Depression is a consuming illness, causing grief for people across the country – not just patients, but affected families and friends as well. More than just a mindset, depression can become a debilitating condition. However, there are ways to tackle depression, through various therapies, medications, and alternative treatments.
But there’s more to managing a depression than doing as the doctor says, when the doctor says it. Lifestyle changes and various little habits can greatly affect a person’s mood and depression, both positively and negatively. Avoiding certain habits and promoting others is important as a way to support depression treatment. Some of these tips relate to lifestyle changes, like sleep and eating. Others are about reminding yourself to hang out with friends more often or keeping a list of pick-me-ups handy.
Create an Emergency List
One way to get yourself out of a rut when depressed is to keep a nearby list that you can refer to, to select a pick me up. A list on your phone is a good idea, as is a printed list in the kitchen, in your room, or in an otherwise accessible location you can always go to. List down things that help lift your spirits and pick one. It could be movie titles, songs, links to videos or quotes, a picture, or a reminder to go take a walk in the park, visit a friend, or replay an old game.
Having an emergency list is important because it’s often hard to come up with ways to feel better when you’re having a bad day. Consider listing a couple people or phone numbers as well, friends or family members you can call who can keep you company over the phone or in person. An emergency contact can make a bad day much better, even if it’s to pop on over for a bite to eat and a movie.
Try to Work Out
Exercise can help flood the brain with feel-good hormones and help with body image issues. But it’s hard to get motivated to exercise when you’re struggling with a depression.
The key is convenience. The easier it is to access exercise, the better. A gym membership helps some people get up and exercise because they think of the costs of their membership, and how they must make use of it. But another way to start is to avoid the gym, and instead pick a corner in your home or apartment designated to workouts. Use a mat or some equipment to differentiate it from the rest of the house, and set yourself an achievable goal, starting with a 10-minute workout, or something similar.
You could also consider creating different programs for different moods. Create an easy yoga workout to follow for 10-15 minutes on days when you just don’t feel like it. Create a tougher workout for normal days, and a tough workout for when you’re feeling good.
It’s okay to miss a day or two in a week. It’s more important to get back on the horse and continue on the next day, than risk falling off entirely and not exercising altogether.
Prioritize Your Sleep Hygiene
Sleep is critical for any human being, but it’s especially important to create a sleep schedule you can stick to if you’re struggling with a depressive slump. Not enough or too much sleep can heavily affect your mood (in a negative way), and it’s important to have both an evening routine to help you slumber faster, and a morning routine to keep you from staying awake in bed too long.
Various strategies can help improve a person’s sleep hygiene. Itemizing your morning in such a way that each individual step is easy and approachable can help you get up and out. Instead of struggling to get out of bed because of all the work you have ahead of you, set an alarm and endeavor to just put on a pair of briefs or undies when it goes off. Time your workouts closer to the late afternoon hours, so the fatigue sets in and gets you to sleep. Avoid any food a few hours before bed, so you’re not busy digesting. Try ASMR, hypnosis videos, or the sound of rain to help you fall asleep. If your medication or treatment allows it, consider melatonin if nothing else works.
Talk to a Dietitian
Dietitians differentiate themselves from nutritionists by being accredited and possessing the proper training and expertise needed to help individuals and companies improve their understanding of diet and nutrition.
Clinical and research dietitians often immerse themselves in better understanding the connection between diet and various illnesses, either contributing to cutting-edge research on many topics surrounding mental health, gut health, and food allergies, or working with patients directly. A dietitian experienced with mental health conditions may be able to help you identify foods that you should avoid in order to maintain better physical and mental health.
Studies show that what we eat has a direct effect on mental health, not only by preventing obesity, but by affecting hormone regulation, promoting a consistent mood, and so on. Our gut can be considered a second brain, and our mental health is affected by gut health. Keeping the gut healthy is critical. For some, that might mean avoiding foods that may contribute to certain mental health symptoms, from gluten and soy to omega 6 oils and the usual suspects, like bleached flour and refined sugars.
Managing a depression is mostly about being aware of what is within your control and what is beyond your control and taking charge of the factors you can change in your favor.
However, as crucial as these changes may be for the long-term management of depressive symptoms, it’s also important to recognize that they do not replace medication, treatment, or psychiatric help.
If medication isn’t working for you, then speak with your psychiatrist about trying out alternate treatment methods. Transcranial magnetic stimulation is one example of an effective treatment for cases of traditionally treatment-resistant depression, utilizing a non-invasive application of magnetic waves to elicit a positive mood-changing reaction in the brain over the course of several sessions.