Depression affects one’s cognitive, emotional, behavioral, and physical functions. One of the most insidious aspects of depression is that it tricks you into thinking that nothing will help, or that the relief will be temporary, and it will keep you in a cycle of maladaptive thinking, feeling, and doing (or non-doing). However, there are steps one can take to cope with depression.
Take care of your physical health
- Get active! It is important to get 30 minutes of physical activity daily. This can be anything from yoga, walking, jogging, walking stairs, a stroll around the block, gardening. If this is too daunting, start with 10-15 minutes a day and add 5 minutes to each day.
- Nourish your body--make sure you eat well-balanced meals.
- Sleep…getting adequate sleep is important for our physical well being, mental acuity, and concentration
Take a closer look at your thoughts
- Write down recurring thoughts…negative thoughts about oneself, one’s future, and the world are common; these thoughts are often distortions that feel real and often perpetuate unhelpful behaviors. By writing down these thoughts, one can begin to see the distortions a bit more clearly.
- Challenge the distortions- is it accurate? Or does it just feel real? Are you taking into account the evidence? Does it help to think this way?
- Limit rumination- rumination and depression go hand in hand; rumination is a type of thinking where you rehash a moment over and over again; you can learn to limit rumination by being more aware of it and redirecting yourself towards doing something more helpful. For example, when you are aware that you are ruminating, take notice of you are doing and what is around you. And ask yourself “what is one thing that I can do right now that is good for me?”
Identify unhelpful behaviors and replace them with healthy, helpful behaviors
- Build a sense of mastery-this involves setting realistic, achievable goals daily; rather than tackling big ticket items, break them down into smaller, more manageable units. This sense of mastery will also help to chip away at the unhelpful distortions.
- Reduce avoidance/procrastination—this will also promote a sense of accomplishment and self-efficacy
- Avoid making big decisions or contemplating major life decisions during this time
- Engage in healthy joyful activities—this can involve something as small as brewing a nice cup of tea, listening to a favorite song, sending an email/text to a friend, dancing in your own space
- Stay connected to friends and family- it might help to let them know what you are experiencing and how they can help.
Practice self-compassion--being harsh or overly critical is not helpful, give yourself some grace and kindness.
Review micro-successes daily—when feeling depressed, it is easy to overlook successes and accomplishments. Hence, being intentional in reviewing these moments can help offset the feelings of failure and hopelessness.
If you are experiencing severe depressive symptoms, it may be time to seek out professional help. Signs of severe depression include:
- Symptoms that are intense, paralyzing, and/or unrelenting (last months)
- Inability to care for yourself (basic needs) or attend to daily responsibilities or relationships
- Symptoms that are accompanied by substance abuse, self-harm, and/or thoughts of suicide
Content provided by ADAA member Kathariya Mokrue, PhD - October 2018