There are things you can do to manage the symptoms of long term depression and improve your quality of life. Keep reading to learn more.
RELATED: 11 Tips For Sound Mental Health
In this article:
- Focus on Your Strengths
- Set Realistic Goals
- Maintain a Healthy Diet
- Consider Joining a Support Group
- Limit Stressors
- Invest in Sleep
- Prepare a Self-Care Kit
7 Ways to Cope with Long Term Depression
What is depression? It is a serious and treatable mental illness that impacts the way one feels, thinks, and acts. Its symptoms include loss of interest in formerly pleasurable activities, a sustained feeling of sadness, sleep disturbances, feelings of worthlessness, and suicidal ideations.
1. Focus on Your Strengths
Studies show that one of the long term effects of depression can be seen in the hippocampus.
What is the hippocampus? It is a structure in the brain that plays a critical role in learning, emotions, and memory.
After each depressive episode, there’s a decrease in the volume of the hippocampus. This decrease in volume can lead to certain cognitive deficits, especially if it was a long episode.
You may find it more difficult to accomplish tasks you used to do quickly and this can be rather frustrating. Rather than focusing on the challenges you face because of long term depression, focus on what you have going for you.
Do you have a job, meaningful relationships, or a hobby that you enjoy? If you do, then there’s plenty to be thankful for already.
Avoid comparing yourself with other people. Try to focus on your strengths, work with what you’ve got, and start building from there.
2. Set Realistic Goals
As you begin to adjust your expectations of yourself, it might be helpful if you plan ahead and break down your tasks into small and realistic goals. For example, if your overall goal is to clean your home, you can break it down to the following tasks:
- Sweeping/vacuuming specific areas
- Changing bed linens in a specific bedroom
- Doing the laundry
- Organizing a particular drawer
That way, you’re sure to accomplish something each day and you’re less likely to feel overwhelmed. This also helps you avoid procrastination.
Procrastinating forces you into stressful situations where you have less time to complete the tasks at hand. It also puts you into a situation where you’re less likely to accomplish everything you need to.
Procrastinating may lead to feeling guilty, worried, or stressed. To help manage your symptoms, it’s important to set yourself up for success and not failure.
3. Maintain a Healthy Diet
Studies show that one’s diet has an impact on mental health. In fact, certain studies have even identified nutritional deficiencies that may aggravate symptoms of depression.
Another study shows that dietary interventions that promote weight loss, fat reduction, and nutrient boosting reduced the symptoms of depression. Remember, your brain also uses the nutrients you get from your food to function.
When you eat healthier, your brain gets more of the nutrients it needs. If you’re not sure you’re getting all the right nutrients from your diet, you may want to consider taking a daily supplement.
It’s important to talk to your doctor before you make any dietary changes or take any new supplements. Your doctor will help you make sure that your dietary changes are compatible with your current treatment plan.
4. Consider Joining a Support Group
Dealing with depression alone is difficult. While your friends and family are definitely a source of comfort and support, it’s also worthwhile to connect with people who are going through the same things as you are.
Listening to their own personal challenges and how they try to overcome it can be a wonderful source of inspiration. Who knows, by listening to others, you may begin to see your diagnosis in a new light.
In fact, there is empirical evidence that proves support groups are worthwhile. One meta-analysis shows that support groups can actually help reduce the symptoms of depression.
Tip: These days, there are many online support groups moderated by reputable organizations. So if talking to strangers makes you feel anxious, you can start by looking for support groups online!
5. Limit Stressors
Journal reviews show that stress can trigger depressive episodes, so it’s really important to identify your personal stressors. Take some time and reflect on what usually causes you stress.
If it’s possible, try to avoid them altogether. But if they’re not completely avoidable, try to find ways to make them less stressful.
Perhaps you can try stress-reducing techniques before engaging in those stressful situations? Or maybe you can ask for a family member or friend to help you through them?
Try not to let the effect of small stressors add up. It may make it more difficult for you to manage your symptoms.
RELATED: Reducing Stress
6. Invest in Sleep
A Harvard Mental Health Letter shows that sleep and mental health are interrelated. When you get more sleep, you’re more alert and are more likely to experience positive emotions throughout the day.
When you don’t have enough sleep, you’re more vulnerable and more prone to negative thinking. A study shows that individuals who have depression and report poor sleep quality are more likely to:
- Have a lower quality of life
- Experience more distress
- Commit suicide
So, it’s really important to invest in sleep. Unfortunately, most people with depression experience symptoms of insomnia.
Here are a few ways you can improve the quality of your sleep:
- Keep electronics out of the bedroom or turn them off a few hours before bedtime.
- Invest in a comfortable mattress.
- Pick out nice linens and pillows for your bed.
- Take a warm bath before you sleep.
- Be mindful of the activities you engage in bed. Try to limit it to sleep and intimate time with your partner so that you don’t associate it with other stressors.
Sleep isn’t an afterthought, but it’s something you need to make sure you get to protect your mental health.
7. Prepare a Self-Care Kit
Experiencing sadness and negative moods are par for the course when it comes to depression. However, studies show that there are self-management techniques you can use to help manage these symptoms.
While there are standard forms of treatment for depression, it’s important to consider your own unique preferences. Take some time to come up with a self-care kit with different activities that you find calming and pleasurable.
What makes you happy? It could be as simple as listening to your favorite band, cooking your favorite dish, or reading a new book.
Make a list of these activities. If you can, add things you’ll need to be able to do them too.
Here are some personal tips for dealing depression from Molly Burke:
Don’t discount the personal and subjective aspects of your recovery process. They may be able to help you out on days when you’re feeling down.
Just like most medical conditions, there are ways to manage your long term depression symptoms and improve your quality of life. With the help of your doctor, family, friends, and these tips, you can find ways to thrive even if you’re dealing with depression.
Are you struggling with symptoms of depression? How are you dealing with them? Let us know in the comments section.