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With depression being one of the most prevalent mental illnesses among Americans, chances are, you or someone you know struggles with it.
Whether it’s a high-powered CEO or the influencer with the picture-perfect Instagram grid, dealing with common types of depression can be debilitating, affecting your relationships, work-life and overall wellness. Depression can also affect people of all ages and backgrounds, meaning you could experience these symptoms later in life or early 20s depression.
The good news is that depression is a treatable mood disorder with coping strategies you can develop.
Be it finding time to regularly move your body or integrating social media breaks into your routine (because let’s be honest: nothing good comes from doom scrolling, anyway), we’ve outlined skills you can take on to manage your depression better so you can prevent your depression from managing you.
Everyone handles not being on their emotional A-game differently. If you’re feeling down in the dumps, your first instinct may be to call a friend to vent, indulge in some serious retail therapy or self-soothe with a pint of ice cream (no judgment here).
Though some people have an easier time sharing their feelings, the shame and stigma associated with depression can make speaking up difficult for others. Some even actively try to conceal their symptoms, a disorder known as hidden depression.
But the truth is, if you think you’re experiencing symptoms of depression (including, but not limited to, prolonged feelings of sadness, negative thinking and loss of interest in things you typically enjoy), the first and most important step in recovery is seeking help.
Here are a few ways to get started:
Get help online.
A therapy provider is always a great option if you’re struggling and want to open up to someone. With the help of private online therapy or psychiatry, you can access professional help from wherever is most convenient for you, be it from the comfort of your couch or under your favorite weighted blanket.
Find a local mental health professional.
Of course, if talking virtually with someone isn’t your jam, you can always meet with a mental health professional in person. Research psychiatry providers in your area to schedule an appointment. You can even find providers specializing in specific types of depression, like perinatal depression or manic depression (currently called bipolar disorder).
Reach out to your primary care provider.
Connecting with your primary care provider is another great place to start as you already have a relationship with them. Based on your symptoms, they can make medical diagnoses and help develop an effective treatment plan, including medication like antidepressants, counseling, psychotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
For many, the hardest part of having depression can simply be getting through the day. Ordinarily small tasks like cooking up a bowl of stir fry or participating in a work meeting can feel overwhelming.
Luckily, there are some ways you can help yourself in the moment. While none of these should be used in lieu of reaching out to the pros for some help, these seven coping skills for depression may make things easier through your process:
Talk to a Trusted Friend or Family Member
Stick to a Routine
Do Things That Make You Feel Good
Take a Break from Social Media
Avoid Alcohol and Drugs
So, what does putting these skills to use look like when it comes to depression? Well, let’s dig in.
Reaching out for help isn’t always easy, but letting people know what you’re going through allows them to offer emotional support.
Your friends and loved ones have already seen you through everything — that gnarly breakup, the time you moved across the country for a new job, the day you (perhaps questionably) adopted a dog — and they want to show up for you in the best way possible.
Turning to others for advice when you’re feeling vulnerable can be scary though it doesn’t have to be as daunting as you think.
Opening up about any personal struggle can feel scary, especially to those who know you personally. That said, another option to consider is joining an anonymous support group. These groups can provide the community and connection you seek, but with an added layer of privacy.
Whether it’s taking the time to break a sweat each day, or it’s being consistent about your bedtime, research shows that making and sticking to a routine can help those with depression.
Not only can routine help alleviate stress and encourage healthier lifestyle habits in your personal life, but creating structure is equally important for mental health in the workplace.
This is especially true if you’re among the 58 percent of Americans who work from home at least once a week, which can make achieving a healthy work-life balance more challenging.
Whether that means blocking off time for a daily mental health walk on your calendar or logging off at 5:00 pm each day, setting these expectations helps avoid burnout and may ultimately lead to a happier, healthier — and more productive! — you.
Would some consider sitting on the couch with a family-sized plate of nachos while rewatching every season of The Real Housewives of New York until 2 a.m. a luxury experience? Absolutely. Should inducing yourself into a nightly cheese coma become standard routine? Probably not.
Doing things that make you feel good can — and should — include some of your favorite self-care routines. Some of our favorite non-artery-clogging suggestions include:
Listening to playlists that boost your mood
Melting negative thoughts away with a relaxing bath
Reading a good book
You don’t need to make drastic changes — that only adds pressure — to feel a difference. Just remember: start small and be generous with yourself.
Journaling for mental health can be a powerful tool, especially for those with depression. Studies have shown that people with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), or clinical depression, who practiced expressive writing produced significant decreases in depression scores by the end of the study.
Opening up a blank page can feel daunting, but journal prompts (i.e., “What are you most looking forward to today?”) can serve as helpful starting points.
There’s also bullet journaling, good ol’ fashioned stream-of-consciousness journaling and even artistic journaling. Try experimenting with different styles to see what resonates with you.
If you’re reading this, this is your official sign to go touch some grass — literally.
Research shows that outdoor physical activity and being in closer to greener spaces can lower stress levels and depression. Even taking a short walk around your neighborhood can have a significant effect on your mood.
Need some motivation? Make fun walking playlists with your favorite songs to pump you up. Schedule a weekly coffee-and-catch-up date while taking a stroll with a friend.
Borrow your neighbor’s dog. Not forever, of course — but a pleasant 30-minute walk can benefit both you and your four-legged friend. It’s a win-win for everyone.
Getting yourself out into the fresh air is especially crucial if you’re prone to the winter blues or seasonal depression (also known as seasonal affective disorder) once temperatures start to drop and the days become darker.
Most of us know that staying up until 1 a.m. scrolling on our phones probably isn’t the best for our sleep hygiene, but spending too much time on our favorite social media platforms can actually have more harmful consequences for our well-being than we think.
Research shows that for some, there’s a strong correlation between social media and depression:
A 2018 study involving over 91,000 participants revealed that checking Facebook late at night made people feel more depressed.
Another 2018 study of 143 undergraduate students found that when people use social media less often, the less depressed and lonely they feel.
A cross-sectional study of over 1,700 U.S. adult social media users found that using social media for an average of one hour per day resulted in an increase in depression symptoms, and that the more time per day spent using social media, the greater someone's odds of a depressed mood became.
While this doesn’t necessarily mean you should stop using Instagram and TikTok altogether — there are, after all, many positives associated with online communities — it does mean you should be mindful of your usage and how it’s making you feel.
For instance, if you tend to get bad cases of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) when looking at friends’ posts during weekends or often find yourself doomscrolling when you should be asleep at night, try limiting your time on certain platforms or even taking longer breaks when needed.
The apps will always be there when you’re ready to return. In the meantime, we promise that viral gender-reveal-party-gone-wrong video isn’t that great, anyway.
Generally speaking, excessive use of alcohol and drugs can do some serious damage to your brain and body. But if you’re dealing with depression, these substances have the potential to exacerbate your symptoms further.
The correlation between alcohol, drugs and the risk of depression isn’t crystal clear within the medical community, but there’s strong evidence that alcohol-dependent people are more likely to have depression symptoms.
It’s also important to note that antidepressants and drinking or doing drugs usually don’t mix well together and can have serious side effects and consequences. It’s imperative to be transparent with your healthcare provider about your alcohol consumption and any medications you’re taking.
Research further tells us that people with mental health and addictive (MHA) disorders smoke at higher rates. And while 18 percent of Americans use tobacco-derived nicotine products daily, 53 percent of those with mental illness smoke regularly and die earlier due to smoking-related illnesses.
Kicking a smoking habit can be hard because nicotine is so addicting, but there are strategies for coping with nicotine withdrawals or triggers. `
The bottom line? Alcohol and drugs (and tobacco!) can be a harmful combo when paired with mental illnesses like depression. If you feel like you may struggle with substance addiction, reach out to a professional and seek treatment immediately.
Whew — you now have some evidence-based tools you can put in your back pocket to better cope with depression. While you’re absorbing all this info, here are some main takeaways to keep in mind:
The first step is talking about it. There are multiple avenues you can take to speak to someone about your depression, whether it's through therapy or with a loved one you trust. Do what feels most comfortable for you.
Start small. “Move your body” doesn’t mean you have to sign up for a marathon tomorrow just as “take a social media break” doesn’t mean you have to delete every app from your phone. Making a drastic lifestyle change won’t necessarily make you feel better, but instead, only add pressure to your plate. So go at your own pace and make lifestyle adjustments that seem manageable to best set yourself up for success.
Depression is treatable. There is no “cure” for depression, but there are strategies that can help — like talk therapy(psychotherapy) or medications like antidepressants. Talk to your medical provider to come up with a plan that best works for you. Just remember: You’ve got this.
Dealing with depression can feel lonely. But that doesn’t mean that you’re alone. At least 21 million adults experienced a major depressive episode in 2020 but the more we normalize this kind of mental illness that impacts so many people, the more empowered others will be to seek out information to handle it.
Dr. Beth Pausic is a clinical psychologist and oversees the therapy platform at Hims & Hers.
Prior to Hims & Hers, Beth worked in senior roles at several behavioral healthcare startups focused on the digital delivery of emotional support and treatment through both conventional and innovative approaches.
Her experience prior to working in telebehavioral health includes over 15 years as a Clinical Administrator and provider in diverse clinical settings. In her clinical work, she primarily focused on anxiety, depression and relationships.
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