You may be bummed out, down in the dumps, and you just need to talk to someone but you can’t. Aside from seeing your Therapist, here’s 3 simple things to do today to fight depression.
The interesting thing about depression is that it’s both universal and very specific to the individual. Everyone gets down or depressed at one point or another. It’s part of being human. But the way depression manifests, and how long it sticks around, varies from person to person.
Perhaps depression shows up as a lingering feeling of emptiness. It’s like a dark cloud hanging over you, following you around as you move through your daily activities. Maybe you find yourself unable to get out of bed at all on the weekends, sleeping for days and foregoing any social life. Perhaps you’re coping with underlying depression through your relationships with food or finances. Maybe you desire to be that productive version of yourself you’ve glimpsed before, but you just can’t seem to get the motivation, energy, and focus you need to keep up with work.
Depending on how depression shows up for you, life might feel grueling, or foggy, or meaningless, or painful. Depression wears a different mask for everyone, but there are common themes among all of us.
While there’s no magic fix for depression, there are a lot of things you can do to help shift yourself out of the seemingly bottomless pit.
1. Take small breaks to give your brain a rest.
Try to do something that introduces the opposite emotion of what you’re feeling. It may sound silly, but the laws of neuroplasticity tell us that there’s a lot of truth to the phrase “fake it ‘til you make it.” Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Go for a walk outside
- Make a cup of tea
- Watch a funny Youtube video
- Browse Buzzfeed, Pinterest, or your favorite sports or entertainment website
- Play a game on your device
- Sit at a coffee shop just to surround yourself with people
- Avoid reading the news, scrolling social media, or engaging in political debates. If you must get a news fix, try Huffington Post Good News.
2. Take care of your body
Our brains affect every part of our bodies, and vice versa. You can choose to release feel-good neurotransmitters by taking care of your physical self.
- Eat. Without energy from food, your body and brain won’t function optimally, and you’re much more vulnerable to overwhelming emotions. So eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Try to get a gentle schedule in place so your blood sugar doesn’t dip too low. You might be tempted to skip meals because you aren’t working as fast as you usually do, or because getting food just seems like too much work. Maybe you don’t have an appetite at all. You might also be struggling with portion control and mindful eating. Depression makes comfort foods, especially sweets, sound especially soothing. The bottom line is, if you want sweets… go for it. But make sure to also get something with some nutritional value. Remember that sugar is inflammatory and can disrupt the nervous system. So go ahead and treat yourself, but try to eat foods that will fuel your body with nutrients too.
- Get enough sleep. Consider making sleep a top priority, including regular sleep/wake times and a soothing bedtime routine. Remember how you had a strict bedtime routine as a kid? Stop any screen time about 2 hours before bed, so you can eliminate blue light. Dim the lights lower around dinner time to help your body ease into your natural circadian rhythms. Take a warm bath with epsom salts right before bed. Try diffusing some lavender oil into your environment to promote relaxation. Sleep in a cool, dark room without distractions. The power of sleep can’t be overstated, and you might find this one tip to make all the difference!
- Incorporate physical activity. You don’t have to run a marathon or even join a gym. This isn’t about getting in the best shape of your life — it’s about releasing those helpful hormones like endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine. Try going for a 10-minute walk. If you’re in an office, try getting up and walking around every so often, or taking 15 minutes to stroll around the block during lunch. Do a YouTube yoga class. Maybe even try a dance party in your living room!
3. Put things into perspective
Depression does a spectacular job of coloring the way we look at the world and ourselves. When a situation becomes particularly overwhelming, try thinking about it in a different way by asking yourself these questions:
- How much will this matter in a week? A month? A year?
- What would I tell a friend or a loved one in the same situation?
- What would a friend or loved one tell me if I described the situation for them?
- What am I actually reacting to? What assumptions might I be making?
- What are a few things in my life that I have been successful at lately?
Depression is very real and can make you feel like you’re carrying a boulder on your back… uphill… in the snow… But remember, you’ve got this! Don’t let your brain trick you into thinking you’ll always feel this way and it can’t get better. Believe in yourself and your own strength. You have the power to make small shifts in your brain that affect the way you feel.
Afraid to fight the battle alone? You don’t have to. If you need help, don’t hesitate to ask. Our counselors and therapists are ready to be your support and guide as you make your way out of depression and into the light!
–Colleen Hilton, MA, LMFT
Keywords: depression, fight depression