7 Useful advice for Living With Depression
DEPRESSION IS A SERIOUS mood disorder that affects millions of people every year – but an array of effective treatments and strategies are available.
Annually, about 1 in 15 adults will live with depression or experience at least one major depressive episode. In 2017, an estimated 17.3 million adults “had at least one major depressive episode,” according to the National Institute of Mental Health. That was more than 7% of the U.S. population.
Depression is deeply painful and all-consuming. It affects every aspect of a person’s life – their mood, thoughts, relationships, physical health, energy and behavior.”
Research suggests that various biological, environmental, genetic and psychological factors can boost a person’s risk for depression.
These risk factors can include a family history of depression, trauma, stress, experiencing major life changes and particular medications and physical ailments, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Medications prescribed for an array of conditions, like high blood pressure, are associated with an increased risk of depression. Chronic and serious medical illnesses, including diabetes and heart disease, may also increase the risk for depression. Research suggests that childhood trauma, including sexual and physical abuse, may be associated with higher risks of depression, in childhood and adulthood.
Here are seven tips for living with depression:
- Learn your warning signs and mood boosters.
- Block out the next day’s schedule.
- Consider professional help.
- Keep in mind that you’ll feel better.
- Delay major decisions when you’re feeling depressed.
1. Learn your warning signs and mood boosters.
While depression has a set of common symptoms, an individual often has particular signals that the condition may be worsening or recurrings. These early indicators may allow time to take remedial action or at least prepare for the cloudy weather. Similarly, individuals often discover from previous episodes specific activities or action steps that have been helpful in boosting mood. These are known as “boosters” which could include exercising or getting in touch with family or friends.
2. Block out the next day’s schedule.
Create a detailed schedule for the following day, including times that you’ll attend to your hygiene, eat and do tasks like paying bills and doing household chores. Include pleasurable activities, like taking a walk outdoors, engaging in your favorite hobby, connecting with a friend or relative or reading. The condition of depression involves a lot of negative self-awareness and negative self-judgment. If you allow yourself to be engaged in the tasks and activities you’ve scheduled, it pulls you out of your negative self-awareness in a way that helps you get away from those thoughts and feel more effective.
3. Consider professional help.
A raft of research suggests that depression is treatable. A trained professional can assess and provide treatment recommendations. Psychotherapists and psychiatrists can provide a variety of treatments, including psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and group therapy. Psychiatrists can prescribe medication.
Prozac, Zoloft and other antidepressants can help with mood symptoms, often within four to six weeks. Side effects are not too common, but sometimes can include reduced libido, some stomach upset and headache, the latter of which often disappears within the first weeks. Weight gain, while possible, tends to be fairly minimal. There is no need to suffer silently these days; they are actual working treatments.
The mind-body connection is irrefutable. Regular exercise helps your mental outlook. Physical activity releases hormones and shifts brain chemistry, improving mood, outlook and cognitive functioning. While many find relief and stress release from rigorous workouts, walking and small physical stretching also improve mood.
6. Keep in mind that you’ll feel better.
When someone is depressed, it’s hard for him or her to imagine feeling any different or better, The writer William Styron described depression as “darkness visible.” However, depressive episodes are time-limited. An untreated episode may last six to 12 months. Depressive episodes have their own course and will get better. It’s important to consider seeking treatment or pursuing other strategies to lessen the duration and severity of these episodes.
7. Delay major decisions when you’re feeling depressed.
During depressive episodes, your judgment may be impaired as you consider the consequences of important decisions. Accurately weighing pros and cons may be more difficult. When possible, defer irrevocable decisions until your mood has improved.