As per the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), 264 million people across the world suffered from depression in 2017. Depression is one of the common mental health issues faced by people and typically occurs more in women as compared to men.
Various life stressors like losing a loved one, financial crisis, losing a job, divorce, etc may make you feel depressed and all alone. This is a natural response to such events. However, the low mood, sadness, and lack of interest in routine activities persist for a longer time if you have been diagnosed with depression.
Depression May Not Occur the Same Way Across People
It is important to know that depression occurs to different people in different ways. For instance, where men may show symptoms like anger, irritability, fatigue, and behavior of substance abuse. Women may, on the other hand, be marked by feelings of guilt, sadness, and worthlessness.
Likewise, depression in teenagers makes them irritable and typically gets such children into trouble in school. They also suffer from comorbid eating disorders, anxiety, and substance abuse.
In addition to this, there are different types of depressive disorders that people are diagnosed with.
The most common out of all is Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). MDD symptoms include :
- sad mood
- a lack of interest in routine activities
- fatigue, weight gain, or loss
- insomnia or hypersomnia
- psychomotor agitation or retardation
- excessive feelings of guilt and worthlessness
- cognitive challenges like reduced concentration, and
- repeated suicidal thoughts
Likewise, another type of depression includes Persistent Depressive Disorder or Dysthymia. One of the critical features of this type of depression is a sad mood for the majority of the days for a minimum of two years.
In addition to this, you may experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which is typically a result of lack of sunlight and shorter days during winters. Similarly, you may experience a depressive disorder due to some other medical condition like a terminal illness.
Now, whatever may be the type of depression, it interferes with your routine functioning and impacts your physical and mental health. Thus, it is very important to understand depression and adopt effective strategies to cope with depression.
In this article, we answer some of the typical questions you may have in case you or your loved ones are living with depression.
What Should I Do During Depression?
You may be depressed and wondering what is the most effective way to treat depression? The following are some important tips for living with depression. The following section will help you answer the question “How do I stop overthinking and getting depressed?”
1. Understand Your Depression
One of the important things that can help you deal with depression is understanding your depression symptoms. As mentioned earlier, depression impacts people in different ways. And it may be a possibility that you may be attributing depression symptoms to other life stressors.
For instance, you may be relating fatigue or a sudden weight gain or loss with work pressure. Or you may be considering sadness to be a symptom of depression and as a result, overlooking other symptoms. These may include lack of focus or loss of interest in activities you love doing previously.
Therefore, it is very important to know more about your illness. This is because learning more about your depression type may make you aware of your symptoms. And this may further help in getting a sense of control.
Consulting a mental health professional and joining a self-help group are very good sources of learning more about your illness.
2. Connect With People
Another thing that you can do is to open up and connect with family, friends, or partners. When you are depressed, it is typical for you to isolate yourself from people. Depressed people even keep their problems secret from their loved ones who care about them.
This happens because depressed people have a pattern of going alone and dealing with issues all by themselves. They may not tell how they feel to others and as a result suffer from various issues.
(a) Use “I” Statements to Express Yourself
One way to get rid of this is to list down the names of people with whom you would want to express your feelings. Further, use “I” statements like :
- “I feel (label your feeling) because (say why you feel that )”.
- “I really want (say what you want)”.
- ” I would like it if you would (do what you want the person to do)”.
- ” I hope you understand that (say what you want the person to understand)”.
(b) Try Not to Be Alone
In addition to this, if you are depressed, try not to be alone. Remember, we humans are social beings and always look for opportunities to be with people. No doubt people have their own capacity to socialize. Where some people can”t stay without people for long hours, there are others who prefer being alone for as much time as possible.
But social interaction can be a major concern, especially when you are emotionally depressed. You should always have some people whom you”re close to or a group of friends whom you can be with. It”s important to go out and be with them whenever you feel all alone.
Thus, it”s very important to have the support of such people. This is because it becomes easy to deal with your illness issues when you have these pillars with you.
(c) Be Clear About The Kind of Support You Need From Others
Many people who are depressed keep to themselves because they feel that they will not get the kind of support they need from others. Well, if that”s what stops you too, first be clear about what you want and don”t want from others yourself. Then, share clearly with your loved ones the kind of support you”re expecting from them.
For instance, you can tell them things that you don”t want. These may include:
- Someone asking me to “liven up”
- Others blame me for something I can”t do much about
- They asking me to “overcome the issue”, etc
Similarly, you can also tell others what you want from them. This may include:
- People hearing you out
- Patience, etc
3. Challenge Negative Thoughts
One of the most important things you can do is to change the way you think. This can be done by accepting your negative thoughts and feelings and adopting a solution-oriented approach. Being optimistic about life and having a positive approach to finding solutions can go a long way in challenging negative thoughts.
a) Write Down Statements That Help You to be Optimistic
For this, you can pen down statements like below to get a positive view of life.
- This is tough, but this too shall pass for it is momentary.
- I can”t change my past.
- Being in the past prevents me from living the good in the present.
- I”m not going to overthink and go insane with things that I can”t change.
- I can live through this illness.
- I can learn from my past to find solutions to my current and future problems.
b) Identify Automatic and Illogical Thoughts
Likewise, there are certain illogical thoughts that come to you automatically. These are the thoughts that compel you to have a negative view of the world. Always remember that these thoughts are baseless for they are not founded on any facts. Yet, you consider them to be true.
Thus, identify your irrational and automatic thoughts and then substitute them with logical/positive ones. Sit with yourself and write down these automatic triggers. For instance:
- You magnify the negative outcomes of a situation that are disproportionate to the given situation. (Magnifying)
- You randomly forecast that life will turn out to be bad for you. (Predicting)
- You consider your mistakes to be things that define you and end up saying statements like “I”m foolish” or “I”m worthless.” (Labeling)
- You force yourself on the thought that your positive qualities don”t matter. (Discounting)
c) Reason Out With Illogical Thoughts
Once you identify your negative thoughts, try to sort them out with them each time they strike you. Since you now know your negative, unreasonable thoughts, catching them each time they occur would not be a challenge.
So, take the negative thought once it’s there. Then analyze how much this thought is true on a scale of 1-100. Then, evaluate what type of negative response is this, as discussed in the above point. For instance, whether it’s labeling, discounting, magnifying, etc.
Next, think of the positive response that you can substitute this unreasonable thought with. And finally, rate this new positive thought in terms of the degree to which you think sits true on a scale of 1 – 100.
Thus, such an evaluation will help you question your negative thoughts each time they occur.
(d) Getting Rid Of Negative Thoughts About Others
There may be times when you may find it challenging to understand others without judging them. Also, many times there are people who are over-critical about others to an extent that they don”t think that others have any good traits.
As a result, such people put all their energies into thinking about the negative side others have according to them. And this is what leaves them alone, sad, and irritated most of the time.
Such negative judgments about others make them unhappy and leave them discontented. Therefore, make note of these negative judgments and let them go whenever they strike you.
(e) Have a Solution-Oriented Approach
One of the major reasons why people are depressed is that they are always concentrating on their problems. Instead of spending time finding solutions to their problems, all their energy is consumed in worrying about the problems.
Thinking over and resolving your problems creates opportunities. Start small, with one problem at a time. People who are depressed get wired for thinking that they have a lot of problems and they are unsolvable. But, they need to understand that problems can be worked out, provided they set reasonable targets and take required actions to meet these goals.
(f) Have an Inner Voice That Heals
You may have that inner voice that constantly criticizes you and challenges your self-worth. This voice develops over the years as a result of someone of authority who has been over-critical about you.
This is where you have to bring a change. You don”t have to listen to it anymore and instead develop a voice that heals you when you are not in your best mood.
4. Do Activities That Make You Feel Good
This is another important strategy to deal with your depression. Take up activities that will help you relax and rejuvenate. These could be activities that help you deal with stress, adopt a healthy way of living, and include activities in your schedule that have an element of fun.
How can this be achieved? Well, by having a wellness toolbox that helps you deal with depression.
Now, some of the things that can come in this wellness box could be:
- Reading a good book
- Having a video call with friends/family
- Watching funny content like a movie or a sitcom
- Having a long hot bath
- Listening to music, etc.
How this actually works is that these relaxing activities help you break the cycle of stressful feelings. Now, we know that some amount of stress is good for it gives us that push needed to meet our goals. However, even mild stress for longer periods turns into chronic stress and results in increasing the stress hormone called cortisol.
Thus, with time, cortisol makes your immune system weak and impacts your mental health. And taking up activities such as recreational, social, planning, self-care, and creativity can help you fight depressed feelings.
5. Exercise, Exercise, Exercise
One of the costs that we are paying for modern-day life is the sedentary lifestyle. Given the time pressure and the nature of work becoming digital, there is less physical activity. In fact, not many of us are not able to plan physical work-out in our schedule.
Since we are sitting for most of the day, it is resulting in issues like obesity. Now as per studies, physical activity helps in reducing depressive symptoms. Thus, reduced physical activity increases the risk of developing depressive symptoms in people.
Similarly, exercising too helps in uplifting one”s mood. It not only proves to be beneficial for the neuroendocrine systems. But, also for improving one”s self-esteem and efficiency which are the major issues with depressed people. Likewise, it gives one the opportunity to socialize, improve body image, and reduce comorbid mental disorders.
In addition to this, exercise is known to regulate cortisol levels and increase the circulation of beta-endorphins. This helps in relaxation and reducing depressive symptoms.
Much like exercise, yoga has proved to provide physiological advantages. In addition to this, yoga also has the element of mindfulness to it. This helps in enhancing concentration and getting rid of rumination, which is a characteristic of depression.
6. Eat a Healthy Diet
Many of us take this for granted and are not very particular about what we eat. But it is important to note what you eat directly impacts both your physical and psychological wellness.
Well, that is not to say that you have to go way too far managing your diet. All you have to do is be careful with what you are eating and look for approaches that can help you bring about marked changes.
Here”s a list of things that add to your depression. Therefore, it is suggested to limit the consumption of these things.
1. Alcohol and Nicotine
Both alcohol and nicotine make you dependent on them as they are addictive in nature. Where alcohol serves as a depressant, nicotine acts like a stimulant. And both alcohol and nicotine do nothing good but add to your anxiety levels.
Caffeine, much like nicotine, serves as a stimulant. Caffeine is present in items like coffee, tea, chocolates, etc. So, if you are a heavy tea or a coffee drinker or have chocolates to get out of a bad mood, you”re actually adding to it. Caffeine does give you that energy kick. But this is momentary in nature. In fact, this momentary energy booster may make you feel all consumed and tensed.
In fact, a high caffeine intake is associated with many other issues like anxiety attacks, irritation, palpitations, heartburn, insomnia, high blood pressure, etc.
3. Sugar and Salt
People who have a high sugar-intake certainly suffer from issues like diabetes. However, foods high on sugar also carry the risk of depression in people who include these foods in their diet.
Similarly, too much salt consumption is associated with issues like high blood pressure and affects your weight. This may put you in a bad mood.
Processed foods contain preservatives which are not good for the human body. In fact, there have been endless debates on preservatives and their probable side-effects. Therefore, it is important to substitute foods that contain preservatives with organic food items.
7. Go For Mindfulness Meditation
Meditation also contributes towards uplifting mood and reducing the chances of depressive incidents. Meditation leads to mindfulness which is increased awareness. This happens when you try to focus in a specific way as you meditate.
You concentrate on your objective in the current moment without any judgments. Thus, when you are mindful, you are aware of both your inner experiences and the things happening around you.
As a result, you don”t end up reacting to these experiences or categorizing them as good or bad. And that is the reason why practicing mindfulness by undertaking meditative practices have proven to be effective for dealing with depression.
Also, there are a number of benefits associated with increased mindfulness practice on a routine basis. These include increased concentration levels, a good immune system and memory.
Now, mindfulness is of two types. The first one is mindfulness where you keep some dedicated time to practice the same.
The other is mindfulness where you are mindful of routine activities. These may include talking, working, eating, etc. As you become mindful, you try to understand your emotions and feelings as you take up these activities. This is done without judging any of them.
8. Have a Good Night”s Sleep
Disturbed sleep is one of the critical symptoms of depression. There is a strong connection between insomnia and depression. Thus, having proper sleep is very important both for one”s physical and mental health.
Also, insomnia can be a predictor of depression, much like depression being a predictor of insomnia. As per research studies, people who suffer from chronic insomnia have a higher risk of depressive disorder.
Similarly, as per another study, people who currently suffer from anxiety or a depressive disorder had a strong connection with disturbed sleep.
Also, 40% of the insomniacs experienced comorbid disorders. Further, disturbed sleep is also associated with bad mood, stroke, diabetes, obesity, and coronary artery disease.
Lack of sleep is linked to disturbance in the circadian rhythm. Therefore, it is important that one seeks ways to improve sleep issues. Most commonly used treatment involves sleep hygiene techniques and CBT, that includes hypnotic and antidepressant medication.
Lifestyle changes also help in improving sleep. This may be done by shifting from a sedentary to an active lifestyle, having a healthy diet, reducing caffeine and alcohol use.
9. Managing Recreational Substances
Recreational substances include consuming alcohol, smoking cigarettes, and increased caffeine intake. Where alcohol acts as a depressant, cigarettes and caffeine serve as stimulants.
In fact studies conducted revealed that two to three times increased lifetime risk of anxiety and depressive disorders in people who engaged in alcohol abuse or depended on it.
Likewise, adolescents and young adults engaging in heavy alcohol consumption had a higher risk of depressive disorders in later life.
Much like alcohol, smoking cigarettes also increases the risk of anxiety and affective disorders. It also carries the risk of developing de-novo depression. Likewise, adolescents smoking cigarettes have the higher risk of developing depression in later life.
People with depression often get into the habit of smoking. In fact, people who suffer from unipolar depression and bipolar disorder and engage in smoking experience much more. Smoking not only results in severe symptoms in these people. It also negatively impacts their response to the treatment.
Smoking also increases inflammation and oxidative stress, both of which are components of depression.
Finally, a high caffeine intake can also add to depressive symptoms. No doubt caffeine helps in improving concentration, attention, cognition, and mood. However, high caffeine intake adds to insomnia which increases the chances of depressive mood.
10. Get Your Share of Daily Sunlight
Sunlight helps in pushing serotonin levels and enhances your mood. Therefore, it is important for you to have your daily share of sunlight. Whenever you get time, sit for 15-20 minutes in the sun every day with your sunscreen on.
This could include a small stroll between the work hours, having a cup of tea or coffee outside, or picking up an activity like gardening.
You can also exercise during the early hours of the morning, when you have a mild sunlight.