By Sophia Deschler RN, BSN, RN | BSN
Updated on November 23, 2023
Published on November 20, 2023
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The word “depression” is sometimes thrown around casually. But if you are living with clinical depression, you already know it is anything but simple.
Many people experience depression daily. The COVID-19 pandemic also increased the prevalence of this condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates1 that nearly 280 million people suffer from depression worldwide.
If this is you, you’re not alone. This guide can help you cope with depression. It will cover proven strategies to help treat your symptoms. It will also offer credible depression resources you can implement right now.
“I’m depressed” isn’t just something you say when things aren’t going your way. Being depressed is much more than just feeling down.
Depression can be debilitating when it gets bad. Those who suffer from it deal with ups and downs on a long-term basis.
Some symptoms of depression2 include:
Feeling sad is a normal part of life that comes with challenges and difficult situations. Yet, regular sadness is different from clinical depression. Clinical depression will get in the way of your everyday life, while normal sadness will have a clear cause (such as losing a loved one).
Some people turn to medication to treat depression. Although this option is worthwhile for many people, it is not the only one.
You can make some changes to your lifestyle that could immensely impact your depression. The following are proven coping strategies for depression:
Leaning into a routine can help you feel less depressed. Consistency will make your days feel more predictable, helping to prevent stress. Stress is a common trigger for depression; the two can feed into each other. So, it is crucial to keep stress levels to a minimum.
Here are some practical tips on implementing a routine:
Routines help you have small things to look forward to, which can help improve feelings of hopelessness.
For example, if you drink chamomile tea each night before bed, you may look forward to this small daily ritual. You may feel excited that you will end your day with it.
It’s important to feel a sense of achievement. Even small tasks can help you feel this way.
Set small and reasonable goals for yourself so you don’t get overwhelmed. Any small accomplishment will create momentum to keep you going throughout the day. It may be as simple as wiping down the countertop or unloading the dishwasher.
Research has proven that exercise can help with depression.3 Exercise releases “feel good” chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins can help boost your mood and combat depressed feelings.
If you’re struggling to feel motivated, start with small activities. For example, go for a short walk or do some light stretching.
One of the surprising ways to cope with depression is by modifying your diet.4
The food you eat can influence your mood. Eating a healthier diet can help you feel better. Eating a lot of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, fish, olive oil, and antioxidants can help decrease your risk of depression.
It is essential to take steps to care for yourself. Self-care is becoming a lost art today. Many of us emphasize productivity and glorify working overtime. But you can fight against social norms, slow down, and care for yourself.
Doing more of the activities you love can help you feel good and combat the effects of depression. Everyone has different hobbies; activities to cope with depression will vary from person to person. Some examples include:
One of the keys to overcoming mental health issues like depression is understanding your thoughts and where they are coming from.5
Practicing mindfulness can help you get to the root of the issue. Mindfulness unravels the unrealistic thought patterns fueling your depression. Practices like journaling and meditation help you know what’s going on in your mind to best overcome these challenges.
Certain life circumstances can act as a trigger for depression, such as workplace stressors and seasonal changes.
Below, we share some tips for dealing with depression in these special circumstances.
Some people become depressed when seasons change. This is called seasonal depression or seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It usually happens more in the fall and winter when it gets dark earlier.
Some ways to cope with seasonal depression include:
Sometimes, work can trigger depression, especially in a stressful work environment. If your job seems to be draining you, consider taking these steps:
Antidepressant medications are a great option for a lot of people. However, they are not for everyone.
Below, we list some natural solutions that don’t involve using medications.
Common natural supplements6 used for treating depression include:
Talking with a therapist is one of the most effective ways to cope with depression without medication. Therapists can help you identify aspects of your life that are causing or worsening your depression. They can also help you overcome these issues by providing practical solutions.
Reach out to friends and family when you need help or want someone to talk to.
You can also find a local support group to connect with others who struggle with the same things.
Most people benefit from getting professional help for depression. This is because psychologists are trained to provide realistic solutions. However, once you see a psychologist, you may be able to apply what you’ve learned on your own if you experience depression again. This eliminates the need for ongoing, long-term therapy.
Common side effects7 of antidepressants include:
Depending on the approach, treatment times will vary. If you choose to take antidepressant medications, it can take 1 to 2 weeks8 to work. Seeing a therapist will also take some time to work. You can expect at least 2 or 3 sessions before you start to notice results (sometimes more). So, depending on how frequently you go, this could take weeks or months.
Depression can take a toll on your body.9 When left untreated, it can lead to other health issues like autoimmune disorders, type 2 diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, and arthritis.
The SAMHSA National Helpline can provide immediate help for individuals or families struggling with mental health issues like depression. The number is 1-800-662-HELP.
Depression is more than just feeling down every once in a while. Clinical depression can be debilitating.
This is why finding coping methods that work is so important. Remember that there is hope for you, even if you’re currently struggling.
You can start by seeking professional help and leaning into your support systems. Finding effective coping methods can help you get back to feeling like yourself again.