Strategies for dealing with depression

10 Ways to Cope with Depression

Battling depression is tough. Thankfully, there are many ways you can fight depression.

What works one day may not work as well the next, so you want as many tools in the toolbox to adapt and handle whatever depression throws your way. Similar to how symptoms of depression overlap and affect each other, some of the tips below overlap and can help address multiple symptoms.

Here are some tips for coping with depression:

1. Challenging negative thinking

Being able to recognize when depression is pulling you down is the first step toward recovery. When depressed, all sorts of negative thoughts can get stuck in our heads, so it’s important to be able to keep these in check. Here are five common depressed thoughts and what you can do about them.

2. Shift your attention

If your mood is weighing you down to the point where it feels impossible to challenge your thoughts, then try taking a step back to concentrate on something else. This can be especially helpful when trying to deal with and overcome suicidal thoughts.Mindfulness exercises can be helpful in shifting attention away from negative thoughts.

3. Set small goals

Depression can make the simplest tasks seem daunting, so you’re going to have to work on breaking things down into small and concrete tasks. For example, instead of getting stuck thinking ‘how am I going to get to work everyday this week’, think about getting to work today, then break it down even further.

  1. Get out of bed.
  2. Have a shower and shave.
  3. Get dressed.
  4. Eat breakfast.
  5. Head to work.

Each time you complete a step, give yourself credit. Simply getting out of bed when fighting depression is an accomplishment and if that’s all you can do one day, that’s okay. Push yourself but don’t beat yourself up if you can’t keep up to your usual pace.

4. Focus on the basics

Sleep, food, physical activity – do your best to keep on top of these as they can make a huge impact on your ability to successfully manage depression.

Make sure to think ‘physical activity’ and not ‘exercise’. Going for a short walk, doing household chores, or anything that gets you up and moving counts. Getting outside and into the sun can also help. Here are five simple tips on keeping active.

5. Keep doing things

This might seem hard at first, because you probably won’t have the same amount of energy you normally do, but part of fighting depression is simply giving your mind something else to think about (and a rest from depressed thoughts).

Try concentrating your attention anywhere else – go for a walk, work on a hobby, meet a friend for coffee. The main thing here is that you want to avoid lying about and stewing in misery all day. Once you get going, you’ll also usually find you have more energy than you thought you would.

6. Reach out to friends and family

A lot of guys hide feeling depressed from the very people that could help the most.

Talking about what’s causing you stress or bringing you down can help lessen the intensity of these thoughts. Give those closest to you a chance to help out. Here are some tips on talking to a friend or family member.

7. Talk to a therapist

Talking to a therapist about depression is like seeing a physical therapist after a serious leg injury. If you want to get the best advice possible, you need to talk to an expert.

Remember, therapy isn’t about crying or pointless complaining; it’s about learning what’s underlying your depression, developing new skills for managing the stuff that life thows at us, and working toward improving and enjoying your life. When it comes to depression, there is no substitute for seeking professional help – if you’re feeling depressed, connect with a therapist as soon as you can. It’s that straightforward. Learn more about talk therapy and how to find a therapist.

8. Keep some humour in your life

Finding ways to make yourself laugh provides your mind with a break from all the negative thoughts depression brings.

Whether this involves talking a friend, watching a funny show or movie, or following a humorous account on social media, it can all help.

9. Avoid or limit alcohol and other substance use

Some of the tips above are about coping with depression by distracting ourselves. Drinking and other substance use may feel like a way to distract, distance, or numb yourself from the pains of depression, but it isn’t a healthy way to do it and will always turn into a bigger problem.

10. Give yourself credit

We know how hard it is to fight depression, so we cannot stress this enough – be proud of any steps and progress you make, even if it takes longer than you hoped.

Recovering from depression takes time. The new habits and skills you learn now will you help throughout your life.

31 Coping Skills for Depression

When you feel depressed, you will naturally find ways to cope with the negative feelings. However, there are healthy and unhealthy ways to cope with depression. Negative coping tactics like drugs, alcohol, overeating or self-harm are forms of self-medication that often cause more problems, making depression worse. Instead, try engaging in activities that bring joy and help with relaxation. Here is a list of 31 things you can do to help you beat the blues. Try doing one thing every day to build healthy coping habits.

  1. Socialize — people with depression often feel isolated. Don’t isolate yourself from your loved ones. Reach out to friends and family and build yourself a strong support system.
  2. Exercise — exercise is a great habit for anyone to pick up, but it is especially important for those who have depression. In fact, exercise has been known to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  3. Face your fears — you feel a sense of accomplishment when you do hard things that scare you, which can make you feel better about yourself. Avoiding procrastination and challenging yourself with new things will help you build self-confidence and resiliency.
  4. Healthy eating habits — your diet is a key aspect of your health that directly correlates with your mood. If you want to ease your depression symptoms, don’t skip meals, take b vitamins, eat omega 3 fatty acids, eat less sugar and carbs, and limit your intake of alcohol and caffeine. Foods high in carbs, sugar, caffeine, and alcohol can cause inflammation in the body, which affects our ability to maintain mood stability.
  5. Get creative — using your emotions to fuel your creativity is a very positive way to deal with depression through catharsis. Try painting, writing stories and poetry, or even writing music.
  6. Get a pet — taking care of an animal will not only allow you to focus your energy on something other than your depression but also allow you to form a strong bond, making you feel less isolated.
  7. Volunteer — volunteering is a great way to avoid negative thoughts and help those who may be worse off than you. Serving others is a proven way to build self-esteem and resiliency. Look for volunteer opportunities in your area.
  8. Find a hobby — spend time doing something you love each day. Spending time consistently to do things that bring us joy has a compound effect on our overall happiness and quality of life.
  9. Get enough sleep — sleep also correlates with your mood. If you’re not sleeping well, then you probably feel more depressed and irritable, not to mention tired. Talk to your doctor about your options to help you get a good night’s rest.
  10. Relax — relaxation can also help you cope with negative feelings. Take a hot shower, a bath, and watch a movie or TV show. You will be surprised at what some good R&R can do for your mood.
  11. Pay attention to your thoughts — When you learn how to recognize negative thoughts, you are better equipped to deal with them.
  12. Deep breathing — deep breathing is another calming skill you can use when you are in a stressful situation and need to calm down.
  13. Relinquish control — you can’t control every aspect of your life, so you might feel better when you just let go and learn to roll with the punches.
  14. Learn your triggers — if you know what triggers your depression, you can stay away from them or learn how to better cope when those situations arise.
  15. Build a routine and stick to it — although you can’t control everything, you can control some things. Try making a daily routine and sticking to it, focusing your energy on what you do have a say in rather than what you don’t.
  16. Do things that boost your self-esteem — those with depression often have low self-esteem, so do your makeup, get a new hairdo, take a fun picture, or write down things you like about yourself. Self-care is a huge part of building self-esteem.
  17. Clean or organize — your space is another aspect of your life that you have control over. So use cleaning and organizing as an outlet for your depression. Your life may be a mess, but your bedroom, kitchen, and other rooms in your house don’t have to be.
  18. Meditate — meditation is another skill that can help you learn how to cope with tough situations. Meditation can help you clear your mind of the negative thoughts and press reset.
  19. Redecorate — if cleaning isn’t enough, try redecorating. A change of scenery could be just what you need to get you out of that funk.
  20. Treat yourself — reward yourself when you do something hard or overcome a difficult situation
  21. Keep a journal — a journal not only lets you air out your frustrations but also lets you track your progress. You may be surprised at how far you’ve come when you look back at past entries.
  22. Go to therapy — realizing that you need help is a big step in overcoming depression. If you feel like you can’t cope on your own, reach out to a professional for help.
  23. Get in touch with your spirituality — go to church, read scriptures, or say a prayer. Do something that makes you feel connected to a higher power.
  24. Listen to music — music is another fantastic way to cope with depression. Make a playlist of uplifting songs to listen to when you’re feeling down.
  25. Go for a walk — sometimes getting away for a while and taking a walk can help you deal with your emotions. It also helps to get outside and get some much-needed sunlight.
  26. Unplug — when you feel overwhelmed by life, turn off your electronics and take some time to recharge. But don’t isolate yourself from friends and loved ones.
  27. Let yourself cry — instead of avoiding or pushing down the emotions when they come, try working through them by letting go and having a good cry.
  28. Do yoga — yoga is like exercising, deep breathing, and meditation all rolled into one.
  29. Try acupuncture — acupuncture eases tension in your body, relaxing you, and in turn, easing some of the negativity you may be feeling.
  30. Take a class on something that interests you — learning is a great way to stimulate your brain and put your focus into a positive activity. Find something that interests you or a skill that you always wanted to pick up, and sign up for a class.
  31. Follow doctor’s orders — Sometimes you can’t beat depression on your own, so you need to follow your doctor’s instructions by regularly taking your medication, attending follow-up appointments, and maintaining your physical health.

Obviously, not every one of these strategies is going to help you handle your emotions, but keep trying new healthy activities to find what works for you. Most importantly, work with a licensed psychiatrist or therapist who can help you develop effective coping strategies.

Contact Serenity Mental Health Centers to learn more about depression and what your treatment options are.

8 Depression Coping Strategies That Help Me

5. Surrounding myself with water. A long shower or a soak in the tub are always relaxing to me. In the summer, I’ll spend time in our pool. The sound of water has always soothed me, so listening to my sound app that has a variety of water sounds is healing. We are fortunate enough to live in a city on the river; walking along the walkway by the river is an enjoyable way to get exercise while viewing and hearing the water.

6. Listening to music. Music can be so therapeutic. I’ve always been a music lover; as a child, I remember spending most of my allowance on 45s (I’m giving my age away, aren’t I?). I enjoy a variety of music: jazz, oldies, country, rock, contemporary Christian, etc. I’m really not too picky. All I know is immersing myself in the sound of music does more to lift my mood than almost anything else.

7. Connecting with God. Prayer, reading scripture, listening to church service all help me. I’m not the most religious person, but I am a believer, and I do feel there’s a place for religion or some spiritual connection when dealing with my chronic illness. For me, having faith and hope help make the bad days not so bad.

8. Keeping things in perspective. It’s so easy to let yourself ruminate about things, but that isn’t always conducive to good mental health. I find if I’m able to tell myself I’ve felt this way before and I made it through to the other side, those “what if” and “why me” thoughts occur much less. Looking through the foggy lenses of a depressed person is difficult; that’s why having the ability to remember the ups and downs of life is so helpful.

These coping strategies may or may not be helpful to you, but it certainly won’t hurt to try some of them. If you are clinically depressed or suicidal, you should see a professional. Here’s to having better days ahead for all of us!

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.

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What are self-help strategies?

In addition to seeking help from someone you trust or a mental health professional, there are other things you can do to help yourself with depression. You might not notice a difference straight away, but practising these skills each day can help overcome the ‘cycle’ of depression, where feeling bad about yourself leads you to doing less and feeling worse. Here are some self help strategies for depression.

  • Track your thoughts. Writing down your thoughts is a good way to identify those that are contributing to making you feel down and depressed; these might include thoughts like ‘I’m useless’ or ‘no one cares about me’. Just because we think something, it doesn’t mean it’s true, so learn how to challenge negative thinking. If your mood is really low and you have difficulty challenging your thoughts, avoid writing them down on your own and instead seek help from a mental health professional.
  • Practise relaxation. Relaxation is great for reducing stress. Learn some relaxation techniques and write down a list of things you find comforting.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs. If you’re using alcohol and drugs to cope, you could actually be making your symptoms worse. Sometimes drugs and alcohol make us feel worse straight away; other times, they might make us feel better initially but later can bring our mood down even lower.
  • Stay active. Exercise can make a difference to your energy levels and help stimulate hormones (such as endorphins) that help you feel better about yourself. Make a realistic goal to increase your level of activity. For example, if you’ve found it difficult even to get out of bed for the last few days, an achievable goal might be just to go for a walk outside in the fresh air for five minutes.
  • Take some time out to do things you enjoy. When you’re feeling down, it can be hard to get motivated to do the things you like to do. It can also feel impossible to experience enjoyment if you’re depressed. Even so, each day, try to make yourself do one thing you used to enjoy doing.
  • Connect with others. It’s common to withdraw when you’re feeling depressed, but this can make you feel worse. Try to reconnect with friends. Again, make your goal realistic: if you’ve been avoiding your friends altogether, a starting point might be to send a text or (finally) to reply to one. If you don’t feel like leaving the house, you could ask them to come and hang out with you at home.
  • Learn something new. Developing new skills and achieving things lifts your mood. Write a list of ideas you would like to try, and pick one to start with.
  • Get outside. There’s research that indicates when you have contact with pets, plants, gardens, parks, etc., it reduces stress and boosts your mood. Go for a walk outside. We also know that sunlight helps to regulate mood.
  • Talk to someone you trust. Depression can feel lonely.Talk about how you’re feeling with a family member or a close friend. They can also provide an outsider’s opinion on what’s going on.
  • Join a support group. It can be helpful to talk with people who’ve gone through a similar experience. Check out key services for help with depression for more information.
  • Learn positive coping strategies. Things can feel overwhelming when your mood is low, and it can be difficult to know how to cope. See our fact sheet on building better coping skills.
  • Set small goals. Don’t set your goals too high; it could make you feel worse if you can’t meet your expectations. Set yourself small goals and take things one step at a time. See our goal setting fact sheet.
  • Develop a healthy sleep routine. Sleep has a huge effect on our physical and emotional health. Get some tips to help you get into a sleeping routine.

We know it can be tough take on any of these depression self help tips when you’re feeling really bad. Also, when it comes to self-help, strategies for feeling better are very individualistic. That is, different things work for different people. Not everyone will want to start doing yoga, for example, so keep trying different ideas even if the first thing you try doesn’t help.

What to do if self-help isn’t working?

If you’ve tried the depression self help strategies above but your symptoms are still overwhelming, go and see your GP or a mental health professional for additional depression help.

Your GP will have suggestions for alternative things you can try to help manage your depression from day to day, and will be able to assess if you need medication or further help. Treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy and medication, and having a good relationship with a GP, psychologist and/or psychiatrist, can be effective in treating depression and improving mood.

Coping Skills for Battling Depression: Here’s What You Need

Using coping skills for depression can be very effective, but battling depression is an active process that takes patience, practice, and persistence. Because depression impacts all facets of life—health, relationships, work, leisure, and more—it’s important to know what you need for the battle, the weapons you’ll need for when you’re really depressed. Successfully battling depression requires proper weapons, or different coping skills for depression, that will help you conquer it.

Multiple Paths, Many Coping Skills for Depression

Something very important that you need in order to battle depression is openness and flexibility to try many different coping skills as well as a willingness to take many paths to get over depression. Depression is complex, and it takes multiple approaches from multiple fronts in order to conquer it (Self-Help for Depression: What Helps?).

The journey to a depression-free life can be divided into six different roads (Wright & McCray, 2012):

  • The thoughts-and-actions path
  • The biology path
  • The relationship path
  • The lifestyle path
  • The spiritual path
  • The mindfulness path

The article “Stop Being Depressed. Use These Self-Help Tools Now” examines important tools for use on the thoughts-and-actions path. The biology path involves medications. Having a conversation with your doctor about depression medication and whether it’s right for you will help you decide whether to travel down the biology path or take a detour.

Depression Coping Skills for the Paths to Wellness

The relationship path is about ending isolation and loneliness that are too frequently a part of depression. A few relationship-building coping skills include:

  • To cope with depression, pick one person you feel comfortable with to confide in. Having someone to talk to safely about your experiences with depression helps the healing process; it’s powerful to know that someone else “gets it”.
  • Commit to connecting to this person at least weekly, and more often if it’s practical.
  • Reciprocate. Friendship is about giving and receiving, so make sure the other person feels heard, too.

The lifestyle path involves living fully. It’s about intentional choices made, starting right now, to use coping skills to create a quality life that you can enjoy. The lifestyle path involves using positive coping skills for depression, such as:

  • Eating well for brain and body health
  • Having a sleep routine so you feel energized during the day
  • Balancing your life
  • Seeking therapy
  • Reading the best books on depression
  • Exercising
  • Journaling
  • Engaging in pleasurable activities.

The spiritual path is about pulling yourself out of depression by connecting you to a deep sense of self and the world beyond you. It’s about feeling connected to something greater, whatever it is that you find deep and greater than yourself (Are Support Groups for Depression Really Helpful?). For some people, spirituality is a religion. For others, it might be nature or the universe. Spirituality isn’t a particular belief but instead is a way of thinking beyond yourself. Some specific coping skills on the spiritual path include

  • Appreciating beauty by finding and admiring something you find delightful every day
  • Broadening your perspective by considering things from different viewpoints
  • Connecting with nature
  • Avoiding burnout by stepping away and doing something that inspires a sense of awe
  • Participating in your church, synagogue, mosque, or other places of worship

The mindfulness path involves being fully present in your life. Like the others, this one can begin immediately. You don’t have to be depression-free to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness has been shown to reduce depression by helping them learn to get out of the mind and into the real world. Mindfulness can involve

  • Meditation
  • Walking and experiencing the world fully
  • Doing activities with your full attention, thinking about your senses rather than on the thoughts in your head

Coping skills for depression are many and varied. Attend to each of the different paths to wellness, use coping skills every day, and you’ll find that you’re winning the battle with depression (10 Things to Help with Depression).

article references

Tips for coping with depression

Be more active

Take up some form of exercise. There’s evidence that exercise can help lift your mood. If you haven’t exercised for a while, start gently by walking for 20 minutes every day.

Read about exercise for depression.

Face your fears

Don’t avoid the things you find difficult. When people feel low or anxious, they sometimes avoid talking to other people. Some people can lose their confidence in going out, driving or travelling.

If this starts to happen, facing up to these situations will help them become easier.

Reading Ten ways to fight your fears may help.

Don’t drink too much alcohol

For some people, alcohol can become a problem. You may drink more than usual as a way of coping with or hiding your emotions, or just to fill time. But alcohol won’t help you solve your problems and could also make you feel more depressed.

Read some tips on cutting down on alcohol.

Try to eat a healthy diet

Some people don’t feel like eating when they’re depressed and are at risk of becoming underweight. Others find comfort in food and can put on excess weight.

Antidepressants can also affect your appetite.

If you’re concerned about weight loss, weight gain or how antidepressants are affecting your appetite, talk to your GP.

See tips on how to eat more healthily.

Have a routine

When people feel down, they can get into poor sleep patterns, staying up late and sleeping during the day. Try to get up at your normal time and stick to your routine as much as possible.

Not having a routine can affect your eating. Try to carry on cooking and eating regular meals.

Seeking help for depression

Get help if you’re still feeling down or depressed after a couple of weeks.

Treatments for depression include psychological therapies and antidepressants.

You can refer yourself for psychological therapies like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or counselling on the NHS. You don’t need a referral from your GP.

Being depressed can make you feel helpless. You’re not. Along with therapy and sometimes medication, there’s a lot you can do on your own to fight back. Changing your behavior — your physical activity, lifestyle, and even your way of thinking — are all natural depression treatments.

These tips can help you feel better — starting right now.

1. Get in a routine. If you’re depressed, you need a routine, says Ian Cook, MD. He’s a psychiatrist and director of the Depression Research and Clinic Program at UCLA.

Depression can strip away the structure from your life. One day melts into the next. Setting a gentle daily schedule can help you get back on track.

2.Set goals. When you’re depressed, you may feel like you can’t accomplish anything. That makes you feel worse about yourself. To push back, set daily goals for yourself.

“Start very small,” Cook says. “Make your goal something that you can succeed at, like doing the dishes every other day.”

As you start to feel better, you can add more challenging daily goals.

3. Exercise. It temporarily boosts feel-good chemicals called endorphins. It may also have long-term benefits for people with depression. Regular exercise seems to encourage the brain to rewire itself in positive ways, Cook says.

How much exercise do you need? You don’t need to run marathons to get a benefit. Just walking a few times a week can help.

4. Eat healthy. There is no magic diet that fixes depression. It’s a good idea to watch what you eat, though. If depression tends to make you overeat, getting in control of your eating will help you feel better.

Although nothing is definitive, Cook says there’s evidence that foods with omega-3 fatty acids (such as salmon and tuna) and folic acid (such as spinach and avocado) could help ease depression.

5. Get enough sleep. Depression can make it hard to get enough shut-eye, and too little sleep can make depression worse.

What can you do? Start by making some changes to your lifestyle. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. Try not to nap. Take all the distractions out of your bedroom — no computer and no TV. In time, you may find your sleep improves.

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