I’ve been reading a book about depression. See, depression is a part of my life. It has been an irregular yet consistent struggle for many years. The book set me thinking me of all the ways I’ve learned to cope with my gloomy condition, and also reminded me that TMTF hasn’t featured a top ten list in ages.
If you suffer from depression… I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry. This much-more-serious-than-usual list is for you.
Before I begin, there’s one thing I should make clear. This is a list of practical tips for coping with depression when you are already depressed. This is short-term advice. This is not a list of long-term lifestyle changes for treating or preventing depression. That’s another subject for another time.
Take heart, ladies and gentlemen, as TMTF presents…
The TMTF List of Top Ten Tips for Fighting Depression!
10. Drink some tea
I may be the only person in the world for whom tea is a coping strategy, which is why I’ve put it so low on the list, yet I find the process of brewing tea calming and reassuring. Besides, the warm strength of tea never fails to make me feel a tiny bit better.
9. Take a nap
Naps aren’t usually my thing, but it can be a blessed relief to disappear for a half an hour into the cozy darkness of my sleeping bag. For someone suffering from severe depression, a nap is a break from the agony of wakefulness.
8. Listen to good music
Since you probably can’t focus on anything else when you’re depressed, you may as well spend a few minutes sitting in a comfy chair listening to music with headphones. Angry or melancholy music is a great way to vent negative emotions, and cheerful music can be a warm balm to a troubled soul.
7. Take a hot shower
Hot water is a gift of God. It loosens tense muscles, eases aches and washes away the grit and grime of life. A good shower is refreshing and relaxing. Even when I’m severely depressed, I feel a little better for being warm and clean.
6. Go for a walk
Depression thrives on bleak inactivity. It can be hard—so freaking hard—to leave behind the security of your home and step outside when you’re depressed, but a good walk can work wonders. It’s good to have fresh air and sunlight, or at least a change of scenery.
5. Look at photos from good experiences
I’m thankful my old man is a photographer. His photos of my beloved family, our vacations together and my dear homeland of Ecuador never fail to encourage me. Depression makes the world seem dark. Photos of pleasant places and faces are undeniable reminders that it isn’t.
4. Get some exercise
I can hardly believe I’m saying this. For all my life, I have disliked exercise. It seemed like a dreary, draining, sweaty, stinky waste of valuable time—time that could be spent doing important stuff like, um, lying on the floor being depressed. All right, maybe exercise is worth a shot. There’s a sciencey explanation of why exercise helps fight depression, but the gist of it is that exercise unleashes chemicals in the brain that make you happy… or something like that. Look, just do some push-ups, okay? I’m learning to enjoy exercise. Life seems simpler when I’m jumping rope.
3. Do something productive (that isn’t stressful or complicated)
One of my ultimate strategies for coping with depression is to wash dishes. Seriously. I’ll put on upbeat music (Tip #8!) and run some hot water and get those dashed dishes clean. Washing dishes is therapeutic for me. It isn’t stressful or complicated. It’s something I can do no matter how depressed I feel. Afterward, I can look back and tell myself, “See that? You did something productive. You were useful. Not all the time you were depressed was wasted.” Your thing may not be washing dishes. It may be sweeping or baking or walking your dog. Find whatever it is, and do it.
2. Connect with someone
I don’t usually hug people, with the outstanding exceptions of close family members. (Awkward sibling hugs are the best.) All the same, hugs help. If you have a loved one handy when you’re depressed, ask for a hug. Ask for a prayer or a kind word or a cup of tea. If your loved ones aren’t located conveniently nearby, call them or send them a message. At the very least, tell someone you’re struggling. Solitude isn’t a bad thing; I prefer not to deal with most people when I’m depressed. However, solitude and isolation are different things, and isolation hurts. Connect with someone.
1. Pray to God
Not everyone may appreciate this tip, yet in my experience nothing is better for fighting depression than prayer. Asking God for help and putting my depression in his hands generally helps me most.
O people of the Internet, what’s your advice for coping with depression, anxiety or discouragement? Let us know in the comments!
I’ve also used all 10 of these! This list is great. I also watch my favorite comedic movies (you have to laugh when Harry says to Lloyd in Dumb and Dumber, “just when I thought you couldn’t possibly be any dumber, you go and do something like this…and TOTALLY redeem yourself!”). Anyway, I’m intrigued about the solitude vs. isolation bit. Would you expound?
As I use these words, solitude and isolation are different ways to be alone.
Solitude is temporarily withdrawing from people to rest or recover. When I’m depressed, it takes an incredible effort to relate to people. A person with a headache or bad cold might want not to deal with people until she feels better; depression is no different. I’m an introvert, so dealing with people can be draining at the best of times! When I’m depressed, solitude spares me all the discouragements and difficulties of being with people.
Isolation is another way to be alone, and it’s unhealthy. Instead of merely retreating for a while into cozy solitude, isolation pushes away people and keeps them out. Even for introverts, this is very bad. There is a world of difference between withdrawing from people to rest and shutting out people completely. If someone who suffers from depression prefers to be alone, it’s good for him to connect with at least one or two people — to maintain at least one shining, hopeful link to humankind.
Good question! 🙂