5 self-care ways to fight depression

There are small lifestyle changes you can make to help manage feelings of depression

Senior Woman Sitting On Sofa At Home Suffering From Depression.

Depression doesn’t just go away on its own, so if you feel depressed, it’s best to do something about it. Try these five ways to manage depression.

If these feelings don’t go away, talk to your primary care provider or therapist about your care options.

1. Exercise.

For mild to moderate depression, exercise can be just as effective as any medical or psychological treatment. Try to get at least 150 minutes of exercise every week. Hitting your physical activity goals can positively affect your mental health and increase your motivation to do other activities.

Take a 20-minute-or-more walk every day — or dance, jog or bike, if you prefer. Feelings of depression can make it hard to feel motivated. Hold yourself to the 150-minute goal if you can. Ask a friend to exercise with you or tell your friends about your goal to help keep you accountable. Once you get into the exercise habit, it won’t take long to notice a difference in your mood.

Some yoga poses can also help relieve feelings of depression. Try downward-facing dog, legs-up-the-wall pose or any other pose you find online. Two other aspects of yoga, breathing exercises and meditation, can also help people with depression feel better.

Learn more: What is depression?

2. Nurture yourself with good nutrition.

Depression can affect appetite. One person may not feel like eating at all and another might overeat. If depression has affected your eating, be extra mindful about getting the right nourishment. Proper nutrition can influence your mood and energy.

Unfortunately, the comfort foods you may be craving won’t help your mood – they may even do the opposite. Avoid foods high in sugar, fats or sodium as they provide little to none of the nutrition you need. You should also cut out alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant that can worsen your symptoms of depression.

Focus on nourishing your body. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and have regular meals. Even if you don’t feel hungry, try to eat something light like a piece of fruit to keep you going.

3. Connect with a support system.

There’s a link between depression and feelings of social isolation and loneliness. These feelings can affect more than your mental health. Loneliness is a serious health issue that’s tied to higher rates of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and more. Fighting your feelings of loneliness can help manage your depression, as well.

Creating, sustaining and nurturing social relationships gives your mental health a boost. Make an effort to spend time with the people whose company you enjoy.

It’s also important to identify someone or some people in your life to be open with about your feelings. Talk with them about what you’re going through, as this can help you feel better in the moment and strengthen your relationship.

4. Help yourself by helping others.

Performing random acts of kindness for others gives your mental health a boost. Exhibiting kindness, empathy and generosity are proven to help people recovering from depression. These acts lead to more positive relationships with others and a more positive sense of self.

There is also some evidence that these acts boost serotonin and endorphin levels in the brain, which are two chemicals that affect your mood.

Try these acts of kindness:

  • Volunteering or donating
  • Reaching out and checking in on others
  • Performing chores for others
  • Sharing or being generous
  • Giving compliments
  • Leaving a positive review
  • Sending thank you notes
  • Smiling

5. Demonstrate gratitude.

Your life has purpose and meaning. Seek it out! Lead a life that supports your core values. Find a cause or nonprofit that speaks to you and support it. This can help you find new communities of like-minded people and reduce feelings of loneliness and despair.

You can find purpose in smaller moments, too. Make a list every day of three good things that happened. Focusing on gratitude for the little things can make a big difference.

What are the symptoms of depression?

These are the most common symptoms of depression, but everyone experiences depression differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Lasting feelings of sadness, anxiety, emptiness, worthlessness or helplessness.
  • Weight or appetite changes due to eating too much or too little.
  • Changes in sleeping. These include fitful sleep, inability to sleep, early morning awakening or sleeping too much.
  • Loss of interest and pleasure in activities formerly enjoyed, including sex.
  • Increased restlessness and irritability.
  • Decreased energy, fatigue and feeling slowed down.
  • Difficulty concentrating, thinking or making decisions.
  • Frequent thoughts of death or suicide, wishing to die or attempting suicide. Call 988 immediately if you or someone you know are struggling with these thoughts.
  • Physical symptoms such as headaches, digestive problems or chronic pain that doesn’t get better with treatment.

The correct treatment can help most people who suffer from depression. Treatment can include lifestyle changes, medications or psychotherapy. If you are depressed, get help by talking to your primary care provider or a behavioral health provider at Sanford Health.

If you’re struggling now, reach out for help:

  • Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: 988 or (800) 273-8255
  • SAMHSA National Helpline: (800) 662-4357
  • Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741
  • SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline: (800) 985-5990

Posted In Behavioral Health, Healthy Living, Rural Health