Depression Self Care
Depression is a serious mental illness that can have a negative impact on your health and quality of life. Many PCS caregivers and those they are taking care of, suffer from depression. Fortunately, there are steps you can take that might help improve your depression symptoms. One of them is practicing self-care that is vital to both physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Keep on reading to find out what are the best ways to look after yourself if you suffer from depression.
Why Is Self-Care So Important When Treating Depression?
Self-care is the ability to take care of your physical, emotional, and mental health needs, including basic daily needs, such as maintaining good sleep, hygiene, and a healthy diet, but also making time for hobbies and activities that make you happy.
Practicing self-care on a daily basis may help improve your overall health and wellness. Engaging in a self-care routine has been scientifically proven to reduce or eliminate anxiety, stress, and depression and improve the quality of life.
Some of the benefits of practicing self care include:
- Enhanced focus
- Improved capacity to manage stress
- Increased resilience
- Immune system boost
- Better sleep quality
- Increased self-compassion
- Increased confidence and self-esteem
- Stronger relationships with others.
How to Practice Self-Care with Depression
When you live with depression, it can be difficult to find the energy and motivation to take care of yourself. Self-care, however, is an essential element in fighting depression. Here are some ideas to help get you started.
1. Find someone you trust and talk to them
Depression is a mental health condition that thrives in isolation. Although it might feel hard to talk to others about how you are feeling, sharing your experiences with someone you trust will allow you to feel better. Your family and friends can help you stay well and make the right choices when you’re experiencing depression. If you don’t feel like talking to your loved ones face-to-face, you may want to send them a text or an email to share your feelings.
If you can’t open up to someone close to you, you may want to call a free depression helpline.
- National Hopeline Network: (800) 442-HOPE(4673). The helpline is open 24/7.
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline: (800) 273-8255. You can call this hotline also if you are in need of emotional support. The service is open 24/7.
- The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline: (800) 950-NAMI (6264) or text NAMI to 741741. Here you can get answers to any questions about mental health, treatment, and local support groups. Hours: Monday to Friday from 10 am to 6 pm.
2. Join a support group
Support groups for depression bring together people with similar experiences to get encouragement and information. Spending time with others who are also dealing with depression can make a significant difference in how you feel. You can encourage each other and share your experiences and advice on how to cope with depression. A support group will not only help you get ideas about how to stay well, but also allow you to connect with others and reduce the feeling of isolation.
You can search for your nearest depression support group through the Anxiety & Depression Association of America (AADA). Many support groups for depression are also meeting online. In addition, the AADA website provides comprehensive information on how you can start your own depression support group.
3. Physically look after yourself
Being depressed can make physical self care difficult. But taking steps to take care of your physical health can make a huge difference in the way you feel. Here’s what you can do to physically look after yourself:
Eat a healthy diet
Eating a balanced diet and keeping your blood sugar stable can make a difference in your mood and energy levels. Try to focus on fresh and whole foods that are high in nutrients and stay away from processed refined foods, sweets, and fried food. You will also improve your depression symptoms by staying adequately hydrated throughout the day.
Try to get enough sleep
Depression often has a negative impact on the quality of sleep. People who experience depression tend to sleep too little or too much. You should avoid napping and try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day in order to establish a healthy sleep routine. Getting good sleep will help improve your mood and increase your energy levels.
Exercise every day
Regular physical activity is used as an alternative depression treatment and is particularly beneficial for people with mild to moderate cases of depression. Not only does exercise have a positive impact on your physical health, but it can also increase your self-esteem and self-worth, two key factors in mental wellbeing and ability to cope with depression.
To stay healthy, adults are recommended to do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activities every week. Activities like yoga, running, and swimming can make a big difference to your mood and energy levels. However, even a brisk ten minutes walk will be enough to increase your mental alertness, energy, and improve your mood.
Look after your appearance and hygiene
Hygiene may not feel like a priority when you’re depressed, but simple things like taking a shower, combing your hair, and getting dressed will make a significant difference in how you feel.
4. Be aware of how you talk to yourself
Self-talk is closely related to the sense of wellbeing and negative self-talk is typically one of the causes of many mental health challenges, including depression. Changing the way you talk to yourself can help you shift into a more positive attitude and affect both the way you think, feel, and behave. Be kind to yourself and show yourself plenty of compassion when you’re dealing with challenging situations.
5. Take time to manage stress
Stress is the body’s response to physical or emotional demands. While stress in general has negative effects on your physical and mental health, it may be even more harmful if you suffer from depression. Stress can make you feel less motivated to maintain positive habits or coping strategies—crucial for managing depression—and make symptoms of depression feel even more intense. Stress management techniques like breathing exercises, yoga, and mediation will help you clear your mind and let in only positive thoughts.
6. Set goals
Working toward specific goals can help manage mental illness. Setting goals will give you something to look forward to and attaining them will feel rewarding. You may start with setting one small goal to accomplish each day, for example going to sleep an hour earlier than usual, and gradually build up toward bigger goals.
7. Avoid alcohol and drugs
Try to avoid recreational drugs and alcohol. Although these substances may bring temporary relief and distract you from your depression, in the long run, they will only make you feel worse and prevent you from dealing with underlying problems. They may also intensify the side effects of depression, such as insomnia, irritability, the feeling of sadness, and fatigue.
8. Discover what makes you feel happy
Find out what activities make you happy and try to include them in your daily routine. Engaging in an activity or hobby you love, for example, painting, listening to music, writing, cooking, yoga, sports, will help improve your mood. Even if your depression symptoms may not ease immediately, you’ll gradually feel more energetic as you plan fun activities that you can look forward to.
You may also want to join a book club or a sports team or start volunteering. Connecting with your community is a great way to ease your depression. It will help you get out of the house, meet new people, increase your motivation and confidence, and break negative thought patterns.
9. Get help as much as you need
Any level of depression should be taken seriously. The faster you address the symptoms, the less likely you are to develop a more severe form of the condition.
You should look for help from people who make you feel safe and understood. They don’t necessarily have to be able to fix your problems. You only need someone who will support you and listen compassionately without judging you.
Seeking professional help is not a sign of weakness but it shows that you are dedicated to caring for your mind and body. Depression is a highly treatable condition and therapy can help you feel better. Different types of psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy or interpersonal therapy, are used to treat depression. A therapist will help you identify issues that contribute to your depression and change behaviors that make your depression worse.
However, even if you’re receiving professional treatment, other self-help practices should still be part of your treatment plan. They will help speed your recovery and prevent relapse of depression.
10. Make your home a place you want to be
Living in a clean and tidy environment has been shown to elevate the mood in people with depression. Getting organized will help you feel a sense of accomplishment, while also motivating you to handle tasks like doing laundry, preparing meals, or paying bills. It will also allow you to have a relaxing place to come back to whenever you need it. On the contrary, a messy house will only make you feel worse about yourself and may reinforce your depression.
Continue reading to find how making healthy food choices can help you with depression.
Foods That Help Depression
The food you eat can directly impact your mental health. Studies show that following a healthy diet may contribute to an increase in self-esteem and a more positive outlook. Some foods can prevent the onset of depression or help ease the symptoms if you’re already suffering from the condition.
You should aim for a balanced diet containing zinc, folate, and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. While it’s best to get these ingredients from fresh foods, if that is not possible, you can also take vitamin or mineral supplements. However, be sure to talk to your doctor first as supplements may have adverse effects on some people.
Zinc deficiency has been shown to induce anxiety and depression and zinc supplementation is regularly used as a treatment for severe depression. Zinc is also known to improve the efficacy of antidepressant drugs in depressed patients.
You can find in the following foods:
- Lean red meats
- Nuts and seeds
- Grains (wheat, oats, rice, barley, millet, and corn)
- Dairy products (milk, cheese, and yogurt).
Omega-3 fatty acids act like antidepressants in the brain and are beneficial in the treatment of mild to moderate depression. People suffering from depression have low blood levels of brain chemicals EPA and DHA that can be found in fish oil. Eating fish a few times a week will provide your body with healthy oils and improve your depression symptoms.
Fish that contain high amounts of omega-3 include:
- Canned white (albacore) tuna
Some nuts and seeds, such as walnuts, flaxseeds, and pumpkin seeds, as well as flaxseed oil, algae oil, and canola oil, are also good sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
While generally the best way to get nutrients is through healthy foods, in this case, supplementation may be useful. However, make sure to talk to your doctor first as much of the fatty acids in omega-3 may have a negative effect on your health, and fish oil and omega-3 supplements may interact with some medications.
Folate is the natural form of vitamin B9 in food, also known as folic acid in its synthetic form. Studies found that levels of folic acid in the blood are lower in individuals with depression than in people who are not depressed. To get enough folate in your diet, you should increase your intake of foods rich in this nutrient, for example:
- Leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale
- Pinto beans
- Lima beans
- Fortified breakfast cereals
If you are deficient in folate, your doctor may also recommend taking a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement.