Most people will not have success treating major depressive disorder (MDD) if they do not seek professional help. But even with traditional treatments, you may have room for self-help techniques. These alternative therapies can help you cope with depression, get a handle on your symptoms, and beat the disease altogether.
Exercise is one of the best ways to beat depression. Coincidentally, it’s also one of the best ways to overcome and prevent many chronic illnesses. Physical activity helps reduce and relieve symptoms of depression. It can also ease some of the physical effects of depression. As a bonus, exercise can be a social activity—you may find you enjoy getting involved with an exercise class or group. This encourages social connectedness, which can boost your emotional well-being.
Learn as Much as You Can
One of the worst feelings associated with depression is a sense of helplessness. Depression can leave you feeling as if you have no control over anything in your life. Take back control by learning as much as you can about the disease. Get ahead of potential problems: Read up on your medications so you can anticipate problems; practice coping skills; seek out reputable, trusted doctors and therapists who have written self-help books or run websites or blogs. You may also be able to connect with other individuals going through the same thing, and together, you can find ways to cope with depression.
Seek Out Therapy
Whether it’s one-on-one or in a group setting, psychotherapy may help you deal with depression, both the side effects and the causes of it. Through regular sessions, you will be taught to understand what causes depression. You can identify healthy changes that can help you cope with and beat depression. These may include exploring past relationships, making changes to unhealthy behavior, confronting negative beliefs, and learning to accept things over which you have no control. The skills you learn through this process can also help you better adjust to a future crisis so you can avoid another struggle with depression.
Avoid Drugs and Alcohol
Unfortunately, it’s an all-too-common misconception that drugs and alcohol will make depression better. While these substances may help you forget your condition temporarily, drugs and alcohol can actually make depression worse. (Not to mention the fact that many antidepressant drugs react negatively with drugs and alcohol, which can put you in danger.) If you have a problem resisting either drugs or alcohol, ask your doctor or therapist for help.
A good night’s sleep can cure many ills, and it just might help you cope with your depression. Sleep boosts both your physical and mental health. Getting enough of it can dramatically increase brain function and improve recovery. However, insomnia and other sleep problems are not uncommon with depression. Talk with your doctor if you have difficulty sleeping.
Keep a Journal
It’s easy to get lost in the thought that each day is just as terrible as the one before it. But if you create a concrete way of tracking your days—a journal, calendar, or daily log of some sort—you can see how some days are better than others. You might also include information such as what you did that day, who you saw, any revelations you experienced during therapy. Rate each day from one to 10—10 being an outstanding day, and one being a terrible day. A look back over your days to see how far you’ve come can provide an added boost of encouragement.
If your brain is free to wander, you may waste a lot of mental energy thinking about your problems. Instead, learn ways to divert your brain’s attention for the better. Several techniques can help you improve the harmony between your mind and your body. These include acupuncture, guided imagery, yoga, meditation, and massage therapy.
Look into Alternative Medicine
Many herbal remedies and supplements are prescribed for treating depression. These include:
- Folate. Folate, a B vitamin, may help antidepressant medications work more efficiently. When your body does not have enough folate, it may have a slower-than-normal response to antidepressant medicines.
- Omega-3 fatty acids. These heart-healthy fats may ease symptoms of depression. Cold-water fish are chock-full of omega-3s, as are flaxseed, flax oil, walnuts, and algae supplements.
- St.-John’s-wort. This herb, also known as Hypericum perforatum, has been used for centuries in folk and herbal remedies to treat many conditions, including depression. Today, across Europe, St.-John’s-wort is widely used to treat mild to moderate depression. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve of the herb being used as a treatment for depression.