If you’ve ever struggled with depression you’ll understand how difficult it can make the simplest things. You stop enjoying the things that you used to love, you always feel tired and socialising becomes a nightmare. Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix for beating depression, but there are a number of things that you can do to help manage depression better when you’re struggling. Here are five of them.
1) Create Structure In Your Life By Sticking To A Routine
It’s easy to feel like things are out of your control when you’re depressed. When I was diagnosed with severe depression, I was constantly worried about wasting my time. The days felt like they were just disappearing and I would get frustrated for not achieving the things that I needed to. I always had a list of things that needed doing but I always left them until last minute. Often, this would mean running out of time or trying to do one hundred things at once. This would just lead to more frustration. It felt like I had no structure in my life.
Setting structure in your life and creating a routine is really important. It creates a sense of purpose and, more importantly, motivation. Every time you complete a goal your brain releases dopamine, a chemical that makes us feel good. Write down a list of the things that you need to do and don’t leave them until last minute. Start your day by completing small, rewarding tasks. Something as simple as making the bed as soon as you get can create a ripple effect of positive behaviour the lasts throughout the day. Depressed people often feel guilty for neglecting responsibility. Creating a routine and sticking to it will mean that you’re able to do the stuff that needs doing. We feel good when we do stuff, so let’s do it!
2) Face Your Fears: Don’t Avoid Social Situations
Facing your fears is never easy, but avoiding social situations that you’re scared off can actually make your symptoms of anxiety and depression even worse. We usually discover that the things we were scared of in the first place — whether that’s meeting a new group of people or going to a place you wouldn’t normally go to — never end up being that scary afterwards. In psychology, coming into contact with your fears is called exposure. If the thing that you’re dreading ends up being enjoyable, your brain will stop associating it with fear.
If you avoid these things instead, your brain will reinforce that fear. If you’re depressed, it’s easy to overthink social situations. We usually have very complicated thoughts about socialising with other people and if you’re depressed or suffering from anxiety, you’ll probably imagine 20 different outcomes to a conversation you’ve just had. We need to remind ourselves that these worries are unrealistic and usually just in our heads. By facing our fears, we learn that there wasn’t that much to be scared about in the first place. More importantly, human beings are naturally altruistic. We care about other people, and you may find spending more time with your friends is just the thing you need to feel better when you’re depressed.
3) Admit You’re Struggling With Depression And Open Up To Someone
It’s easy to feel like no one cares about you when you’re depressed so it’s important to make sure that the people who do care about you know you’re struggling. Admitting to yourself that you’re struggling with depression and opening up to someone about how you’re feeling for the first time will be difficult. It’s a brave thing to do and it’s also one of the most important things you can do. People who care about you will naturally be understanding. If you don’t have anyone close to you that you can talk to about your depression, you might want to consider seeing a professional.
One of the things you may wish to consider is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). This is talking therapy that helps to manage depression by changing the ways you think and behave. It focuses on how your thoughts and attitudes affect your feelings and behaviour. After taking CBT for a year, I found it incredibly helpful, and use many of the techniques that I learned in my sessions to manage depression today.
4) You Are What You Eat – So Follow A Diet That Makes You Feel Good!
There are certain foods that can help with depression. Swap the processed foods and takeaways for a diet that’s rich in fruit, vegetables, pulses and olive oil. Research has shown that diets with a lot of the vitamin B12, such as the mediterranean diet, can help with fighting depression.
Avoid sugary foods and definitely lay off the alcohol. Sugary foods will cause the amount of glucose in your blood to fluctuate, leading to bursts of poor concentration, tiredness and mood swings. Alcohol is literally a depressant, capable of disrupting our thoughts, feelings and actions. You don’t have to follow a strict diet and you can still enjoy the occasional treats, just don’t overindulge in foods that are bad for you. We’re all aware of that guilt that can kick in if we overdo it on takeaway or ice-creams, so be aware of how bad that makes you feel and make sure it’s limited before it becomes self-destructive behaviour
5) Understand Your Depression Better By Learning About Psychology And Philosophy
Learning about depression and your behaviour can help you manage depression better. Depression is never the same from one person to the other. We all struggle in different ways and being able to understand what triggers your depression can help you find ways to beat it. One of the most useful things I found was reading self-help books and watching videos on depression and anxiety to learn about common behaviours and how people cope with them.
I briefly mentioned Cognitive Behavioural Therapy in point 3, but one of the reasons I found it so useful was it taught me how to identify when I was feeling depressed and sometimes even why. I still use it now to help me recognise self destructive behaviours. I also found studying ancient philosophy really useful, as a lot of philosophers, such as Carl Jung, Freidrich Neitzsche and Peter Wessel Zapffe often discuss psychology and human behaviour in their essays. One of the best YouTube channels for learning about this kind of stuff is Academy Of Ideas
Understanding your thoughts and how they might be influencing your depression is one of the most important skills you can learn to help manage depression.