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What to Do on the Bad Days of Depression

By Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.
Associate Editor

What to Do on the Bad Days of DepressionWhen you don’t have depression, a bad day might mean sadness and murky musings. But the gloomy thoughts and feelings tend to dissipate, and you bounce back in a day or two, according to Deborah Serani, Psy.D, a clinical psychologist and author of Living with Depression.

However, if you’re struggling with depression, a bad day is filled with profoundly “cynical, pessimistic and distorted” thoughts that you just can’t shake, she said.

A bad day leaves you emotionally and physically drained. Serani, who’s experienced depression, described feeling “emotionally wrung out” and “physically limp and bone weary.”

“Depression is an experience of depletion,” she said. “You’re worn down, hollowed out, devoid of enthusiasm or vitality.” You feel like nothing is worth fighting for, she said.

That means that on the days you need it most, soothing yourself can be excruciatingly difficult. But there are ways you can feel better — without having to take big steps.

6 Comments to
What to Do on the Bad Days of Depression

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  1. All of those sensory stimulators, self soothers and de-stressors have degree of evidence supporting them.

    But the odiferous sun-blocking elephant in the room is the environment of those most severely afflicted and distressed who are confined in in patient psychiatric units, in prisons and jails, in hospital/insitution based day programs and in low income/high crime/low green space housing:

    Inpatient units feature heavy shatter proof glass, often embedded with screening windows that do not open. There is no natural daylight or sunshine to enjoy. Ditto fresh air, the smell of rain, the fresh scents of flowers, grass and plants or any aspect of nature. There is nothing naturally green in these environments. There is uncontrollable noise, foul and foreign odors, TVs blasting unending junk food – well, just plain junk marketing and programming. If there is exercise, it’s mindless lap walking going nowhere, with no scenery to distract. Food served in these settings runs toward highly processes, added sugar, industrial seed oil, hyperpalatable and nutrient poor filler. Nuts, fresh fruit, vegetables, lean proteins and olive oil rarely, if ever, appear on prison, hospital and institutional cafeteria menus. Nor are they available in patient accessible vending machines.

    I could keep going, but anyone with first hand experience in any of these settings can fill in the blanks I haven’t addressed.

    These traditional settings for delivering “care” and “treatment” to the ones who most need the interventions which you cite, and which not only fail to do so, but which force those incarcerated, hospitalized and guilty of being impoverished to be subjected to yet more decidedly distressing surroundings, work at cross purposes.

  2. Great advice. Love that you have focussed on the activation, or re-activiation of the senses that are the very place where and/or through which we form beliefs about our world, possibly the very beliefs that plunge us into depression in the first place.

  3. Thank you for this article. I needed a reminder of all the things I hack in my toolkit to combat depression.

  4. doesn’t help….still sick! feel terrible

  5. I think this article was a great reminder of what we, potentially, can do to help work on decreasing the levels of depression we are experiencing. I try to remind myself of the sunlight suggestion as often as possible so I am getting some natural light.

    The most difficult part, for me, is I spend a great deal of time alone at home with my cats. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just that I don’t get the human interaction that seems to help me feel a bit better. I have friends and family that will check-in on me periodically, but that’s usually by phone or text. There are times that, aside from seeing my neighbors outside, that I don’t actually interact with people, in person, for days on end. It just seems to happen that way.

    Now, I’m not saying that these techniques will be ineffective, but some of them, unfortunately, don’t seem to work for me personally. I do love my scented candles, which I generally have burning at all times of the day, so that may be helping a little bit. When it comes to aromas, I find that baking (being a former professional baker) does seem to help me, but quite often I get myself into a manic mode when I bake. But, at least I can focus that energy on something good. Plus, it helps me get some human interaction because, I’ll bake so much in one afternoon or morning, that I take it all to my neighbors to enjoy. So, I think that does help me a bit as well.

    Sometimes it’s just so difficult to get that energy to accomplish even the simplest tasks though. I find that happens a lot. I’ll get a great idea to do something in the house and then my thoughts and mood shift and I just put it off and can’t seem to get motivated or feel the energy to actually do it. Nonetheless, it’s all baby steps, so in time, I’m hopeful that I’ll begin to feel better and better, and these techniques may help with that.

    • I can relate. We are social beings. I am never touched in a caring way by another human being. Sometimes I feel I will never be hugged again. Isolation and loneliness are killers (literally). Volunteering is recommended, but I lack the energy and rarely get dressed anymore. I have taken every med, had ECT, and talk therapy. Nothing works. I spent $400 on a transcranial device. A waste of money.

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