17.3 million Americans are living with depression, and while depression help often requires more than self-care, the simple acting of caring for oneself can go a long way. Depression self-care is certainly useful as a standalone depression treatment, but it is even better when used as a supplement to psychotherapy or medications.
Here are 10 easy ways to practice depression self-care:
1. Guided imagery. Using guided imagery is a proven way to create a mental “happy place” capable of transforming your mood. Just close your eyes, imagine a place you would like to go—maybe a favorite vacation spot from your childhood, or an exotic location you’ve always wanted to visit—and make sure to include the sensory details that will add realism to your mental image: chirping birds, crashing waves, a crackling campfire…
2. Write down your successes. Journaling has become very popular these days, and for good reason, However, if you are living with depression, you should avoid writing about your darkest feelings and focus on writing about your successes!
3. Positive self-talk. Depression can cause a plethora of self-deprecating thoughts that, frankly, can spiral out of control if not kept in check. Through mindfulness, try to identify the voice of your inner critic, and practice turning around that negative self-talk when it starts.
4. Mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness creates new, healthy pathways in the brain while stopping false, deprecating thoughts from forming. Mindfulness simply means “being present,” and you can practice this by pulling yourself fully into any moment, taking a nature break, or working with a therapist who specializes in mindfulness therapy.
5. Find a passion. Maybe you used to be into running, painting, photography, or another hobby, but depression has left you feeling too muted to engage. Maybe you’ve always wanted to try rock climbing, learn pottery, or join a book club. Finding a passion can help you find purpose, and rekindle interest in your own life.
6. Stop the endless social media scrolling. Sure, mindlessly scrolling through your Instagram feed can feel relaxing. However, there are much more cathartic relaxation techniques with much greater benefit: aromatherapy, a warm bath, stretching, listening to music, or reading a book are all better options than getting lost in the social mediasphere.
7. Try to get more restful sleep. This means getting into a more consistent routine: falling asleep and waking up at the same time every day, making sure your bedroom is cool and dark at night, reducing your caffeine intake in the afternoon, and turning off your phone and/or computer at least an hour before bedtime.
8. Exercise. You don’t need to run a marathon or engage in a high intensity cardio class to gain benefit from exercise. Go for a walk, take a swim, roller skate…exercise is an effective way to increase endorphins, which is effective for depression help!
9. Ask for help. Avoid isolating, even though that may be what you want to do. When living with depression, it’s important to surround yourself with people who care about you. Ask a friend to go to dinner, or see a movie. Also, let your support network know when you are struggling!
10. Eat “brain foods” to combat depression. The gut and brain are closely linked, so eating foods that contribute to brain health is, well, a no-brainer. Try leafy greens, whole grains, nuts, and foods with lots of vitamin D!
Again, depression self-care is rarely enough to alleviate severe cases of depression on its own. For those of you who struggle with severe or treatment-resistant cases of depression, a more poignant therapy will likely be needed. We urge you to consider ketamine therapy to treat your stubborn case of depression.
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