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Published on June 26, 2018

13 Ideas on How to Help Depression That Just Won’t Go Away

13 Ideas on How to Help Depression That Just Won’t Go Away

You’ve been to the doctor, you’ve seen a therapist, you’ve spent time with people who love you. In short, you’ve done everything people say you should do when it comes to overcoming depression.

Yet no matter what you do, that depression just won’t go away.

After all that, with those feelings of hopelessness, despair, fatigue and apathy at their peak, it can be all too tempting to give up.  Tempting though it may be, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Just because you’ve read all the usual advice on how to help depression and found that it hasn’t worked, that doesn’t mean that nothing will.

The truth is that just because that advice was right for some people, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right for you.

Today, we’ll look at some unique strategies, suggestions, tools and techniques you can use to help your depression, but first, there’s something you should know:

You can overcome this

No matter how low down you feel right now, no matter how much it feels like your depression just won’t go away, know that there are still plenty of things you can do to turn things around for the better.

Yes, things may seem hopeless right now.

Yes, even simple things like getting out of bed in a morning may require a Herculean effort that you’re not always able to muster.

But no, that doesn’t mean you have to give up.

Here, we’ll look at some practical advice on how to help depression when nothing else works, complete with simple, actionable steps, you can take right now, no matter how severe your depression may be.

1. Make the decision: Depression isn’t going to win

There’s no getting away from the fact that overcoming depression is going to take action, but one of the simplest, easiest actions you can take right now is this:

Make a decision.

A firm, concrete decision that, no matter what, depression isn’t going to win.

You deserve to be free from your depression. You deserve to be happy and enjoy life and you can be.

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If you do nothing else as a result of reading this article, make it this:

Take out a pen and a piece of paper and write down your decision. Write down your intention to get through this period of your life, and keep that piece of paper somewhere you can see it.

You may be surprised at what a difference something this small can be. In an instant, it can transform your mindset from that of somebody who is suffering with depression to somebody who is recovering from -and ready to beat- that depression.

2. Have a laugh

It’s true what they about laughter, it really is the best medicine.

Laughing releases the “happy chemical” dopamine, which moves through our body and makes us feel good.

It also releases other “feeling-positive” substances like endorphins which, among other things, relieve pain, reduce stress and can even help you sleep better, particularly useful if your depression is keeping you up all night.

With that in mind, watching funny movies or TV shows, watching standup comedy or just spending time with a friend who always makes you laugh can produce positive results.

3. Remind yourself of good times and big achievements

When you’re in the throes of severe depression it’s easy to forget that you ever felt any other way. The way you feel, it’s as if you’ve always felt this low.

If your depression is also tied into feelings of low self-worth and low self-esteem, it’s tempting to believe the lie that you’ve never done anything good or worthwhile in your life either.

You may think that, but look:

Just because you have that thought doesn’t mean you’re under any obligation to believe it.

Remind yourself of times when you were happier. When you did enjoy life, no matter how long ago that may have been.

Remind yourself of past accomplishments. Even simple things like landing a job or passing an exam can be a pretty big deal when you have low self-esteem.

Go through photographs, scrapbooks or simply your memories and remind yourself of better times. It may not be a magic cure, but it does prove powerful in flicking a switch in your brain, turning your thoughts from “I can never be happy” to “I have been happy before and if I can be that way once, I can be that way again.”

4. Create the right environment for recovery

When we go through depression, it’s easy to let even basic things like housework fall by the wayside. The result is that our environment becomes messy, dirty, chaotic and that only makes our state of mind even worse.

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So we continue to ignore the housework and thus the vicious cycle continues.

But look:

You can break that cycle, and doing so will help create the ideal environment for recovering from depression.

You don’t even have to do it all in one go.

Focus on one thing at a time, even if it’s only one corner of one room. Do what you feel you have the energy for and before you know it, you’ll have a clean, tidy, clutter-free space that’s far more conducive to overcoming your depression.

What’s more, the sense of accomplishment you get from tidying up can do wonders for your self-esteem and provide a powerful boost to your mood.

5. Cut down on sugar

When we’re deep into our depression, many of us turn to comfort foods to make us feel better; but the truth is that doing so could actually be doing more harm than good.

Sure, when we eat foods with processed sugars like candy, cookies, sugary cereals and junk food, we may get a temporary boost that makes us feel better as a small amount of dopamine is released.

Yet before long, that “sugar high” wears off and we crash down to a state of mind that’s even lower than the one we started with.

As if that wasn’t enough, much research has been done linking high sugar intake to increased levels of depression, so it’s well worth cutting down to give yourself the best possible chance of beating t his.

6. Lay off alcohol

This isn’t the only article about how to help depression which advises on changing diet, but what few others will tell you is that there’s compelling evidence as to why you should leave alcohol alone too.

A glass of wine or a beer may help you feel more relaxed or less anxious, but that’s because alcohol is actually a depressant,[1] and it depresses that part of our brain that controls inhibition, anxiety and how we feel.

The problem is that the more we drink, the more we’re basically taking a depressant into our systems, which pushes us all the way to into feeling low, possibly even more anxious and depressed than when we started.

Nobody’s saying you need to go teetotal for life but if you’ve been battling depression for a long time, this might be a good place to start.

7. Dress to impress

Depression saps us of our energy, which can make even simple things like having a good shower and getting dressed properly seem like monumental challenges.

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When depression is linked to low self-esteem, overcoming those challenges hardly seems worth it.

But finding the energy to get ourselves together and look our best, even if we don’t necessarily feel at our best, can work miracles in transforming our mindset.

Take a long shower, shave, find your best outfit – the one that always makes you feel confident and attractive and change into it.

If wearing make-up is something you feel helps you look your best, wear it.

When you’re done. Take a look at yourself in the mirror.

This is you at your best, and when you’re at your best, you can do anything, including making the big changes that will help you overcome your depression once and for all.

8. Head outdoors

With your mood lifted -even if only slightly- by looking your best, its time to head outdoors.

Sometimes, depression and social anxiety will mean that you won’t want to go very far, especially not to somewhere with crowds of people, but that’s OK. You don’t have to go very far.

After hiding away and withdrawing (as so many of us do at the height of our depression) simply taking that first step in facing the world again will provide a huge boost to the way you feel.

That’s before we even get to the added benefits of fresh air and Vitamin D from the sunshine.

9. Dance

One of the best things any of us can do to keep depression at bay is to exercise – but let’s be honest:

When you’re in the thick of it, the last thing you feel like doing is hitting the gym or going for a run.

The good news is that dancing has the same effect, if not an even bigger one.

Your body still gets all the endorphins from moving around, plus, if you’re listening to the kind of songs that always make you dance, you’ll get an added boost from that too.

10. Do a good deed

Most tips on how to help depression are all focussed on what we can do to help ourselves but there’s a lot to be said for reaching out and helping somebody else.

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In 2013, Sonja Lyubomirsky, a psychology professor at the University of California published research which showed that carrying out acts of kindness can help us feel happier long-term.[2]

It doesn’t have to be a huge gesture either. Donating to your local food bank or Goodwill store, paying somebody a compliment, watering a neighbours plants or volunteering to take their dog for a walk when they’re unable to do it themselves can all make a significant difference to the way you feel.

11. Keep up your usual routine

When all you want to do is hide under the covers and never come out again, even the simple things that make up our routine can seem impossible.

It’s tempting -and much easier- to ignore them but in my experience, doing so has a tendency to make things worse.

Yes, there’s a lot to be said for taking a few days off to practice self-care and implement strategies for overcoming your depression, but where possible, keep up with day-to-day tasks like paying the bills, doing the grocery shopping, stopping by for that weekly catch up with family or friends.

When we let those things pile up, those few bills we could have dealt with turn into a literal mountain of debt and bad news, which is not what we need when we’re trying to overcome depression.

Friends and family worry about us and offer us all kinds of unsolicited (albeit well-meaning) advice which only causes us more resentments.

Things that should have been easy get harder and harder to deal with the more we ignore them, so keeping up these day-to-day parts of our routine, no matter how much of a struggle it may feel at times, can actually prove incredibly effective.

12. Get creative

Write, draw, paint, pick up an instrument, build something, knit something. Working on something creative changes our thought patterns, giving us something else to focus on besides how we feel.

Plus, the sense of accomplishment we get from having made something of our own can once again prove to be a big help in changing our mood.

13. Create your depression emergency tool kit

Depression is a serious issue which for many people requires medication, therapy and professional support to deal with, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t do as much as you possibly can to alleviate the symptoms whilst getting that support.

Create a Depression Emergency Tool Kit full of things that will help you to feel good and keep it on standby for those times when nothing else seems to be working.

You might want to include an old iPod loaded with all your favourite feel-good music, blu-rays or DVDs of funny movies guaranteed to make you belly laugh, old photographs of happier memories, even a voucher to treat yourself to a trip to the cinema, a new outfit, or whatever makes you feel good.

You could even write yourself a letter, reminding yourself that this bout of depression will pass and that you have it within you to overcome it, no matter how tough things get.

Find what works for you best

The ideas and suggestions listed here aren’t meant to replace medical advice. If you’re dealing with depression, consulting a doctor or therapist can make all the difference.

Yet if you’ve tried those things and find they aren’t working, or if you simply want to give yourself the very best possible chance to turn things around, working your way through this list may mean you finally find the one thing that really works for you when it comes to making your depression go away for good.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

[1]drinkaware: Alcohol and mental health
[2]University of California: Acts of Kindness Can Make You Happier

More by this author

Chris Skoyles

Writer, coach, and trainee counsellor specialising in mental health and addiction.

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How to Control Your Thoughts and Become the Master of Your Mind

How to Control Your Thoughts and Become the Master of Your Mind

Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life.

Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affect your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality.

I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive and just a general waste of energy.

You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?

Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Become the master of your mind.

When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.

I currently have few thoughts that are not of my own choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!

Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?

Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in charge of your thoughts. If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.

Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create the most unhealthy and unproductive thoughts:

1. The Inner Critic

This is your constant abuser. He is often a conglomeration of:

  • Other people’s words; many times your parents.
  • Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples expectations.
  • Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media.
  • The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.

He is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance and lack of self-love.

Why else would he abuse you? And since “he” is actually you– why else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?

2. The Worrier

This person lives in the future; in the world of “what ifs.”

He is motivated by fear which is often irrational and with no basis for it.

Occasionally, he is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.

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3. The Reactor or Trouble-Maker

He is the one that triggers anger, frustration and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.

He can be set off by words or feelings. He can even be set off by sounds and smells.

He has no real motivation; he has poor impulse control and is run by past programming that no longer serves you, if it ever did.

4. The Sleep Depriver

This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.

His motivation can be:

  • As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
  • Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
  • Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity and generalized anxiety
  • As listed above for the inner critic and worrier

How can you control these squatters?

How to Master Your Mind

You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You must pay attention to your thoughts so you can identify “who” is running the show; this will determine which technique you will want to use.

Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.

There are two ways to control your thoughts:

  • Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
  • Technique B – Eliminate them altogether

This second option is what is known as peace of mind!

The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go to” thoughts in the applicable situations.

Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.

For the Inner Critic

When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.

You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”

For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”

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You can also have a dialogue with yourself with the intention of discrediting the ‘voice’ that created the thought, if you know whose voice it is:

“Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”

If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready. This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:

  • He riles up the Worrier.
  • The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
  • He is often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
  • He is a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
  • He is the destroyer of self-esteem. He convinces you that you’re not worthy. He’s a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get him out!

Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.

Replace him with your new best friend who supports, encourages, and enhances your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.

For the Worrier

Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.

Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind and creates anxiety in the body.

You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:

  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
  • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
  • Muscles tense

Use the above stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.

If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:

Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):

“Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”

Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense; both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.

If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.

Now take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like!

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Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.

For example:

If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.

“I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place. Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.

Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:

“Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”

Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.

For the Trouble-Maker, Reactor or Over-Reactor

Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers; but until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.

The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain:

  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure; surge of adrenaline
  • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
  • Muscles tension

I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.

Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds; just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.

Breathe in through your nose:

  • Feel the air entering your nostrils.
  • Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
  • Focus on your belly rising.

Breathe out through your nose:

  • Feel your lungs emptying.
  • Focus on your belly falling.
  • Feel the air exiting your nostrils.

Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize.

Now you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior.

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One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting, or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.

Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!

For the Sleep Depriver

(He’s made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)

I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.

Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.

  1. I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
  2. Then I came up with replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.

When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and I choose quiet.

From the first time I tried this method I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.

For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (Closed, of course!). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.

If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!

You can also use this technique any time you want to:

  • Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon.
  • Shut down your thinking.
  • Calm your feelings.
  • Simply focus on the present moment. 

Becoming the Master of Your Mind

Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or for destructive purposes.

You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.

Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. The choice is yours!

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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