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Otherwise known as major depressive disorder (MDD) and unipolar depression, depression is a common and serious mental health disorder that negatively impacts a person’s mood, thoughts, and behaviors. Depression normally causes symptoms like extreme sadness, loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable, changes in appetite, changes in sleep patterns, and more. People with depression often struggle with maintaining close relationships, socializing, and keeping up with their responsibilities and hobbies. If you’re on this boat, our Florida mental health rehab is sharing the top coping skills for depression that can help you manage your symptoms.
12 Effective Depression Coping Skills
Depression affects an estimated one in 15 adults (6.7%) per year, and one in six people will experience depression at some point in their lives. In 2020, an estimated 21 million adults (8.4%) in the U.S. had at least one major depressive episode. All this goes to show that depression is more common than we may have realized.
Oftentimes, our interpretation of what’s common or normal is based on our inner circle of people we see daily, as small as that may be. However, it’s important to develop an awareness of mental health and look out for the possible signs. On a separate note, if you or someone you know has major depressive disorder, below are some effective coping mechanisms for depression that can help you keep your symptoms in check and prevent your diagnosis from controlling your life.
Exercise is wonderful for your mental health. Physical activity gets the blood pumping, your heart rate going, and releases endorphins. These are neurotransmitters that brain cells use to communicate with each other. Endorphins, in particular, activate the body’s opiate receptors, improving mood.
Endorphins are released during exercise, which is why physical activity is one of the best depression coping mechanisms. Exercising also helps with stress relief, sleep, and mental clarity. To improve your symptoms, get into the habit of walking every day for at least 30 minutes. Walking outdoors is even better.
You can also try Pilates, yoga, and cycling. The point is to get into the habit of moving your body every day for at least 30 minutes at a time. Not only will your mental health thank you, but your physical health will, as well.
Meditation is also high on the list of top coping skills for depression. Although it may seem cliché, medication is a great way to train the mind to be self-aware, alert, and calm. It teaches you to let go of negative thinking and become more emotionally aware. It also helps you separate your diagnosis from your character, reminding you that your identity does not have to be defined by your condition.
Some additional benefits of meditation for depression include:
- Increased self-awareness
- Improved mood
- Improved sleep
- Expanded consciousness and emotional awareness
- Clearer intentions
If you’re still skeptical, research different forms of meditation, such as Transcendental meditation and Kundalini meditation, that you can practice at home.
Be in Nature
Connecting with nature is another great way to cope with mental illness. Walk barefoot in the grass or at the beach. Soak up the sun - vitamin D is super beneficial, just don’t forget the sunscreen. Do this long enough, and you’ll eventually realize how disconnected from nature you were and how nice it is to be out in the sun.
Outdoor activities are also great ways to combine connecting with mother nature and exercise into one. This opens the door to hanging out with friends and family, as well. Together, these elements procure joyful, child-like behavior that you can enjoy with others or keep to yourself.
Change Your Diet
There’s a point to that age-old saying you are what you eat. By far, one of the most important coping skills for major depressive disorder that even doctors will double down on is diet. It’s important to make sure your body is getting the nourishment it needs to function properly, both physically and mentally.
Pro-inflammatory foods like sugar, gluten, and PUFAs from seed oils are prevalent in the standard American diet, all of which negatively impact mental clarity, energy, and mood. These foods can also affect your gastrointestinal tract, which in turn can impact your mood. Because the gut contains over 200 million cells, it can be considered a second brain.
As a part of the enteric nervous system (ENS), the gut is believed to play a significant role in depression and mood. The ENS sends signals to the central nervous system (CNS), which comprises the spinal cord and our (actual) brain. When the ENS is inflamed, the discomfort alters our mood. Therefore, eating a diet compromised by foods that support gut health allows the ENS to send positive signals to the CNS.
There are also certain foods that can boost levels of the mood-boosting chemical dopamine and serve as natural remedies for depression. These include:
- Dairy foods, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt
- Meats like beef, chicken, and turkey
- Omega-3 rich foods like salmon and mackerel
- Fruit and vegetables, in particular bananas
- Nuts like almonds and walnuts
- Dark chocolate
It’s important to speak to your doctor before making any major changes to your diet. Balance is also important, and consuming certain food groups excessively can lead to weight gain, among other health problems that could worsen your depression.
Dumping your thoughts into a journal is another great way to release pent-up frustrations, anger, and other negative emotions that may fuel your depression. Especially when we’re healing from trauma or burrowed feelings, our energy is blocked, and our mind becomes preoccupied. Rather than moving forward, we stay stuck in a cycle of negative thinking.
Journaling is one of the oldest and most recommended coping skills for severe depression. It’s a great way to let your thoughts loose without restraint. This is your opportunity to let out the things you wouldn’t feel comfortable talking about with others. However, by utilizing this technique for self-reflection, you’ll become more self-aware of your mood, thoughts, and behaviors as they pertain to your disorder.
As a treatment center for mental health, we also would like to mention that while journaling is a great form of self-expression for certain topics, it can also promote isolation. If you notice yourself writing more but socializing less with others, reach out to a professional. Our team at Banyan can help.
Manage Your Screen Time
Improving your mental health also has a lot to do with what you consume, both physically and mentally. This means minding the things that you watch on TV and what you’re “consuming” from social media. For instance, individuals with eating disorders may benefit from taking a break from social media or limiting their use of apps like Instagram to avoid engaging in behaviors that can contribute to their disorders. These may include comparing themselves to others or even finding websites that support disordered eating behaviors.
Aside from this, certain news on TV or shows may also have a heavier impact on your mind and mood. In these cases, it’s okay to step away from screen time and social media and put your health first. Instead, watch movies or TV shows that are your favorites or read a good book.
Mind Who You Spend Time With
Another way of “protecting your energy” is by analyzing who you spend time with. Are these people who understand and care about your health, or do they enjoy stirring up drama? Do they have toxic tendencies, or are they compassionate and understanding with friends?
If you believe that there are people in your life who influence you negatively, gradually break away from them. If there are toxic family members you can’t completely disconnect from, work to manage your reactions to their behavior and words. You can’t change others, but you do have the power to control your emotions and reactions.
What’s more, it’s common for us to pick up on the habits of people we spend most of our time with. This also includes their behaviors and emotional tendencies. For these reasons, try to spend your time with people who are supportive of your recovery and contribute positively to your life, but also practice patience and control with those who do not.
Organize Your Space
Our space is a reflection of what’s happening in our minds most of the time, which is why a cluttered room can contribute to cluttered thoughts. Living in a space that’s messy and unclean leaves us feeling tired, unorganized, and rattled. Our homes and bedrooms should be places of rest set aside for us to charge up before and at the end of the day.
Another one of our depression coping skills is to deep clean your home. This includes the closets, bedrooms, furniture, kitchen, bathrooms, and everything. Not only can the process of cleaning be therapeutic, but it also helps you mentally reset and feel as if you’re starting off fresh.
Depression can also take away your motivation to do even the simplest of things, like wash and put away dishes. A great way to overcome symptoms is to do what your disorder is telling you to avoid. In the end, you’ll reap the benefits.
Get a Pet
Taking care of an animal not only allows you to focus your energy on something other than your depression but also keeps you accountable. You can’t stay in bed all day or avoid leaving the house if you have an animal to feed, walk, and bathe. While it’s okay to take rest days, having a pet keeps you motivated and allows you to form a strong bond.
Take Up a Hobby
Even something as simple as knitting or finding rare baseball cards can be a rewarding hobby. The goal is to do something you love every day. Creating things is especially rewarding. This is also a form of self-care. So if you like crocheting or drawing or anything similar, take the time every day to do what you love.
Learn Your Triggers
There are certain things that trigger depression that you may not notice you’re sensitive to. For instance, if watching the news affects you too emotionally, then don’t watch it. There are plenty of other ways to stay up to date with daily news.
Other common triggers include rejection, grief and loss, stress, lack of sleep, financial problems, and big life transitions. A great tip for figuring out the things that trigger your depression is to make a list you can refer back to. Over time, you’ll become more self-aware.
Listen to Music
Music has the power to shift our thoughts and moods. Just like a heartbreaking song can invoke memories of high school exes, happy songs can uplift your mood. Make a playlist of your favorite, mood-boosting songs to listen to whenever you’re feeling down.
Many of our coping skills for depression are small adjustments that can be done anywhere, anytime. In addition to these tips, there are plenty of other ways you can adjust your daily routine to positively contribute to your mental health.
On another note, while there are plenty of healthy coping skills for depression management, they aren’t the solution. If you’ve yet to receive professional care or notice that your symptoms are getting worse, don’t wait to reach out for help. Our Banyan behavioral health facility offers depression treatment, among other disorder-specific programs to help clients manage their symptoms.
- American Psychiatric Association - What Is Depression?
- National Institute of Mental Health – Major Depression
Situational Depression: Symptoms & Causes
Unipolar Depression vs. Bipolar Depression
How to Overcome Situational Depression