7  Tips for Navigating a Day with Depression

by Jacqlyn Bozeman, M.S., LPC – Associate

When you’re depressed hours can feel like days, days can feel like weeks. Maybe you have started taking medication and you are wondering when it will ”kick in” and start to help you feel better. Maybe you have started looking for a therapist and don’t know how you are going to fit therapy into your already daunting schedule.  Alternatively, you could be thinking that nothing will ever work for you. Regardless, simply getting through the day is a challenge when dealing with depression. 

Here are some things I recommend to clients that might help you as well:

1. Be kind to yourself

Self-compassion is key. If you do not treat yourself with compassion, you are less likely to employ thinking patterns or behavioral patterns that will decrease your depression symptoms. When someone is depressed, it is easy to think, “I need to be fully functioning” or “I should be able to shake this off, I don’t have time to be depressed.” When you’re depressed, however, “beating yourself up” can exasperate your sense of helplessness. Remember to recognize that it is a process to heal from depression and you are where you are.  It’s okay if your friends recognize a change in you. It’s okay if you can’t concentrate as well as you did before you felt this way. Depression affects all of the different systems in your body and it takes time to heal, and that is ok. Remember that is also okay that you are not okay right now!

2. Give yourself permission to cry

Crying is a build-in mechanism to release the hormones we need to heal. Crying is not a sign of weakness, it is a strength and is cleansing. It’s a way to let go of and release pent-up negative emotions.  Scream if you must but just let go of or vent some of the frustrations you might feel with your circumstances and your current state of depression.

3. Move your body

Just move your body a bit each day. When you find your preferred way of moving your body, do it as often as possible. You can walk, swim, run, dance, or anything that gets you moving. A good thing to try during your exercise time is to use mindfulness by looking at something outside of your brain— because depression can make you feel like you are trapped in your brain and your negative thought pattern. Taking a hike or walk somewhere you’ve never been before can help with mindfulness by offering the novelty factor. 

4. Talk to friends and family

This can be difficult when you are feeling really depressed. Well-meaning friends can say things that may not be helpful. Remember that you know what kind of communication you are needing when reaching out to a friend. Saying, “I just need to vent out my feelings for a minute”, is okay. Because most friends want to help and you are making it easier on them to tell them what ways they can be there for you. Also, just spending time with a friend, not talking about your depression symptoms and struggles is also a way to be mindful and be around someone that makes you feel connected and can ease your depression symptoms.

5. Get a massage

When you are struggling with depression symptoms, getting a massage can be a good way to take care of yourself. Depression can make you feel achy and sore and overall feel pretty crappy physically. Getting a regular massage gives you something to look forward to. If you can’t afford one, ask someone you know who might be able to give you a massage, like your partner or loved one.  If you are usually someone who enjoys deep massage techniques like shiatsu or sports massage, know that those types of massage can bring up emotional stuff, especially if your depression is related to a traumatic event.  So it would be best if the person doing the deeper massage techniques has experience massaging clients with depression.

6. Challenge your negative thoughts and replace them

When you’re depressed, being asked to think positively can be tricky, especially when depression is more severe. But you can try to identify, name, and replace negative thinking patterns. Once you notice something that you continue to “tell yourself”, name it a “depressed thought” and replace it with a more adaptive way of thinking. For example, A common thought to have when depressed is “I am depressed because I am a failure and I have made a mess of my life.” An easy way to challenge this thought is to think about what a good friend might notice about your life that is not “a mess”. If your thought patterns are negative, think of what that friend may say to you and really listen to the feedback that someone who is not depressed would likely say to you. 

7. Write or draw

Writing or drawing about your experience with depression can give you little distance from it. There is something about getting out what you are feeling in words or in art that gets some feelings flowing and makes you feel less “stuck”. Writing out your feelings can keep the same feelings from rolling around in your head or repeating the same intrusive thinking patterns that are common when someone is struggling with depression. Remember that you don’t have to be an artist to draw. This is for you and the technique or outcome is not the focus, it is the expression of what you are feeling and drawing can be a way to get some of what’s got you down, out!

All the things covered here can be good to use to complement professional help from a counselor. It is tough getting through a day with depression and many times it takes the help of a therapeutic relationship with a trained therapist to get through the process. If you are experiencing the helplessness and hopelessness that comes with depression and you are ready to begin counseling, contact me today so that we can begin working towards healing and growth. 

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