Coping Skills for Depression
Depression is common, costly, and has a significant effect on the quality of life. Despite the availability of effective treatments, it is linked with considerable mortality and morbidity. A standard prescription for depression includes a combination of antidepressant medications with talking therapies. Although this standard procedure has proven to change the lives of countless people across the world, many still find it challenging to win this battle solely based on conventional medicine. This is where the importance of coping skills for depression comes in.
This article aims to provide an overview of the coping techniques for depression. Each method offers a practical solution to fight this disorder, both in everyday life and during an active depressive episode.
Described below are some intriguing facts and figures about depression.
- Due to a very high prevalence, depression is often referred to as the ‘common cold’ of psychiatric illness.
- Depression is the leading cause of disability in the United States for people falling within the 15 to 44.3 age bracket.
- According to a recent estimate, 16.1 million American adults suffer from a major depressive disorder in a given year.
- The median age to acquire depression is 32.5 years
- Women are more vulnerable to depression than males at any point in life.
Before discussing depression management skills in detail, knowing how this problem affects the brain is crucial. The biochemistry of depression is highly complex, and the factors determining its effects on mental health are numerous. The two most common of these factors include:
- Widespread inflammation in the brain
- Faulty neurotransmitter activity
The two factors mentioned above directly target the connections and neural pathways in the brain. As a result, the communication between brain cells is severed, and the mood is compromised, aggravating depression. Therefore, it is crucial to rekindle these neural connections while reducing brain inflammation to control depressive spells. While hours of counseling and antidepressants support the brain health and mood, additional coping mechanisms for depression can significantly enhance the overall effects. These mechanisms are described in the following section.
‘How do I cope with depression?’ is possibly the most common question yet has the most diverse set of answers. While some argue about sticking to the prescribed medication religiously, others encourage attending therapy and counseling sessions. What most people miss out on during these discussions is the fact that depression is not like any other physical illness. It has a considerable impact on everyday life and can make even the most insignificant routine activities extremely difficult to perform.
Hence, it is vital to adopt a broader approach that extends beyond conventional medicine to manage this mental health disorder. Below is a coping skill for depression list that compiles easy tips to make life easier and more favorable.
Tip 1: Daily Exercise
Getting out of bed and moving around during a depressive phase can become a burden. However, experts strongly recommend including physical activity and exercise in routine life as a natural antidepressant therapy. Interestingly, regular exercise is as effective as medication in relieving the common symptoms of depression. It even prevents relapses once an active depressive phase is over.
Aim to get at least 30 minutes of exercise daily to ensure you benefit the most. Breaking it down into three 10-minute sessions can also be considered to make it more manageable.
Follow the tips mentioned below to use the workout as one of the best coping skills for anxiety and depression:
Try continuous and rhythmic exercises.
Rhythmic exercises, such as weight training, dancing, swimming, and martial arts, are the most useful while coping with depression.
Practice mindfulness in workouts
A depressive disorder comes from unresolved trauma or negative thoughts. In both circumstances, it can be hard to manage with exercise alone. However, practicing mindfulness by focusing your mind on how your body feels during exercise can be one of the best coping techniques for depression in such a condition. Some things to be mindful of include heart rate, breathing rhythm, and the feeling of wind on the skin.
Take a dog for a walk.
Taking a furry friend on long walks in fresh air is undoubtedly one of the most effective coping skills for teenage depression. If you do not own a pet, there is always an opportunity to volunteer at an animal shelter as a dog walker. This simple activity is a stress buster for the mind and helps in achieving the daily target for exercise.
Tip 2: Social Support
Social isolation is a significant problem that a depressed person deals with on a day-to-day basis. Unfortunately, this often includes other related issues like lowered self-esteem, anxiety, and fatigue that only exacerbate the problem. Experts recommend resisting social isolation to overcome this vicious cycle to improve resilience against stress and depression.
Lean on existing relationships
One of the best coping strategies for depression is to utilize existing relationships for social support. Make it a priority to interact with family and friends every day. Even if doing it physically is a challenge, establish ways to connect remotely. Playing an online game together, sharing a coffee over a phone call, and cooking together on a video call are all examples of how to lean on existing relationships and use them as one of your depression management skills.
Join support groups
Multiple support groups are currently working to assist people battling depression. These groups serve as a platform to connect with people dealing with similar issues and share positive coping skills for depression.
Tip 3: Physical Health Support
Physical and mental health are deeply connected; hence, a balance in the former results in positive outcomes in the latter. This connection makes it extremely important to take care of physical parameters while fighting depression. Mentioned below are three simple steps to acknowledge and adopt for better overall mental health:
Aim for eight hours of sleep
Sleep problems and depression go hand in hand. Too little or too much sleep can directly impact mood regulation. Hence, experts advise incorporating healthy sleep habits and a better sleep schedule for a positive mood. Some tips to follow in this regard include:
- Getting 6-8 hours of daily sleep.
- Fixing a bedtime.
- Making the bedroom as comfortable as possible.
Keep a check on stress.
Stress management is a top contender in the coping skills for depression list because stress can not only trigger depression but also prolong and possibly worsen it. Hence, finding out all triggers for stress, like work overload and unsupportive relationships, and managing it is crucial to relieve pressure and regain control of your mind and life.
Practice relaxation techniques
An excellent way to manage stress is by practicing relaxation techniques. Indulging in deep breathing practices, yoga sessions, and meditations can be a good addition to your depression management skills.
Tip 4: Antidepressant Diet
It’s not common knowledge that food and dietary choices directly impact emotions. Therefore, choosing healthy foods, adopting healthy eating habits, and reducing food triggers can be adequate coping mechanisms for depression. Mentioned below are some tips about tailoring the diet plan to boost positive mental health.
Don’t skip meals
Long periods of starvation between meals can trigger feelings of fatigue and irritability that ultimately contribute to the worsening of mood. So aim to eat small healthy snacks every 3-4 hours.
Have omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are extremely beneficial in mood stabilization. These fatty acids can be found in natural sources like herring, salmon, tuna, and anchovies. Alternatively, consider using over-the-counter supplements after consultation with a doctor as one of the coping skills for anxiety and depression.
Take your B vitamins.
Vitamin B deficiencies serve as an important trigger for depressive disorders. Hence, popping a supplement or consuming natural food sources containing B vitamins like leafy greens, eggs, and chicken can be considered.
Cut back on sugar and refined carbohydrates.
Sugary snacks and baked goods are common comfort foods in the darkest phases of depression. However, these apparently “feel-good” foods can crash energy and mood, potentially complicating the depressive episode. Hence, aim to cut out as much pasta, candy, pastries, and other sugar-loaded foods as possible.
Tip 5: Cancellation of Negative Thinking
Feeling weak, hopeless, powerless, and out of control are expected in a depressive episode. Depression indeed puts a negative spin on everything, including yourself, your current performance, and expectations for the future. It is also fairly common to feel overwhelmed with such thoughts. However, remember that these pessimistic, irrational attitudes are not realistic. Known as cognitive distortions, the purpose of these perspectives is to lead the mind astray into the darkest pit of negativism and pessimism.
Identifying cognitive distortions
Fighting negative thinking is possibly one of the most incredible coping skills for teenage depression in particular. For this purpose, it’s crucial to begin by identifying the negative thoughts that fuel depression and replacing them with a balanced way of thinking.
Some examples of common cognitive distortions include:
- All-or-nothing thinking: “if everything is not perfect, I am a complete failure.”
- Jumping to conclusions: “She must think of me as a fool.”
- Overgeneralization: “I failed this exam. I’m never going to get anything right in life.”
- Shoulds and Should nots: “I should never have applied for that job. I am an idiot for thinking I had a chance.”
Putting thoughts on the witness stand
Once a destructive thought pattern has been identified, start challenging this behavior with counter questions like:
- What is the evidence that this thought holds/doesn’t hold truth?
- Is there an alternate explanation for this situation?
- How might I interpret this situation if I was not depressed?
Questions like these allow cross-examination of negative thoughts. If practiced consistently, it can crumble the negativity and can aid in developing a balanced perspective to relieve depression.
Tip 6: Journaling
Journaling is a beautiful way to release emotions, thoughts, and negative energy that fuels depression. When you have inaccessible feelings or trauma stored in the body, they often lead to energy blockages, making mental health worse. Journaling can help release these blockages and adopt a healthier, balanced perspective.
Maintain a personal diary
Get a personal diary and make it a habit to write down a few pages every night before bed. Touted as one of the best coping skills for depression, it can aid in thought-dumping – a process that allows you to write whatever comes to mind without any consequence.
Alternatively, consider writing the diary every morning before starting the day. This habit provides a chance to begin the day with a fresh mind and a clean slate. Make sure to write a minimum of three pages with whatever comes to mind naturally.
As mentioned before, negative thinking is a hallmark of depression. The mental disorder works by minimizing positive experiences while magnifying the negative ones. To combat this tendency, expressing gratitude can help.
Condition yourself to regularly write down three good things or positive experiences in the journal and express gratitude for it. These experiences can be huge or trivial but comforting in some way. Some examples include:
- The weather was perfect on my walk back home
- I had a delicious meal for lunch
- I got promoted at work
For each of the experiences, think about why it happened, how meaningful it was, and how you can experience more of such good experiences.
Depression is cruel and can quickly become overwhelming, despite following all medical measures. The effects can be dramatic and drastic, with feelings of sheer hopelessness. Such circumstances demand additional coping skills for depression, affirming that there are solutions to this mental disorder.
Even though depression takes a toll on energy and motivation, take the initiative to follow these coping strategies for your mental health. Then, slowly work on building the habits so they can be incorporated into your life.
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