12 Depression Coping Skills to Protect Your Mental Health

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It’s natural to feel sad every now and then. But, having an intense lingering feeling of sadness and worthlessness that lasts for weeks might be a sign of depression.

Depression is a mood disorder that takes over a person’s life for various reasons. Though no one knows what causes it, some people get depressed after experiencing traumatic events in their lives. Others may have a genetic history of depression.

Unfortunately, there’s no known cure for depression. However, depressive symptoms may go away over time. With the right coping skills and personal lifestyle changes, you can manage depression without medications.

It’s important to stay hopeful and open-minded. These 12 coping skills for depression should help you during dark days.

1. Get some exercise

Depression is a disease; like any disease, you can reduce its symptoms with proper treatment. When a person has depression, it may be due to hormonal imbalance. So one way to balance these hormones is exercise.

Regular physical activity releases endorphins—a chemical hormone that gives you a sense of happiness and wellbeing.

Exercise is a great lifestyle modification that promotes physical and mental health. But many patients with clinical depression find it difficult to incorporate physical effort into their routine. If depression symptoms are severe, some people lack the willpower to do day-to-day activities.

Choosing to exercise over moping around in bed is hard. So if you find yourself struggling with depression, start with a quick brisk walk outdoors. You’ll be surprised how a consistent five-minute walk can drastically change your life.

1. Get some exercise

Depression is a disease; like any disease, you can reduce its symptoms with proper treatment. When a person has depression, it may be due to hormonal imbalance. So one way to balance these hormones is exercise.

Regular physical activity releases endorphins—a chemical hormone that gives you a sense of happiness and wellbeing.

Exercise is a great lifestyle modification that promotes physical and mental health. But many patients with clinical depression find it difficult to incorporate physical effort into their routine. If depression symptoms are severe, some people lack the willpower to do day-to-day activities.

Choosing to exercise over moping around in bed is hard. So if you find yourself struggling with depression, start with a quick brisk walk outdoors. You’ll be surprised how a consistent five-minute walk can drastically change your life.

2. Start your day with positive affirmations

Your thoughts and your mood relate to each other. For example, when you feel depressed, you start thinking negatively. In parallel, when you talk negatively, you start feeling depressed.

Negative thoughts worsen depression symptoms. But affirmations can help break these patterns.

Positive self-affirmations can restore self-worth by allowing individuals to reflect on their core values. Scientific evidence shows that regular affirmations can increase activity in the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for self-processing.

Many people who start their day with positive statements show signs of successful outcomes in their daily life. So avoid negative self-talk as much as possible. Though affirmations are just words, they hold power.

3. Stick to a healthy routine

When you have depression, your brain lies, saying you’re unwelcome, unloved, and incapable. Everyday tasks become daunting. Cooking, cleaning, and taking a bath feels impossible to accomplish.

The more you give in to your depressive symptoms, the harder it is to shake them off.

Routines are essential no matter where you are in life. It fosters mental health, giving you the coping skills to handle stress and depression.

Though depression is challenging, sticking to a healthy routine helps you map your day. To illustrate, when you start to feel anxious, your schedule is something that your mind can rely on.

Committing to a schedule allows you to see behavioral patterns you’ve never noticed. It’ll help you recognize things that trigger stress and anxiety so you can deal with them better.

4. Get enough sleep

Depression and sleep have a complex relationship, and identifying which comes first are difficult. When a person has poor sleeping habits, they’re likely to develop depression symptoms. Likewise, depression can contribute to sleep disorders.

Sleep problems that exist with depression may include insomnia, hypersomnia, and obstructive sleep apnea. Insomnia is when you have trouble trying to fall asleep, while hypersomnia happens when you sleep excessively. On the other hand, obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the throat muscles relax too much and block the airways.

Getting enough sleep is part of having a healthy routine that plays a vital role in managing depression. It’s hard to clear your mind and regulate emotions when you lack sleep. However, when you get quality shut-eye, you’ll have enough energy and focus to power through the day.

5. Avoid psychoactive substances

Psychoactive substances are not just drugs and alcohol. But you might be surprised to know that caffeine is also a substance that affects how the brain works.

It hijacks chemical hormones serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, resulting in mood disorders. These are some hormones responsible for controlling emotions.

For example, drinking coffee gives you an upbeat sensation and lets you focus on your tasks. However, coffee drinkers have a higher risk of depression. Because caffeine stimulates the brain, withdrawal from it can cause serious health concerns for people with depression.

Coping with depression using mind-altering substances is not the best idea. Doing so will only worsen symptoms of depression. Unless your medical practitioner prescribes it, you should never use drugs to manage mood disorders.

Experiencing strong emotions can be taxing both physically and mentally. But substances are not the answer. There are other ways to manage depression. If you think you have a genetic history of depressive disorder, avoiding illicit substances can prevent manic episodes.

Lonely traumatised frustrated ill woman holding head in hands feeling vulnerable

6. Know your triggers

Experiencing emotions is part of being human. However, these feelings of excitement, frustration, and disappointment are often reactions to external factors.

For instance, being denied a job application or remembering a loved one sparks an intense emotional reaction. These events can make you feel depressed.

Everyone gets triggered by something regardless of how a person is currently feeling. But these triggers may look different from person to person.

People with good mental health are aware of their red flags. So they try to self-soothe when they’re in a situation that can trigger anxiety or depression. 

Self-awareness is the first step in overcoming depression. Your ability to recognize your feelings is a critical step in developing depression coping skills.

7. Maintain a healthy diet

We live in a world where everything is instant. Shopping online and scrolling on social networks give us instant gratification. And we’ve constantly turned to packaged and fast food because we lack time to cook a wholesome meal.

But the truth is, diet plays a vital role in improving your overall well being. Though diet can’t treat depression, still eating certain foods may lower the risks of developing the condition.

While fast food satisfies your craving, it contains high levels of added sugar, refined carbs, and saturated fat. As a result, people with a poor diet have a higher chance of developing mental and physical health problems.

Some people develop an addiction to junk food. So, if you find it challenging to create a healthy eating style, slowly tapper your fast food intake. 

If possible, go the extra mile and modify your routine by dedicating a day out of the week to meal prep. Meal prepping allows you to save time while monitoring the nutrients you consume.

8. Commune with nature

As humans, we are part of the natural world, yet we’ve become disconnected from our source of life. We learned to be accustomed to working and living indoors, and we forgot how essential nature is to our health.

While staying in bed is more comfortable, it’s particularly unhealthy to isolate yourself from nature at all costs. Studies show that spending at least 15 minutes outdoors increases positive emotions.

You don’t have to climb mountains and swim in lakes. However, some believe that touching natural elements can channel the earth’s energy, called earthing. For example, feeling soil with your bare hands or feet can reduce the body’s stress levels and elevate mood.

If earthing isn’t for you, you can always go for a picnic under a tree in your free time. Spending time outdoors can reduce symptoms of depression. Think of nature as a free natural antidepressant that you can revisit anytime.

9. Find a supportive community

Our existence revolves around belonging to something, whether we’re members of a family, team, or religious group. Belonging to a community is fundamental to how humans organize themselves. If we don’t have social ties, processing emotions and addressing health issues becomes challenging.

However, people with depression lack a sense of belongingness. Because of their illness, they lose the ability to create relationships. No matter how much they surround themselves with people, they still feel lonely. So, how do you break barriers to find a support group if you’re struggling with depression?

Remember that relationships are a two-way street. When someone is trying to console you, make an effort to open up and talk about your feelings. It’ll be uncomfortable at first, but it’ll become second nature with time.

10. Express yourself with a new hobby

Losing interest in activities you usually do is one of the early signs of depression. People exhaustingly trying not to overthink makes it impossible to find a new hobby. Yet these precious times between your usual obligations offer an opportunity to learn a new skill.

In fact, hobbies can alleviate mild to moderate depression by activating the body’s reward system, such as dopamine. Dopamine is the hormone that makes you feel good. So when engaging in an activity that sparks joy, your mind will convince you to do it again.

Engaging in activities such as art and yoga enhances your coping skills for depression. So even if you feel unmotivated to spend time on a hobby, start it anyway. You’ll be surprised that your mental clutter will begin to dissipate.

11. Make time to declutter

Cluttered homes often cause stress. Simultaneously, when people feel stressed, they sometimes put off cleaning their spaces which perpetuates the cycle.

For some people holding on to material things can mean life or death because they’re not ready to let go of the memories associated with these objects. This accumulated stuff piles up and becomes even harder to manage. However, some lifestyle changes can improve your mood and get you back on track.

The art of tidying up can make you feel good. It promotes a sense of relief that your stuff doesn’t control your mood. By the time you finish purging your closet, you’ll find a better focus and higher self-esteem.

It’s important to acknowledge that detaching from worldly things won’t take memories away. On the contrary, they belong with you, and telling these stories will live forever.

12. Seek professional help

You’re not alone. Depression is more common than you think. About 280 million people suffer from the disease globally. However, people neglect to seek professional help until it’s too late.

So how do you know when to set an appointment with a therapist?

Here’s a guideline: It’s ideal to check in with a psychiatrist when depressive episodes exceed two weeks, interfering with your ability to function. On the other hand, if you’re having suicidal thoughts, don’t wait for an appointment. In such cases, take yourself to your local hospital immediately.

Aside from psychiatrists, other professionals can offer you help for your depression. For example, you may go to a clinical psychologist, social worker, or life coach. These people can provide practical advice and support whenever you need it the most.

Conclusion

Depression is a debilitating disease that sucks out the life and joy out of a person. Yet there’s still a growing stigma around mental health. However, there are preventive measures you can take to beat depression. These depression coping skills can be life-changing only if you dedicate yourself to making the change.

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