As we have seen in the recent, tragic passing of Robin Williams, depression does not discriminate. Each year, depression affects 17 million people of all age groups, races, and economic backgrounds. While medication and therapy and known and effective tools in the battle against depression, there are still other steps you can do for yourself that will aide in the road to recovery. Here are nine tips for treating depression beyond medication and therapy.
1. Give Yourself a Break
It is not uncommon for people experiencing depression to get frustrated and become impatient with themselves because they believe this disease is somehow their own fault. Feeling better takes time. Try taking a few minutes out of each day to sit back, close your eyes, and focus on all that you have done and will do in this life. Especially in moments of doubt, this practice can help to bolster your self-worth as well as your self-esteem.
2. Take Care of You
There is only one you, and it is important that you care for yourself. A good night’s sleep and a balanced diet is not only key to a healthy body, but a healthy and sound mind. Common indicators of depression are often insomnia and a lack of appetite. While you may not feel like it at times, make sure to eat, even smaller meals, three to five times a day. Also, create a regimented sleeping schedule, where even if you are not tired, you are in a darkened room from a specific point in the night until a specific time in the morning.
3. It is OK to Say ‘No’ Once in a While
A large trigger for depression is an overwhelming sense of stress or anxiety. This can happen for people by taking on too much at once. This is an important time for you to take care of you, so do not be afraid to set boundaries, and say no to obligations and tasks that are just too much right now.
4. Find a Hobby
Exercise is a great way to chemically release something called endorphins into your body, which are responsible for those feelings of happiness you get when you exert yourself in a positive way. Exercise is also a great release for pent up stress. Try to schedule a block of time into your everyday regime where you are getting some exercise – a run, walk, bike ride, etc. – even if it is only fifteen minutes.
5. Discover Your Stress Triggers
Stress is one of the most distinct triggers for spirals of depression and/or anxiety and is usually distinguished by very distinct thoughts or behavioral patterns. Try to be aware of these thoughts or habits – common triggers are feelings of regret over an action that happened in the past, or even anxiety and worry about future events. A good practice for controlling and monitoring your stress triggers, is to write down when you are experiencing them and what spurred them on. Once you have seen a pattern in your triggers, you can begin to consciously replace the negative thoughts and feelings you are having with more productive and positive ones.
6. Practice Breathing
There is a reason we practice breathing as a tool for Zen, or to get us through emotionally and physically painful events, like labor. The reasoning behind this is, your breath is a powerful and natural way to keep you calm and aware. When you focus on smooth, even, and deep breathing, you can actually avert your attention from the situation, which is causing you stress, and train it on something more beneficial and positive for your mental well-being.
7. Avoid Drugs and Alcohol
Drugs and alcohol are what we call depressants, so they should especially be avoided when experiencing clinical depression. Do not take any form of medication that has not been prescribed to you specifically, and avoid alcohol or settings where alcohol may be present.
8. Plan Ahead
There have been many psychological studies conducted that review the effects of goal making and planning on our moods and overall levels of happiness. The results have been pretty staggering – showing that people who sit down and set attainable goals, and future plans on paper or firmly in their minds, tend to see levels of improvement in their happiness. Even just planning you week can give you a sense of hope and excitement that will bolster your happiness levels.
9. Rethink Big Tasks and/or Decisions
Because Depression is a mental illness that affects the way you would normally act or think, you should hold off on making major decisions for your future or taking on particularly large tasks. Begin breaking down tasks and decisions into smaller, more achievable steps that you can more adequately handle at this point in your recovery. If these are major life decisions, like divorce or a job change, consider beginning psychotherapy or talk therapy to work through the emotions involved with these decisions or tasks.
If you are someone who is currently battling with depression and are looking for more medicinal and therapeutic ways to overcome this disease, please feel free to contact us via email for more information. If you would like to arrange a referral, please phone our office at, 917.609.4990. To maintain superior patient confidentiality, this practice does not accept referrals electronically.
Dr. Amanda Itzkoff, MD