The World Health Organization recognizes that approximately 16 million adults had a depressive episode in 2012 – representing nearly 6.9% of the adult population, and estimates that around the world, nearly 350 million people suffer from some level of depression.
Clearly, depression is a huge problem – and of course, there are varying levels of depression. There are temporary, or “situational” depression episodes brought about by personal crises like breakups or troubles in relationships, to losses of jobs and loved ones, and other struggles in life.
Then, there’s chronic depression – depressive episodes that are often months or even years long that afflict victims no matter how things are going in a person’s life – you can have the best week of your life, and have no real reason to feel depressed – yet a chemical imbalance prevents you from enjoying yourself, and casts a pall over everything.
Though there are plenty of clinical solutions to depression, including pharmaceuticals and psychiatric help (which you must take if you mental and emotional health is worsening), there are some simple, everyday steps you can take to minimize and mitigate the effects of depression. We’ll go over 5 solutions that can help below.
- Get Active
There is extensive research to support the idea that physical fitness, training, and activity can help mitigate the effects of depression, anxiety, and other mental struggles by releasing dopamine and serotonin – two brain chemicals that spur positive feelings, enjoyment, and boost mood.
So stay active – even if you’ve never been physically active before, beginning a new fitness regimen like couch to 5k can be a great way to stay in shape, and if that’s too much for you, even the simple act of walking can provide enough physical activity to stimulate your body and boost your mood.
- Eat Healthy
Your diet affects everything about your body – not just body fat, energy levels, and other physical factors – but also your brain. So it stands to reason that a healthy, balanced diet will help boost your mood, and minimize some of the effects that depression can have on your mental state.
This is a tough step to take – often, long depressive episodes result in unhealthy eating cravings – or sometimes a total loss of appetite. But with a bit of willpower and some simple, healthy recipes, it can be done – and the results are well worth it.
- Stay Social
Depression can have extremely negative effects on your social life, and care must be taken to try to mitigate these effects by staying social and keeping up with friends and family – even when you don’t want to.
Extreme depressive episodes often lead to self-imposed isolation, which can be very harmful to your mental state, and result in a dangerous further spiral of depressive feelings.
So even if you don’t feel up to it, consider taking a friend up on their offer for a movie, going to a bar to meet new people, or even taking a step as simple as reaching out to a loved one or relative on Facebook or through a quick call or text message. You’ll feel better if you do.
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- Talk It Out
It’s hard to talk about depression. After all, some people just don’t understand the experience at all. “Why are you sad? Be happy instead!” some say – not realizing that it’s simply not possible to just change your perspective in the middle of a depressive episode.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. We guarantee there are people you know who understand what you’ve been through – and may have even been through it themselves. We recommend you speak to them, not for advice – everyone’s depression is different – but for a sympathetic ear. Someone who can know exactly how you’ve felt, and listen to you talk about it, encouraging you to share.
And if you really feel so alone that you think there isn’t anyone who will talk to you, the internet has brought about some interesting websites and apps dedicated to helping folks with mental health issues, such as Paralign, an app we have created for sharing feelings and thoughts anonymously, and large, web-based depression support boards like DBSA. If you’ve got something to share, you can find someone to share it with.
- Don’t Give Up
This is the very hardest step to take. Depression is crushing – the weight of your sadness, though it may vary from day to day, will still take it’s toll on you, casting shadows over everything in your life and often making you feel sad, helpless, and like your life is spiraling out of control.
These feelings must be seen for what they are – temporary and fleeting. The results of chemical imbalances in the brain – not something that’s wrong with you as a person.
Giving up is the worst thing you can do if you have depression. You must fight, and you must prevail. And though following the steps we’ve laid out above doesn’t guarantee your success, you’ll certainly have an easier time getting through a particularly bad episode of depression.
Though these steps are helpful and scientifically proven to be effective, they’re no replacement for treatment by a licensed medical professional or psychologist – if you’re truly feeling desperate, please seek professional help, and don’t be afraid to turn to resources like suicide hotlines and government agencies responsible for aiding people in dire need of mental assistance.
So follow the steps above, and fight back against your depression. It doesn’t have to win. You’re strong enough to beat it.