Many forms of depression are managed through a variety of different techniques. It’s usually not enough to rely on medication when you’re consistently on the receiving end of stressful situations, demeaning comments, and abusive behavior. It’s not enough to go to therapy when you’re struggling to digest and internalize any of what you’re reading or hearing because your sadness is just too overpowering. It takes a positive, constructive approach from all sides to tackle and subdue depression, and help you make consistent progress.
Part of that means taking meds to help you overcome the worst of the depression or using other means of treatment to do the same, such as transcranial magnetic stimulation. But another part of that means working on your day-to-day to improve, create, and maintain a positive outlook on life. Here are a few simple tips you can use to help continue to make progress against depression, while engaging in numerous forms of treatment.
Start Each Day with One Task
A good day starts with a good start, and many days are ruined by bad starts when depression kicks in and leaves you lying in bed, staring up at the ceiling. It might sound like strange advice at first, but something you have to practice more than almost anything else is getting a fast start to your day. That means starting each day with a single simple task to achieve right away. It could be something as simple as getting into your underwear and feeding a pet or putting on a cozy shirt and getting a kettle of water started.
Just focus on one single thing you can do each and every morning that takes less than a minute, no more than a few seconds, just to get you out of bed. It’s easy to lay in bed knowing that you’re going to have to do this, then that, then that, then that. The whole day becomes an exhausting laundry list of tiring and repetitive tasks in your mind, repeating over and over, becoming daunting, overwhelming, and difficult to approach.
But if you start each day with a single task and focus on getting nothing else done except that task the second you wake up each morning becomes a little easier to digest. Turning long and arduous obstacles into little simple piecemeal tasks is important for depression.
Procrastination is very common in people with depression and anxiety because they find themselves easily overwhelmed by what’s ahead, and their mind begins to wander in an attempt to stay sane or keep from doing what needs to be done, especially when what needs to be done sounds and feels like a massive time sink requiring hours of constant concentration. If, instead, you turn it into very many little tasks, you’ll find that it’s really not as daunting or difficult as you first imagined.
Follow a Flexible Schedule
If you’re out of work or recently graduated school, you may be tempted to take some time for yourself. That’s well and good, and in today’s stressful society, having the ability to decide for yourself that you’re going to spend some time working on you is both admirable and a good idea.
But you still need a schedule. We all need schedules, and they’re that much more important if you’re struggling with depression and/or anxiety. Not knowing what to do next can be somewhat paralyzing and having no schedule at all leads to days blending into each other, as any and all sense of time dies away, and your sleeping and waking hours become increasingly and dangerously irregular.
Wake up at a set time, head to bed at a set time, get a number of things done in the morning and in the afternoon, and fill the time in between with whatever you want.
Get Some Exercise
Motivating yourself for the gym can be a chore to say the least, and it’s that much harder when your depression flares up and you’re struggling to find the will to get out of bed and hit the shower, much less start a workout. While daily workouts might be a bit overwhelming to begin with, consider simply getting two or three workout sessions into a week rather than committing to four or five sessions right off the bat. Start with working out every other day, or once on Monday and once on Thursday, and see where things go from there.
Keep your workouts short, sweet, and effective – and most importantly, do something that’s actually fun. If your goal is to lose weight, then the majority of your work is done in the kitchen anyway. If your goal is to gain muscle, consider how and where you want to start. Swimming, calisthenics, weightlifting, kettlebell sports and machine bodybuilding all entail very different workout plans and workout styles, but they all help you build a stronger body. Similarly, jogging, sprinting, skipping rope, boxing and pushing sleds helps bring your cardio to new levels, but it’s all about figuring out which style of training best suits you and which you find most rewarding mentally.
Don’t turn exercising into a chore, turn it into something you actually look forward to whenever you’re in a normal state of mind. Finally, try not to chastise yourself too much for missing a workout. Commitment and discipline are important qualities, but when you’re having a really bad day, you’re just having a really bad day. It’s okay to take a break and try again tomorrow.
Try Cutting Caffeine
Caffeine can have a definite mental effect on some people, and the more of it you drink, the more likely it is to affect you. At best, caffeine can give you a boost to focus and generally improve your day-to-day motivation. At worst, however, caffeine can heighten any existing anxiety and drive you to feel worse than without it, combining nervous jitters with a nervous mind.
The fine balance between good caffeine levels and bad caffeine levels is different for everyone. Your best bet is to take a week-long break from caffeine (preferably a week where you don’t have as much on your plate as per usual), and then slowly reintroduce it into your life, at about a third the amount per day you usually drink. Find your “sweet spot”.
If you think you’re too easily dependent on caffeine, consider cutting out coffee and energy drinks entirely, and opting for low-caffeine alternatives, such as various teas. The theanine in tea offers a similar effect to caffeine, boosting focus, while simultaneously offering a calming effect.
Monitor Your Sleep Quality
Sleep is a good indication for many of how their depression is progressing. Bad sleep, coupled with irregular sleeping hours, sleeplessness/insomnia or constant oversleeping are all signs that something may be wrong, and in some cases, it can help to talk to your therapist and consider changing medication or taking a look into whether something else has been bothering you significantly in the past few days.
Keeping a sleep journal can help you keep track of how your sleep and your mood correlate, so you can tell whether things are getting better or worse depending on how you’re sleeping.
There are many more tips for maintaining a positive outlook against depression, and some work better than others for every individual. Figuring out what you can and can’t do is important, so you know what to prioritize when recovering from depression.