While treating major depressive disorder will generally require professional intervention, there are ways for you to take some control over your condition.
Here are eight self-help techniques or alternative therapies that can help you cope with depression, get a handle on your symptoms, and beat the disease altogether.
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. But learning as much as you can about your condition is empowering.
- Anticipate potential problems: Read up on your medications so you’re aware of potential side effects.
- Practice coping skills. The more skills you have that can help improve your mood, the better.
- Seek out reputable, trusted doctors and therapists who have written self-help books or run websites or blogs.
- Get support. Connect with other individuals going through the same thing. Together you might be able to find new 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 your depression, both the visible symptoms and the underlying causes of it. Through regular sessions, you’ll learn about the root cause of your depression.
You can then 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 handle future crises so you can avoid another battle with depression.
Exercise is one of the best ways to overcome depression. That’s because physical activity helps reduce and relieve symptoms of depression. It can also ease some of the physical effects of depression. Coincidentally, it’s also one of the best ways to deal with and prevent other chronic illnesses.
But don’t think that you have to sweat it out alone! Exercise can be a social activity. You may find you enjoy a workout class or group program. These settings encourage connectedness, which can boost your emotional well-being.
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.
On top of this, 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 disorders are rather common during 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 next. 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.
Jot down what you did, whom you saw, and anything else that you think would be helpful to look at again. Smartphone apps can also be helpful in tracking your symptoms and triggers.
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. Several techniques can help improve the harmony between your mind and your body. These include:
- guided imagery
- breathing exercises
- massage therapy
Look into Alternative Medicine
There are many herbal remedies and supplements that may help treat your depression.
- Folate, a B vitamin, may help antidepressant medications work more efficiently. When your body doesn’t have enough folate, it may have a slower-than-normal response to antidepressant medicines.
- Omega-3 fatty acids are heart-healthy fats that 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, also known as Hypericum perforatum, is an herb that has been used for centuries to treat many conditions, including depression. While it may help, it’s not an FDA-approved treatment for depression.
So while talking with your doctor or therapist and getting medical attention is the first step to beating depression, these eight tips may just leave you feeling better too.