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10 things to do when you're depressed

POSTED: August 23, 2017 9:01 a.m.
Dan Bates/

Depression is a challenging, sometimes debilitating mental illness, but there is hope. You can overcome depression if you follow these 10 steps.

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Depression is a challenging, sometimes debilitating mental illness, but there is hope. It's difficult to pull yourself out of depression, but following these 10 steps might make it a little easier.

1. Get some exercise

Research shows that regular exercise or physical activity is an effective anti-depressant. Dr. Michael Craig Miller says, "For some people [exercise] works as well as antidepressants, although exercise alone isn't enough for someone with severe depression."

2. Give yourself structure

Keeping a regular schedule promotes a sense of stability, predictability and consistency. Wake up, go to bed, eat your meals and go to work at the same time to start maintaining structure in your life.

3. Break large goals into smaller goals

Depression has a way of making even the simplest tasks seem overwhelming. In order to make a goal more attainable, break it up into smaller goals. For example, going to work in the morning can seem daunting to someone who has depression, so don’t make that your goal.

Instead, set a goal to get in the shower by a certain time. Then make a second goal to brush your teeth. Third, get dressed. These small goals will eventually lead to the bigger goal - getting to work.

4. Maintain a healthy diet

You are what you eat. If you nourish your body, you nourish your mind. Physical health can encourage mental health and vice versa.

5. Keep a journal

It’s important to process your feelings. Don’t feel limited to a journal - anything can work. For some, keeping a journal is an effective way to work through thoughts and feelings. If you don’t feel like you can talk to another person, you can always write about what you're feeling.

6. Channel your depression

There is a strong connection between depression and creativity. A creative outlet allows you to process your feelings. Sometimes words can't express what you're feeling, but a painting, dance routine or sculpture can.

7. Shine a light

The expression “You’re as sick as your secrets” fits well with depression. Depression thrives in the dark. When you isolate yourself from others and keep your depression secret, it's easier for your depression to thrive. Break the cycle of secrets and be honest about what you are experiencing with others.

8. Find community

It's hard to overcome depression alone. Reach out to another person for support and help. This may feel uncomfortable, but staying in your comfort zone is part of the problem. Connecting with others might sound scary, but the risk is worth it.

Community provides a person with a sense of belonging, practical and emotional support, an outlet for them to vent and opportunities for the individual to support others.

9. Challenge your thinking

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a model of therapy that is highly effective in treating Major Depressive Disorder. There are many books, workbooks, articles and programs that are helpful for people with depression.

10. Consider counseling

Talking to a counselor is a great way to cope with depression. Find a counselor you're comfortable with and trust so you can talk through whatever you need to. They're there to help you, and they help people overcome depression every day.

If you have depression or think you might, it's never too late to get help. You deserve to be happy, so take these 10 steps and start your better life.
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