Advertising

Last Updated on January 12, 2021

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

Advertising
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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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

Coach, and trainee counsellor specializing in mental health and addiction.

5 Breathing Exercises for Anxiety (Simple and Calm Anxiety Quickly) 13 Ideas on How to Help Depression That Just Won’t Go Away 10 Anxiety Relief Apps to Take the Edge Off When Stress Hits Hard Anxiety vs Depression: What’s the Difference and How to Deal with Them? What Does Anxiety Feel Like? (Types and Symptoms of the Invisible Killer)

Trending in Mental Wellness

1 Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why? 2 Does Depression Make You Tired And How? 3 Overwhelmed at Work? 17 Ways to Manage Work Anxiety 4 Why Am I Depressed If My Life Is Fine? 5 How To Cope With Traumatic Events And Stress

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

Published on October 15, 2021

Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why?

Advertising
Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why?

When you think of anxiety, several scenarios may come to mind: the endless tossing and turning of a restless night, dread over potential future events, pandemic-related overwhelm, or full-blown panic attacks. Even if you’re not diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, you’ve likely experienced anxiety symptoms at some point in your life. In these situations, you might feel a queasiness in your stomach, racing heartbeat, excessive sweating, chest tightness, some tension in your jaw/neck/shoulders, or worrisome thoughts as you prepare for the worst possible scenario. But does anxiety also make you tired?

After experiencing these symptoms, you may indeed feel fatigued. The sensation could fall anywhere on the exhaustion spectrum, from feeling like you just ran a marathon and need to sleep for two days, to just a little worn down and wanting a quick nap to recover.

Below are 7 ways anxiety zaps your energy and how to restore it.

1. Stress Hormone Overload

Anxiety can make you tired via overloading your body with stress hormones. The “fight or flight” response is a key connection between anxiety and fatigue. In fact, this process is made up of three stages: Alarm, Resistance, and Exhaustion. Anxiety triggers our body systems to go into high alert. This is a natural, involuntary reaction that developed in the human brain for survival.

When humans lived with the real, imminent threat of being attacked by a predator, it made sense for our bodies to spring into action without much preparatory thought. Such dangers are rare in modern times, but our brains continue to respond in the same way they did thousands of years ago.

The hormones and chemicals that flood our bodies to prepare us for safety can both affect and be affected by several body systems, and this interaction itself contributes to exhaustion. Adrenaline and cortisol are the two most notable hormones to address here. First, adrenaline is sent out, tensing the muscles and increasing heart rate and blood pressure in preparation to run. Later in the stress response, cortisol is released, enhancing the brain’s use of glucose. This is one of our main fuel sources, so it’s no wonder this contributes to fatigue (see #2).

Advertising

You can regulate baseline levels of these stress hormones by regularly practicing yoga, breathwork, meditation, and/or engaging in aerobic exercise.[1] It’s easier to lean into these routines for relief during stress when you’ve already mastered using them during times when you feel calm.

2. Elevated Blood Sugar Levels

Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), which is shown to be associated with anxiety in diabetic patients.[2] Many people who experience hyperglycemia report feeling tired all the time regardless of their quantity or quality of sleep, nutrition, or exercise.

Although this connection has shown more prevalent and prolonged effects in diabetics, it also occurs with nondiabetics exposed to psychiatric stress.[3] In fact, for all people, the natural stress response elevates blood pressure and heart rate as well as cortisol levels, all of which increase blood sugar levels.[4] This means that anxiety causes a double-hit of exhaustion related to blood sugar fluctuations.

Instead of reaching for comfort foods like chocolate during times of stress, take a calming walk around the block. Gentle movement alone is a great stress reliever that incidentally also helps to regulate blood sugars.[5]

3. Negative Mindset

Anxiety can also make you tired because of repetitive negative thinking (RNT), which is a common symptom of anxiety. RNT involves continuous thoughts via rumination (dwelling on sad or dark thoughts focused on the past) and worry (angst regarding the future). Some researchers argue that having a longtime habit of RNT can harm the brain’s capacity to think, reason, and form memories.[6] While the brain is busy using its energy stores to fuel negative thought patterns, the energy available for these other more productive endeavors is thereby reduced.

Negative thoughts can also disrupt or prevent healthy sleep patterns, keeping our minds racing at night and effectively wreaking havoc on daytime energy. (See #7)

Advertising

Reduce these patterns by reframing your feelings over anxious thoughts. Instead of staying stuck on “what if,” focus on what you can do in the here and now. What activity can you engage in for five minutes (or more) that brings you joy? What are you grateful for, no matter what’s going on around you?

4. Digestive Issues

It’s common for people to experience both intestinal and mental issues simultaneously. This suggests a strong connection between the central nervous system and the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which is known as the gut-brain axis.[7] Simply put, what happens in our digestive tract (and as a result of what we eat) affects the brain and vice versa.

The gut microbiota is a complex population of GI tract microorganisms. When its balance is altered, the body can develop conditions that affect the gut-brain-endocrine relationship. The endocrine system produces and manages adrenaline, for starters. And the gut bacteria’s production of feel-good hormones (serotonin and dopamine—see #5) ties into this relationship as well.

GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) receptors are also found in gut bacteria. GABA is a natural brain relaxant that makes us feel good by helping the body to unwind after a stress-induced neurotransmitter release (e.g., cortisol and adrenaline). When GABA activity is low, it leads to anxiety, depression, insomnia, and mood disorders. These are just a few of the manifestations that demonstrate how gut bacteria influences behavior. All of these contribute to feeling both physically and mentally tired.

You can minimize the symptoms of depression and anxiety by keeping your gut microbiota balanced with probiotic-rich fermented foods. Yogurt with live cultures, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, kimchi, miso soup, and tempeh are great foods to include in your diet.[8]

5. Depression

Anxiety and depression often go hand in hand. Research continues to indicate a complex relationship between depression and decreased serotonin—a key neurotransmitter for regulating mood and feelings of wellbeing and happiness. Anxiety is also a direct symptom of serotonin deficiency. Serotonin helps with healthy sleep, mood, and digestion.

Advertising

Serotonin is produced in the gut, almost exclusively, at an estimated 90 percent. However, a small quantity is also produced in the hypothalamus, an area of the brain that is pivotal for transmitting energy balance signals. This small cone-shaped structure receives and relays signals transmitted via the vagus nerve from the gastrointestinal tract. It has a central role in mediating stress responses, regulating sleep, and establishing circadian rhythms. It senses and responds to a myriad of circulating hormones and nutrients, directly affecting our mood and energy.[9]

Dopamine is another mood-boosting neurochemical that is depleted in depression. It creates feelings of alertness and wakefulness and, when the body is operating normally, is released in higher amounts in the morning (allowing for daytime energy) and lower at night (preparing for healthy sleep). Stress is one factor that can deplete dopamine, thereby leading to depression, sleep disorders, and fatigue.

Studies show that dopamine levels in the brain can be elevated by increasing dietary intake of tyrosine and phenylalanine.[10] Both of these amino acids are naturally found in protein-rich foods like turkey, beef, eggs, dairy, soy, peas, lentils, and beans.

6. Breathing Problems

Breathlessness and anxiety are closely linked, and this is one of the ways anxiety can make you feel tired. Anxiety can lead to shallow breathing, which can cause shortness of breath while feeling breathless can exacerbate anxiety.[11] It’s a vicious cycle that often leads people to take rapid and shallow breaths, breathing into their upper chest and shoulders.

This type of breathing minimizes oxygen intake and usability. Despite comprising only two percent of the body, our brains consume 20 percent of the body’s oxygen supply. Oxygen is fuel for both mental and physical tasks. When breathing patterns compromise healthy oxygen levels, this can cause considerable fatigue.[12]

End the anxiety-fatigue cycle with focused breathing exercises. It’s important to practice this regularly while you’re not experiencing anxiety or stress, as this will help you to be prepared should a moment of breathless anxiety hit unexpectedly.

Advertising

There are several different styles of breathing exercises. There’s an easy one to try, called “Resonant Breathing.” Simply breathe in slowly through your nose as you count to five, then exhale for a count of five. Repeat this for a few minutes. It’s helpful to bring your awareness to any tension, deliberately relaxing your neck, shoulders, and jaw in particular.

7. Sleep Issues

Most of the elements we’ve already discussed inherently tie into sleep issues, which is often the reason why anxiety can make you feel tired. But it’s important to note that this is not always a directly linear cause-and-effect process. Much of it is cyclic. If we don’t get enough quality sleep, we increase our risk of excessive cortisol production, elevated blood pressure and blood sugar levels, depressed mood and mindset disorders, and dysregulation of appetite/craving hormones that affect our digestive health.

Sleep is obviously the number one antidote to feeling tired as a result of anxiety. But at the same time, many of these elements—including anxiety itself—lead to less-than-restorative sleep. We can improve our energy levels by addressing each element discussed here, as well as taking a proactive approach to our sleep health.

One simple habit to help recalibrate your circadian rhythm for healthy sleep patterns is to get outside in the morning. Sunlight exposure in the early hours of the day regulates melatonin production, helping us to feel sleepy at night.

You Don’t Have to Live Your Life Anxious and Exhausted

Times of extreme stress, like driving in heavy traffic or nerve-wracking situations like public speaking, can easily induce an anxiety response. Even “normal” everyday stressors, like feeling overwhelmed with work and home responsibilities, can build up to anxious feelings over time.

Our bodies’ response to stress and anxiety affects many of its functions in complex ways. When we unravel the interconnections of these processes, we can see how each part plays an intrinsic role in contributing to fatigue. By addressing each element individually, we can make simple lifestyle changes that resolve anxiety and diminish the ways it makes us tired as a result.

Advertising

More Tips on Coping With Anxiety

Featured photo credit: Joice Kelly via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next