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How to Overcome Depression- Your Guide to Depression Self Help

Updated on January 17, 2014
How to Overcome Depression
How to Overcome Depression | Source

Living with chronic depression can seriously affect the quality of one's life. As a mental health practitioner and person who's suffered from depression, I know only too well how all pervasive its devastating effects can be. Many of us have been treated for years, but still suffer. For some the serotonin specific reuptake inhibitors (SSRI's) stop working for us, for others the cause is unknown, and some have never found an antidepressant that works for them. Still others tend to go in and out of the depressive state with little idea what the instigating factors are. Regardless of which group you're in, it's crucial to know there is hope. It's very difficult to see that in the thick of it... I know. But, there are things you can do to decrease your chances of an episode or to emerge from the depths of one. These suggestions come from 30 years of personal experience as well as a decade of professional experience.

If you're not sure whether or not you're depressed, take this online depression test to find out.

First Stop: Your Doctor

The bar none very first step in fighting the depression battle is setting up a visit with your physician. There are a myriad of treatable medical conditions that can mimic and/or create chronic depression: thyroid problems, fibromyalgia, autoimmune diseases, vitamin deficiencies, chronic infections, blood disorders like anemia, dietary disorders, chronic fatigue syndrome, etc... There is a pretty long list. You definitely want to rule out any underlying physical cause. It's amazing how many people don't take this critical step.

You and your doctor can discuss whether an antidepressant is an appropriate course of treatment, too. It can be and is a crucial part of treating depression for some people.

Just a quick "hello" to a friend can be enough to make you feel just a bit better!
Just a quick "hello" to a friend can be enough to make you feel just a bit better! | Source

How to Overcome Depression: Emerging From the Depths of Despair

When you're really down and out and depression has completely taken the wind out of your sails, it can be a colossal effort to do anything. You may not want to get out of bed, talk to anyone, tend to personal hygiene, take care of responsibilities, etc... Everything may just feel like too much of an effort. It can become a vicious cycle, too. NOT doing anything and continuing in avoidance mode can make you feel guilty, only adding to the depression. It is imperative you act to disrupt this downward, vicious cycle. The good news is small changes can bring about large change- the point is you need to do something. Here are some suggestions:

  • Take a shower or bath
  • Get dressed for the day
  • Walk to the mailbox to get your mail
  • Walk to the end of your street and back
  • Call a friend just to say "hello"
  • Pay a bill
  • Vacuum a room
  • Mow the lawn
  • Sweep your front porch or balconey
  • Make your bed
  • Clean out a drawer
  • Take a five minute drive
  • Take a five minute bike ride
  • Make a healthy snack
  • Play with your pet
  • Bake or cook something
  • See a movie

The point is to choose a small, productive activity and just DO IT! Choose something that doesn't take very long and is easy to achieve. You may even find yourself motivated to do more after you begin. Or perhaps you won't, but that's okay too.

After you've finished your activity, do NOT return to your original environment. If you were in your bedroom before, do not return. That room, that chair, that bed, that desk, that couch, wherever it was is now forbidden. If you live in a studio apartment and can't move to another room, just go to a different area in the apartment.

Why (you ask)? Because associations are very powerful for humans and we are creatures of habit. For example, when you have spent a lot of time in your bedroom, feeling down you've begun to make negative associations between your bedroom and how you feel. Going back to the same environment is likely to recreate these same negative associations. Even a small environmental change gives you the upper hand in feeling better.

Eat more fruits and vegetables!
Eat more fruits and vegetables! | Source

The Trick is Learning How to Continue to Feel Better

The above suggestions create temporary mood elevation, but the trick is keeping the momentum going in order to avoid sinking back into depression. Overcoming depression entails continual dedication and action. You literally need to be armed and ready every day to fight the battle. Here are the most important tools to help you win.

Take heed of your sleep hygiene. Nothing can spin you downward more quickly than poor sleep habits and/or sleep deprivation. Set a bedtime for yourself and stick to it. Similarly, set a time to get up daily and do it! Consistent sleep patterns are a critical piece in the mental health puzzle, your brain chemistry will not stabilize without it. Being a night owl is something you're going to have to ditch. Even if you're still getting 8 hours of sleep when you stay up until 3 am, you are doing yourself a disservice. You definitely want to increase the number of daylight hours you are awake. And get at least 7 hours of precious sleep every night. It needs to be triaged to the top of your priority list.

Get regular exercise! Exercising has a very powerful effect upon the neurotransmitters that contribute to a sense of happiness and well-being. You don't have to go nuts at the gym for two hours everyday, either. Even a brief walk a few times a week is enough to decrease feelings of depression. You can start small if you're feeling uninspired. Just walk to the end of your street and back. You just might find you discover some motivation along the way. You could also revisit a sport you used to love. If you used to play tennis, find a way to pick up that racquet again. Your goal is to get moving... in any capacity possible. And yes- chores around the house are included!

Cut out the junk food. Eating poorly has huge effects not only on your health, but also your mental health! Sugary foods can make you crash later. High fat foods can add to that lazy, lethargic feeling. You will be doing yourself a huge service to incorporate many more fruits and vegetables in your diet. Of all the changes I made, this one was HUGE. I cut out the fatty, greasy foods, the sugary snacks and replaced them with fruits and veggies. I immediately felt more energized and positive about life.

A fun way to shop for fresh fruits and vegetables is to check out your local farmer's market. It's not only a fun activity, but you will walk away with wonderful brain food!

Take Heed How You Talk To Yourself

Have you ever taken just a moment to listen to how you talk to yourself?

If you haven't, spend a day paying attention to your internal dialogue. You might be surprised how hard you are on yourself. When you find yourself being negative or beating yourself up over something, ask yourself if you would treat your best friend this way. I doubt you would, or you probably wouldn't have that best friend much longer.

For a while, pretend you're talking to your best friend when you have an internal dialogue. If you must, pretend he or she is sitting across from you at a table, or walking down the street with you, or sitting at your work desk. When you start beating up on yourself, stop yourself immediately. You wouldn't treat someone else this way, why is it okay for you to treat yourself this way? Now you need to practice speaking nicely to yourself. Keep that best friend on your metaphorical shoulder, it's a good reminder. You will find with practice, you will get out of this nasty habit.

Helping someone in need is one of the best ways to make you feel happy!
Helping someone in need is one of the best ways to make you feel happy! | Source

A Guaranteed Way to Overcome Depression

Nothing can help you feel better mentally than getting out of yourself for a while. This tactic has been used for many years in Alcoholics Anonymous, for example. It just feels good to help another person or group of people in need. It might offer you some much needed perspective, too- perhaps you might discover that your plight in life could be just a bit worse.

Ways to help others:

  • Rake a neighbor's leaves
  • Volunteer for a food bank
  • Donate blood
  • Volunteer at a pet shelter
  • Volunteer for Meals on Wheels
  • Offer to walk an elderly person's dog
  • Offer visits to nursing homes
  • Participate in a walk or run for a cause
  • Help with a local fundraiser
  • Find out how you could help your local schools or parent-teacher organizations
  • Donate toys to needy kids for Christmas

The list goes on and on... No doubt you can readily find a way to make a difference in your neighborhood or community. The thanks and gratitude are worth their weight in gold.


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    • profile image

      Rebekah 2 months ago

      This is the best post on depression that I have read. Thank you

    • clarity1225 profile image

      Gabrielle Banks 3 years ago from Colorado Springs

      You are correct. There is no reason to worry about the past because it is already gone, no reason to worry about the future because it has not yet arrived. The present moment is the only moment we have. Mindfulness can bring us back to the present moment just like you feel the warmth of your feet in your slippers. Feel free to read some of my articles. They may help :)


    • Writeonmissamy2 profile image

      Amy Elizabeth Lawrence 3 years ago from Austin, TX

      Love this .... Thank you so much❤️

    • clarity1225 profile image

      Gabrielle Banks 3 years ago from Colorado Springs

      Great post. One of the things you had mentioned about self nurturing is very important. To over come depression it is important to focus on ones need. Relaxing can be beneficial and increase mood.

    • Abhishek Kaushik profile image

      Abhishek Kaushik 4 years ago from Delhi

      Very useful information. Great Hub, voted up!

    • wordscribe43 profile image

      Elsie Nelson 5 years ago from Pacific Northwest, USA

      Hi Alma, exercise is a great way to clear the mind and feel energized and happy. It's good you discovered this early on. Thanks for coming by and reading!

    • Alma Cabase profile image

      Alma Cabase 5 years ago from Philippines


      Jogging has been my way of getting rid of depression ever since I was a kid. Though it was much fun before since I usually do it with my dad but the results even when I'm alone is just about the same. After at least an hour of jogging, my mind is much clearer and I feel relieved from all the stress I got from work and in dealing with peers.

      Thank you for this hub! I learn a lot of great ideas after reading it.

      Have a good day and God Bless!



    • wordscribe43 profile image

      Elsie Nelson 5 years ago from Pacific Northwest, USA

      Great suggestions, B. Leekley... Sounds like you practice what are called mindfulness exercises. Very powerful tool and good on you for figuring that out. Sounds like you are well-tuned to yourself, which is huge. Thanks for coming by!

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 5 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      Up, Useful, Interesting, and shared with followers and on social networking sites.

      Seem like good suggestions.

      Less now than when younger but still somewhat, my problem has been more with no apparent cause anxiety and dread than with depression. I get some quick relief by shifting my attention from the past, the future, or a hypothetical what if time to the present moment. I simply stop, look, listen, and take note -- of my breathing, of the cats looking out of the windows, of the sounds of traffic going by, of the warmth of my feet in my slippers. I can do what the moment asks of me -- type this comment, continue washing the kitchen floor, close the window blinds. No need to wallow in negative what if and if only thoughts.