general, it is extremely important to try to understand if something you can't seem to accomplish is something you simply CAN'T do because you're depressed (write a computer program, be charming on a date), or whether its something you CAN do, but it's going to be hell (cleaning the house, going for a walk with a friend, getting out of bed). If it turns out to be something you can do, but don't want to, try to do it anyway. You will not always succeed, but try. And when you succeed, it will always amaze you to look back on it afterwards and say "I felt like such shit, but look how well I managed to...!" This last technique, by the way, usually works for body stuff only (cleaning, cooking, etc.). The brain stuff often winds up getting put off until after the depression lifts.

  1. Do not set yourself difficult goals or take on a great deal of responsibility.

  1. Break large tasks into many smaller ones, set some priorities, and do what you can, as you can.

  1. Do not expect too much from yourself. Unrealistic expectations will only increase feelings of failure, as they are impossible to meet. Perfectionism leads to increased depression.

  1. Try to be with other people, it is usually better than being alone.

  1. Participate in activities that may make you feel better. You might try mild exercise, going to a movie, a ball game, or participating in religious or social activities. Don't overdo it or get upset if your mood does not greatly improve right away. Feeling better takes time.

  1. Do not make any major life decisions, such as quitting your job or getting married or separated while depressed. The negative thinking that accompanies depression may lead to horribly wrong decisions. If pressured to make such a decision, explain that you will make the decision as soon as possible after the depression lifts. Remember you are not seeing yourself, the world, or the future in an objective way when you are depressed.

  1. While people may tell you to "snap out" of your depression, that is not possible. The recovery from depression usually requires antidepressant therapy and/or psychotherapy. You cannot simple make yourself "snap out" of the depression. Asking you to "snap out" of a depression makes as much sense as asking someone to "snap out" of diabetes or an under-active thyroid gland.

  1. Remember: Depression makes you have negative thoughts about yourself, about the world, the people in your life, and about the future. Remember that your negative thoughts are not a rational way to think of things. It is as if you are seeing yourself, the world, and the future through a fog of negativity. Do not accept your negative thinking as being true. It is part of the depression and will disappear as your depression responds to treatment. If your negative (hopeless) view of the future leads you to seriously consider suicide, be sure to tell your doctor about this and ask for help. Suicide would be an irreversible act based on your unrealistically hopeless thoughts.

  1. Remember that the feeling that nothing can make depression better is part of the illness of depression. Things are probably not nearly as hopeless as you think they are.

  1. If you are on medication:
     a. Take the medication as directed. Keep taking it as directed for as long as directed.
     b. Discuss with the doctor ahead of time what happens in case of unacceptable side-effects.
     c. Don't stop taking medication or change dosage without discussing it with your doctor, unless you discussed it ahead of time.
     d. Remember to check about mixing other things with medication. Ask the prescribing doctor, and/or the pharmacist and/or look it up in the Physician's Desk Reference. Redundancy is good.
     e. Except in emergencies, it is a good idea to check what your insurance covers before receiving treatment.

  1. Do not rely on your doctor or therapist to know everything. Do some homework; find the information on your depression type and everything associated. Note that not everything you are reading is true, or absolutely true, or should be true for you. Apply your critical thinking to all the information acquired.

  1. Feel free to seek out a second opinion from a different qualified medical professional if you feel that you cannot get what you need from the one you have, or you want be absolutely confident that your diagnosis is correct.

  1. Skipping appointments, because you are "too sick to go to the doctor" is generally a bad idea…

  1. Do not try to keep everything in your head, write them down, or record audio reminders on your mobile phone. Try concentrating and working out one task at a time. Trying to do too many things can be too much. Have a short list of things to do "now" and a longer list of things you have decided not to worry about just yet. When you finish writing the long list, put it aside for a while. Also, keep a list of what you have already accomplished too, and congratulate yourself each time you get something done. Don't take completed tasks off your to-do list. If you do, you will only have a list of uncompleted tasks. It's useful to have the crossed-off items visible so you can see what you have accomplished.

  1. Get a pet. Pet therapy works excellent for some people. The most popular doctors are definitely cats and dogs.

  1. Make your own list of recommendations and share with other people. Every depression is unique and individual, as all people are different. But you will be surprised of how much common you can find with other human beings. 


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