Strategies to Help Ease Depression

Everyone is unique and finds relief and support in different ways.  We each have helpful resources that we have acquired throughout our lives.  Perhaps we might not even realize we what these resources are.  We are also always changing and growing and sometimes trying on new resources are important in figuring out what will be helpful for us in our current life situation.  A support plan to help us navigate challenging emotions is often made up of activities, strategies, and people that we can rely on.

When creating a support plan, it is important to readjust our expectations of ourselves, or better yet try not to have expectations.  We may not find enjoyment in the things we did previously and we might feel like we should be able to do those things and should be able to do them just as well as we used to.  The truth is that each day of our lives is not created equally.  What we are capable of on one day does not mean we will be capable of the next.  In the same way, what we are capable of when we are feeling emotionally grounded is likely not what we are capable of when we are navigating through an emotionally difficult period of life.  Be easy on yourself.  Don’t beat yourself up for what you cannot do.  Listen to your intuition about what you may be able to do each day, try it out and maybe you will be able to accomplish what you set out to do and perhaps not.  The important part is to keep on trying and setting manageable goals.

This list is just a few ideas to get you started in creating your own support plan.

  • Write. Keep a journal of writings and or drawings.
  • Keep a gratitude journal.  Write down one to three things you appreciate about the day (for example, a good cup of coffee, the sound of children playing, the feeling of a hot shower).  Or keep a photo gratitude log, taking pictures of the beautiful things you notice in a day.
  • Create a playlist of feel good songs (songs that have strong positive meaning for you or relaxes you).
  • Read.  Go to the library and check out something that interests you.  Perhaps books about depression, spirituality, or biographies about people who have suffered from depression such as Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Reach out to people.  If there is no one you feel you can call, the helpline can be wonderful, even if you’re not feeling in crisis.
  • Remember to eat. Food is a foundation to healing the body, mind, and spirit.
  • Make yourself a nice, healthy dinner, maybe invite someone over.
  • Take a bath.
  • Go for a long walk…or a short walk.
  • Dancing. Alone in your house or out with a friend.
  • Spend some time playing (board games, sports, with children if you know any)
  • Read a local newspaper to get ideas of what is going on around town.
  • Do something unexpectedly nice for someone.
  • Do something unexpectedly nice for yourself.
  • Go outside and look at the sky.
  • Get some exercise while you’re out, but don’t take it too seriously.
  • Pulling weeds is nice, and so is digging in the dirt.
  • Sing.
  • Pick a small easy task, like sweeping the floor, and do it.
  • If you can meditate, it can be really helpful.  If you are unable to meditate that is ok; try to find some comforting reading and read it out loud.
  • Feed yourself nourishing food.
  • Bring in or buy yourself some flowers.
  • Pick some action that is so small and specific you know you can do it in the present. This helps you feel better because you actually accomplish something, instead of getting caught up in worries and huge ideas for change. For example say “hi” to someone new if you are trying to be more sociable. Or, clean up one side of a room if you are trying to regain control over your home.
  • Getting Up.  Try to make yourself get out of bed the moment you wake up … you may not always succeed, but when you do, it’s nice to have gotten a head start on the day.
  • Cleaning the house.
  • Volunteer work. Doing volunteer work can help take the focus off of yourself for a bit.
  • Do not set yourself difficult goals or take on a great deal of responsibility.  Break large tasks into many smaller ones, set some priorities, and do what you can, as you can.
  • Try to be with other people, even if they are strangers in a coffee shop.
  • Participate in activities that may make you feel better. You might try mild exercise, going to a movie, a ball game, or participating in religious or social activities. Don’t overdo it or get upset if your mood does not greatly improve right away. Feeling better takes time.
  • If you procrastinate, don’t try to get everything done. Start by getting one thing done. Then get the next thing done. Handle one crisis at a time.
  •  Trying to do too many things can be too much. It can be helpful to have a short list of things to do “now” and a longer list of things you have decided not to worry about just yet. When you finish writing the long list, try to forget about it for a while.
  • If you have a list of things to do, also keep a list of what you have accomplished too, and congratulate yourself each time you get something done. Don’t take completed tasks off your to-do list. If you do, you will only have a list of uncompleted tasks. It’s useful to have the crossed-off items visible so you can see what you have accomplished
  • In general, drinking alcohol makes depression worse. Many cold remedies contain alcohol. Read the label. Being on medication may change how alcohol affects you.
  • Think about providing care for others (volunteer work, caring for a pet, etc).

Depression is something that most of us encounter, to one degree or another, in our experience of being human.  Learning how to nurture and take care of ourselves, and reach out for support from others, is an important life skill that we can all benefit from cultivating.