While your physician and therapist can provide you with valuable tools to help combat the symptoms of depression, the biggest resource you have in your battle with depression is yourself. Learning ways to care for yourself properly and effectively can mean the difference between vast improvement and continued depressive episodes. While good self-care practices are good for everyone in general, it is especially important for those struggling with depression and other mood disorders. The following self-care techniques may seem obvious to some, but for someone struggling to put their life back together after fighting depression, it may take time and a bit of effort to make sure your personal self-care needs are being met every day. It may help to ask your doctor, therapist, or a trusted friend to help keep you accountable, so you aren’t tempted to fall back into old habits.
Stay Physically Active – It has been proven time and time again that exercise is one of the best ways to combat the symptoms of depression. It provides a natural boost in brain chemicals that provide you with an overall feeling of wellbeing. As difficult as it may seem to get up and exercise, you’ll be better for it afterward. Even 10 to 15 minutes per day is enough to cause a noticeable difference in mood!
Eat A Healthy, Balanced Diet – As mentioned in the Alternative Treatment section, there are many vitamins, minerals, and other foods that can actually work to improve your mood and even make some antidepressants work more quickly and more effectively. Eating a diet that is high in B vitamins (especially folate) and omega-3 fatty acids has been shown to improve mood, especially when combined with other self-care activities, such as exercise or meditation.
Get Enough Sleep – Serotonin, thought to be the main mood-defining chemical in the brain, replenishes itself as you sleep. Operating on little-to-no sleep over long periods of time can lead to depleted serotonin levels in the brain, which, in turn, can lead to feelings of depression. Getting adequate sleep allows your body and brain to repair and prepare itself for another day, and missing sleep means it’s under equipped to deal with things like stress and depression. Make sure you’re getting at least 8 hours of sleep every night to help fight off symptoms of depression!
Learn To Manage Stress – Stress management can be done in a variety of ways, and finding the one that works for you is key to effective management of everyday stressors. No matter what you choose to do, make sure you do it regularly. Some people swear by meditation or yoga, while others prefer a long walk alone. Whatever works for you, make time each day to do it. Keeping stress in check is a great way to curb symptoms of depression.
Don’t Isolate – In the midst of depression, the thought of seeing friends and family or engaging in activities you once loved may feel overwhelming. However, it’s important to keep your friend close and that you continue to nurture the relationships that are important to you. Not only will having supportive friends and family around you help with the symptoms of depression, having a strong support network is a necessity for anyone who is battling depression. People with depression tend to focus their attention inward, on themselves, and forget that other people also have needs. Be mindful of your relationships, so you can get the support you need, when you need it.
Spend Time In The Sun – Otherwise known as light therapy, spending some time in the sun every day can do wonders for lifting your mood. Take a walk outside, do some gardening, or simply lay out in the sun for a while. Soaking up the rays has been proven to affect the serotonin levels in the brain. If you live in a climate that sees little sun during the fall and winter months, consider getting UV lights for your home, and spend some time under one for at least half an hour every day.
Indulge Yourself – Whether it’s taking a bath or treating yourself to a new pair of shoes, treating yourself to something you enjoy from time to time is a great way to pull yourself out of a rut and get back on the path to feeling better. While we don’t recommend eating a gallon of ice cream every day, occasionally treating yourself to something you enjoy can be a real mood lifter and make a big difference in your progress.