4 Tips to Help Manage Depression

man making the bed

Major depression is one of the most common mental health disorders in the United States, affecting an estimated 17.3 million adults. More than just the occasional sadness, major depression — or clinical depression — lasts a minimum of two weeks and can interfere with a person’s ability to function and engage in daily activities.

Other signs include irritability over minor issues, changes in sleep, lack of energy, trouble concentrating, noticeable weight loss or gain, an increase in anxiety and suicidal thoughts.

“Just like any other illness, early detection and treatment can prevent the length of a depressive episode,” says David McSpadden, an occupational therapist at MU Health Care’s Missouri Psychiatric Center. “Talk to your doctor to determine a plan of action that’s right for you.”

MU Health Care offers a variety of treatment and therapy options for depression. If you think it’s time to consult a physician, please visit our website to find a doctor.

Depression is difficult, but it is treatable and help is available. McSpadden says these four tips have shown to help manage depression.

Increase physical activity. This can feel daunting when you lack energy, but it’s important to add movement into your day. Exercise releases feel-good endorphins that will give you an emotional boost.

“Even walking or moving around for just 15 or 20 minutes has benefits,” McSpadden said. “Doing it while listening to music can also be helpful.”

Engage socially. Interacting with friends and supportive people can provide you with relief from negative thoughts and help with feelings of isolation. Start out by texting friends or family to lift your spirits and feel more connected. Build up to a phone call and eventually try meeting up in person.

Set goals. “Even small goals can help you feel more productive,” McSpadden says. “Start out with simple goals, such as getting out of bed each morning. Adding to that goal the next day can help you see progress.”

The benefits of checking something off of your list will help you continue to set — and meet — goals.

Do something you used to enjoy. “While you may no longer enjoy the hobbies and activities you used to due to depression, engaging in those activities even for 15 or 20 minutes can help you identify when you are starting to feel better,” McSpadden said.

Sometimes taking part in activities that once brought you joy can help remind you of that feeling and why you enjoyed the activity in the first place.

Relax. Active relaxation activities such as meditation, yoga, guided imagery and progressive muscle relaxation can all help you cope with anxiety experienced during depression. 

“Adult coloring books have also been shown to have a meditative and calming effect,” McSpadden says.

Try making your own calm-down jar to help you feel at ease in stressful situations. Relaxation doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming to have a positive impact. Keep it simple.

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