Depression strikes about 7.8% of the adult population in the USA, according to National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) statistics in 2019. This means that an estimated 19.4 million adults (aged 18 and older) in the United States had at least one major depressive episode in the past year. For adolescents, aged 12-17, it was even higher that year, about 14.8%. So if you're having the symptoms of depression, you're not alone! Knowing this may not help much, but knowing how to manage your depressive symptoms will.
What type of depression are you coping with?
There are different types of depression that can be diagnosed, from mild to severe, but this post deals mostly with Major Depressive Disorder. MDD can have psychotic symptoms and range in severity itself. There are milder forms of depression like Dysthymic Disorder, which allow you to work and go to school but still leave you feeling empty and low. Several mood disorders are dependent on different circumstances in your life, like pregnancy and childbearing (Post Partum Depression), changing seasons (Seasonal Affective Disorder) or that time of the month (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder), or on medical conditions or drugs or medications you're taking. There are also mood disorders that create mood instability, like Bipolar Disorder and Cyclothymic Disorder. This focuses on coping with depression that is severe, like Major Depressive Disorder. Here are some tips for coping with depression.
Coping with depression takes a lifestyle revision, body mind and soul.
Look for small signs of progress. Your depression plays tricks on you and makes you think that there's no point in trying to change, because it's hopeless anyway. If you spend your time looking for times when you don't feel empty, lifeless, sad, or low energy, you are primed to be more encouraged to keep doing things that work and letting go of self-defeating thinking patterns.
Check your self-talk. Therapies like CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) encourage you to notice what you're thinking and to correct those thoughts to be more realistic and accurate. If you are struggling to know how to observe your own thoughts, books like Mind Over Mood can be helpful in breaking down what you're thinking and whether there's evidence to support it.
Stay Connected: Isolation can worsen depression. Group therapy is one way to connect with other people who struggle as well, and it can teach you new skills to cope with depression better. In your own life, you can try to maintain social connections with friends, family, or spiritual leaders if that gives you comfort. Even if it's difficult, reaching out to someone you trust and spending time with them can make a positive difference. Your depression might try to trick you into isolating, but that is the opposite of what you need!
Healthy Lifestyle: It's vital to exercise or do some form of physical activity, eat a balanced diet, and ensure you're getting enough sleep. Exercise has been shown to have positive effects on mood, and a healthy lifestyle can contribute to overall well-being. Eating well can include supplements that boost your mental well-being. These include some B-vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, and anti-inflammatory foods. Please make sure that any supplements you take are compatible with whatever medications you're taking by consulting your physician or pharmacist.
Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques: Practices like mindfulness meditation, deep breathing, yoga, and progressive muscle relaxation can help reduce stress and improve your ability to cope with depressive symptoms. Qi Gong and Tai Chi are also useful for moving your body mindfully and giving your mind something to do other than ruminate on the past or future. Meditation also helps you develop an observing mind, which makes it easier to catch negative thinking patterns and challenge them.
Set Realistic Goals: Break tasks into smaller, manageable steps. Accomplishing even small goals can provide a sense of achievement and boost your self-esteem. Avoid setting unrealistic expectations for yourself. When you have depression the temptation is to beat yourself up and feel inappropriate guilt over very small things. You don't need to do that when you already feel bad; what you could use instead is some self-compassion! Believe it or not, that helps you achieve your goals more than self-criticism.
Don't use social media to diagnose yourself! I am all for empowering yourself with accurate, up-to-date information about mental health, but many people go on Tik Tok or Instagram to come up with their own diagnoses and to get ideas for treating themselves. Not only is this potentially misleading, it can delay you getting professional or medical treatment that could have saved you time and money. Many of the "influencers" don't have clinical degrees and give you half-information, so it's hard to sort out who knows what they're talking about it. Sites like the National Institutes for Mental Health and National Alliance on Mental Illness are more trustworthy.
Not everyone has the same way of coping with depression.
Not everyone has the same experience of depression, so that what works for one person may not work for another. Some people see medication as life-saving, while others think it's not for them. As hard as it can be when you feel defeated and tired, finding your road to recovery takes trial and error. Even if something works a little bit, it might be worth to give it a fair shot and unless you have negative side effects, keep with it for a month or so before you conclude it's a dud.
It's important to develop a personalized approach to managing your depression with the guidance of a mental health professional. There are many ways to treat depression, including CBT, SFBT, hypnosis, and EMDR therapy. If you or someone you know struggles with coping with depression, please call me at 661-233-6771.