Navigating depression can be a challenge, but small steps can make big a difference to your well-being.
Whether your diagnosis is new or you’ve been navigating it for years, depression and depressive episodes can feel like a lot to carry. But you aren’t alone.
Each person experiences depression and depressive episodes differently. There’s no one-size-fits-all treatment for depression. But there are some basic and helpful steps you can incorporate into your routine to help navigate depression.
Psych Central spoke with people who either navigate or support others with depression about the little things that have helped them.
The stigma that still surrounds mental health conditions can lead people to suppress what they’re experiencing and delay treatment. More than 50% of people in the United States with a mental health condition remain untreated.
Being kind to yourself and “acknowledging your depressive thoughts as they arise without judgment” is a first small step that can have a big impact on your managing depression, says Mason Lanier, who writes a self-help blog.
“This will separate you from your thoughts, allowing you to better understand that you are not your thoughts since you have a conscious awareness of when you’re having a thought,” Lanier says.
Studies, including one from 2015, show that feeling confident in how you look adds to how you feel. Personal style mentor and confidence coach Yolandie Hamilton has witnessed this firsthand.
“One tool that I’ve seen help women that I work with who have bouts of depression is managing their appearance,” Hamilton says. “They know that how they appear in the mirror affects their mood and that the appearance-mood connection can become negatively cyclical if they don’t do something about it.”
Hamilton suggests adding a “happy nostalgia” piece to your outfit, something that has significance to you.
“These pieces help to interrupt the depressive thought patterns by taking them to a positive memory,” she says.
Aaron Seminoff, of the online retail company Reaper Disc Supply, has a process for navigating his depression as a business owner.
Part of his process includes open communication and being upfront about expectations and availability. “Being open with my employees helps manage their expectations and alleviates the damage my depressive episodes may cause,” he says.
“I never know when or how long my depressive episodes are going to last,” Seminoff says, “so setting the expectation at the beginning of our professional relationship makes it easier to manage.”
Another thing that Seminoff does is automate some of his business processes.
“I try to put as many systems in place as possible that give my employees autonomy and remove me as the bottleneck from day-to-day processes,” he says. This “makes a huge difference during those times when I’m unavailable.”
Ruiz Asri, editor of food website Honest Food Talks, has been navigating depression since 2016. In addition to therapy sessions, Asri acknowledges that discussing what’s going on with trusted friends and loved ones is useful.
“I found that just speaking out your worries and sadness to another person without being judged for whatever you say can be very cathartic,” Asri says.
Matthew Paxton, the founder and owner of gaming site Hypernia, says that socializing helps to keep your spirits up. Paxton also emphasizes the importance of maintaining connections with your loved ones year-round.
Laura Spaulding, CEO of cleanup service company Spaulding Decon, spends a lot of time with folks that are grieving. In addition to handling tangible parts of tough situations like the cleanup, she and her team encourage people to find groups with similar hobbies and start engaging in activities that are great for the mind and soul.
This could look like:
- an online support group
- club sports
- crafting workshops
- biking groups
- virtual gaming groups
- an in-person group therapy session
Research shows that animals are beneficial for people with mental health conditions.
Todd Bissell, of the ridesharing informational website RideFAQs, says he makes sure to spend at least 1 hour every day with his pets.
“The unconditional love you get from animals takes you away from your mental blocks or any kind of depression you’re in,” Bissell says.
“It’s not only [a] refreshing but also [a] very empowering experience because animals have a way of teaching you that you don’t need judgement or validation to be worthy of love,” he says. “It’s a beautiful feeling.”
Art therapy can have positive effects on people with mental health conditions. Art therapy can be performed in a structured therapeutic environment or done on your own. Painting using materials like acrylic or watercolor could be a great option to try as a method for expression.
Gene Caballero, of lawn care services company GreenPal, has seasonal depression and turns to musical instruments to decompress.
“I play piano when I’m feeling down. It helps me to clear my mind and reset,” Caballero says.
“Playing an instrument has been scientifically proven to engage practically every area of the brain at once, especially the visual, auditory, and motor cortices,” he says. “So it’s like a mental full-body workout.”
Journaling about what you’re experiencing and feeling can give you an outlet for your emotions. This can give you distance and step out of the negative thoughts that sometimes come with depression.
“My personal favorite is keeping a journal where I write down three things I am grateful for every morning,” Spaulding says. “This helps me focus on myself, my needs, and taking steps to come back to myself and the things that matter.”
Brookelyn Simms, mom and managing editor of parenting website Super Mom Picks, says that traveling has served as a management tool for depression.
This helps even if she’s doing it alone, Simms says.
“Traveling is a proven antidepressant for me,” she says. “Being able to witness the beauty of nature and feel the breeze on my hair and body reminds me why it’s still a pleasure to be alive.”
Making time to care for yourself, whether it’s entertainment or meditation, can have a significant impact on your depression and its symptoms.
TV and movies
Connor Brown, founder of financial advice website After School Finance, watches cartoons to soothe himself.
“Cartoons entertain me and help me forget the things that make me depressed,” Brown says. “Tom and Jerryis one of my favorites.”
So, consider taking a long, hot bath. Adding essential oils, bath salts or bath bombs can enhance the experience.
Studies show that meditation practices, such as
Sometimes factors and thoughts about the past or future can exacerbate depressive symptoms. Meditation helps you focus on what’s happening in the present moment. And this, in turn, helps to steer you away from negative thoughts and emotions.
There are several forms of meditation that can help ease depressive symptoms:
- loving-kindness meditation
- breathing meditation
- body scan meditation
- walking meditation
Physical activity has an impact on mental wellness. This can be especially useful if you have a job that requires you to be still or seated for long periods of time.
Weights and cardio
Ravi Davda, CEO of online marketing firm Rockstar Marketing, says he manages his symptoms of depression with physical activity, from lifting weights to cardio.
“It helps me feel better,” Davda says, “and gives me more energy throughout the day. It also usually means I sleep better at night, which is exactly what you need when you have depression.”
Research suggests that engaging in regular yoga practice could have a positive impact on depressive symptoms and episodes.
That’s because yoga relaxes muscle tension, which is a contributor to conditions, such as depression and anxiety. The practice of yoga also helps with intentional focus on the body and breathing, according to recent research.
Many of us navigate depression on a daily basis with these small steps. Little things incorporated into your daily routine can have a big impact on your overall well-being.
Any and all of these suggestions can be coupled with regular visits to a licensed therapist.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression for a period of several weeks, it may be time to reach out for help. You can seek help from a healthcare professional, a therapist, or a depression hotline.
If you’re looking for a therapist but are not sure where to start, Psych Central’s How to Find Mental Health Support resource can help.