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