Depression is one of the most difficult things to overcome, but out of experience with this issue, I’d like to share with you some ways to pick yourself up after a bout of depression that truly do work. Depression affects a large number of Americans today, and is affecting children at younger ages each year. It can occur from grief, loss, loneliness, isolation, a major life change or crisis, suffering rejection in some form, financial reasons, relationship reasons, or simply because a person is genetically prone to depression. Depression runs largely in my family, and both my brother and myself struggle with this issue. Luckily, I’ve overcome two major depressions at two critical points in my life, and I’d like to share with you some ways to pick yourself up that worked for me.
1. Get Moving
Exercising was hands down my saving grace, and is one of the best ways to pick yourself up in a time of depression. Honestly, if I hadn’t taken the time each day to go outside and run or walk for at least 45 minutes to an hour, or do daily yoga, I don’t know that I could have gotten through some of the darkest days of my life. Though nothing had changed in my life when I was finished working out, moving my body was the one thing that I did each and every day that was something positive, and a sign for me that I wasn’t giving up. Pushing yourself up a hill, going an extra 10 minutes, spending an hour of solitude in nature, and hearing nothing but your favorite music and feeling the beat of your heart are all things that truly can help you motivate yourself to keep moving forward. There were days I absolutely did not want to exercise, but I always did, even if for only 30 minutes a day. I always felt better afterwards, and this kept me motivated, even though my life wasn’t perfect.
2. Express Yourself
Another important thing to do if you know you’re depressed is to find a healthy way to express yourself. For me, this was directed into writing and cooking. I know cooking sounds like an odd way to express yourself, but for me, getting in the kitchen to prepare healthy food for myself was therapeutic, and it kept me eating healthy when either I didn’t want to eat or I wanted to eat junk food. This was a turning point for me at both points of my depression, and one I’m eternally grateful for. Also, writing out my feelings and even starting a blog were incredibly helpful for me, though it was hard to do when I felt like doing nothing. Find a way to express yourself in a healthy way, either through art, writing, cooking, creating something, gardening, etc. Whatever offers a therapeutic benefit for you, that isn’t a form of self harm, is a great way to pick yourself up after a bout of depression. It inspires a part of you that formerly felt lifeless.
This might sound almost too simple, so let me explain. Most of the time, disordered sleep patterns come along with depression. Either going to bed extremely late and sleeping half the day away, or not sleeping at all or in very little amounts, are all signs that depression might be an issue. To help get yourself back to a healthy sleeping routine, which is important to prevent mood alterations from disruptions in your melatonin cycle, be sure to set a sleeping schedule for yourself and stick to it! Do whatever it takes to make a healthy sleeping habit happen. The best sleeping routines are usually sleeping from 10 or 11 p.m. at night and getting up around 6 or 7 a.m. Being awake in the earlier part of the day has been proven to improve mood by exposure to early morning sunlight, as well as resetting your melatonin clock. When the hormone melatonin is altered in the body, mood disorders usually occur, which is one reason seasonal affective disorder (also known as SAD) causes depression in many people in the winter when sunlight hours are decreased. Getting up earlier in the day truly does help with depression, and I’ve experienced this firsthand. Also be sure to clock in at least 8 or 9 hours a night for the best mood possible the next day. A well rested mind is one of the best things you can have under your belt to combat depression.
4. Family Relationships
Certain family issues I experienced were a large contributing factor to my depression, but clinging to certain family relationships in my family, primarily with my mother, were also part of my saving grace. Isolating yourself from everyone only makes things worse. Even on the worst of my days, and even when my mother didn’t understand me, I still made it a point to stay close to her. If you have someone in your family you can reach out to, even if they don’t understand you completely, be sure you stay close to your family however you can. They truly can be a support system for you, and can help you stay connected to your family, even when it is hard.
5. Look towards the Future
During depression, it can be easy to focus on the now and how bad things are at the moment. So, the best thing you can do is to remind yourself that your future does not have to be like things are right now. You have the power to change the depression cycle, and the road ahead. You just have to keep looking towards the future and putting one foot in front of the other to get there.
6. Job Dedication
If your job is an actual cause of your depression, I strongly suggest you start looking for other work. Find work you are interested in, and despite the hard economy situation we face, don’t quit looking! Life is too short to stay in a job you hate, and it can make you even more depressed by doing so. Also, by the same token, don’t quit your job just because you are depressed and don’t feel like getting up each day. You’d be surprised how many people actually do this when they’re in a state of clinical depression, despite the fact they have bills. Switching jobs every few months can even be a sign of depression. If you generally like your job, then don’t quit. Even when things get tough, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. On the other hand, if you’re in an environment that depresses you and people aren’t supportive or appreciative of you, consider getting a new job where your hard work is more acknowledged and rewarded. Having a job to go to five days a week helps you stay active, it helps you focus on something other than the loss in your life, and it can even improve your mood during the day, even if you wake up depressed. It also brings you an income, which is very important. We all know money problems only make things worse. Getting a great job and keeping that job can do wonders for combating your depression, so don't neglect this important area in your life. .
7. Create a Barrier
When you’re depressed, it can be very easy to find yourself caught up in unhealthy behaviors. Drinking, risky sexual behavior, shopping addictions, smoking, eating disorders, and even in the worst situation, drugs, can all be behaviors a person might not normally revert to. Yet when depression strikes, they lose all sense of control and self care. Create a barrier for yourself and don’t allow yourself to cross a line you’ll regret later. This can be extremely hard to do in the worst of your depression. For me, though I did succumb to an eating disorder and even a shopping addiction, I became aware of it both times and immediately created barriers for me to turn things around, no matter what it took. I cut my credit cards up, paid only cash for items, and stuck to a budget at the grocery store. I also started to make sure I ate enough during the day, got help for my eating disorder, and constantly made healthy choices, no matter how hard.
8. Get Help if You Need It
If you truly feel you can’t overcome depression, go talk to someone, please! I went through brief periods of counseling that only lasted for a few months, but it was a way to talk to someone who had been there. Luckily, I had a great counselor who had overcome an eating disorder herself, as well as depression. Though I was able to quit going to her after a few months, I battled recovery two years after that. However, without those few months of guidance, I don’t know that I would have had the self dedication to keep progressing forward. If you truly need help, get it, and don’t give up if you don’t find a counselor you like at first. Keep searching until you do.
9. Eat Well
Truly, food does so much to your body you aren’t even aware of. Don’t eat to numb, and don’t eat junk. Eat well, and eat just enough. Yes, this sounds simple, and isn’t very easy to actually do, but it can help you overcome depression in ways you wouldn't believe. When you eat well, even when you don’t want to, or when junk food or starving sounds more tempting, I promise you, eating well is a form of self care that will overflow into other areas of your life. You start wanting to move your body, you may start caring about your appearance again, and you may even develop a cooking skill or two, giving you a sense of accomplishment. Eating well nourishes your body and mind, and I highly suggest anyone do this if depression is an issue.
If you’re struggling with depression, I would advise you to never give up, no matter how bad things seem. I’ve been through some of the most horrendous situations one could imagine, yet something inside of me would not give up on moving forward. Never stop searching for the better road ahead. It is there, I promise. Have you ever overcome depression? If so, what worked for you?