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Living with depression can come with significant challenges. It’s natural to wonder if there’s something you can do to cure it.
You live with depression and sometimes wonder about the path to feeling better… for good.
It’s not uncommon to wish for a quick way to live symptom-free.
Even if sometimes it doesn’t feel like it, depression can be treated. But it may take time to figure out what will work for you.
Yes. You can do this.
A cure implies relieving someone from a disease once you treat it. With depression, however, things aren’t as straightforward.
The good news: Symptoms of depression can be managed, and depression can be treated. There’s hope and a possibility of feeling better. For untreated depression, though, the chances may be lower.
When talking about depression symptoms, experts prefer to think of remission — long periods of improvement or being symptom-free — instead of a “cure.”
Remission looks different for everyone, but it generally means that the symptoms can be managed to the point where they no longer affect your quality of life.
If experiencing a significant loss, you can read more about the grieving process here.
Depression can be tackled from several directions. In fact, the more integrated the approach, the better.
A mental health professional will put together a treatment plan that works for your specific case.
There are no written-in-stone formulas for depression, but common approaches include:
- long-term psychotherapy
- natural remedies and lifestyle changes
- development of coping skills
- self-care strategies
A thought about a cure for depression
Even if depression can’t be cured per se, recovery is indeed possible. What works for one person may not work for you, but there’s always hope.
“Many people have walked through the fog of depression and learned to manage it,” says Maggie Holland, a licensed mental health counselor in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
“There often isn’t a magical cure-all; it takes time, adjustments to your coping process along the way, and some hard work, but you can make it out, too,” she says.
Try more than one approach. Whatever it takes!
The front-line natural remedy for depression is addressing the mind-gut connection.
“Eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables,” says Christopher Taylor, PhD, a psychotherapist and owner of Taylor Counseling Group in Dallas, Texas.
“As more research comes out on factors that impact mental health, we are learning that diet and gut health has a powerful impact on mood because many neurotransmitters are made and reside in the gut,” he says.
If it’s accessible for you, try to incorporate nutrient-dense, unprocessed, whole foods into your meals. A useful template may be the Mediterranean diet, which can ease some symptoms of depression, according to research.
Some other natural remedies you may want to discuss with a health professional include:
- vitamins and minerals: calcium, folate, magnesium, niacin, vitamin C, vitamin B12, zinc
- supplements: omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics, SAMe, NAC, GABA, melatonin, creatine
- herbs: rhodiola, turmeric, saffron, chai hu, maca
You can read our guide to natural remedies for depression here
The goal of psychotherapy for depression includes helping you develop new coping skills. These will help you manage your symptoms in a way that you can function in the world.
Remember, there’s no cure for depression, but there are ways you can learn to manage it effectively and improve your quality of life.
For some, the symptoms of depression can make even the smallest tasks difficult, but behavioral activation can often help.
If you can identify one tiny action step to take, then get yourself to do it, your body and brain may experience relief, says Anne Russey, a licensed online counselor in Katy, Texas.
“Take a walk around the block, eat an apple, put that one sock lying on your bedroom floor into the hamper, or throw the pizza box away,” she says.
“Give yourself credit for what you’ve managed to do. Then, set another small, measurable goal for yourself and an action you can take to work towards it.”
Meditation or mindfulness
To manage negative thoughts that often accompany depression, mindfulness and meditation may help you redirect your mind and stay in the present moment.
“Mindfulness releases you from negative emotions about the past or future, slowing your respiration and heart rate and allowing your mood to lift or stabilize,” says Dr. Taylor.
“Apps such Headspace and Calm are great resources for guided meditations and mindfulness exercises,” he adds. “I recommended starting with at least 5 to 15 minutes a day.”
As you notice the change in your mood, you’ll be motivated to do longer sessions.
Celebrated psychiatrist Carl Jung said it first: what we resist, persists.
This approach doesn’t work for everyone, but it may work for you.
Consider practicing self-compassion and owning that, right now, you may need to pump the brakes on anything not 100% necessary — and that’s okay.
“You’re in charge of setting expectations for yourself, so if you’re feeling overwhelmed by depression, lower the bar,” says Russey. “This is not the time for achieving or excelling. This is the time for surviving.”
For example, brush your teeth. Take a shower or use dry shampoo. Take out your trash, she says.
“That might be all you can do, and that is enough,” Russey adds. “Eventually, when you get to the other side of depression, you can raise your bar back up, if you choose.”
Whatever you can do today is enough.
Self-care is not the same as coping skills, though they are similar. Both can be important for coping with depression.
Seek professional support
You don’t have to go through this alone.
A compassionate therapist can help you identify your thought patterns, explore how they might be connected to your behaviors, and help you develop coping skills.
In some cases, a clinician may also recommend medication, like antidepressants, as part of your treatment plan to help reduce your symptoms.
If you can’t afford therapy at the moment, consider searching for local support groups and free meditation apps.
“I always talk with my clients about how huge a difference physical movement can make on your mindset,” says Holland.
“I don’t mean exercising until you’re sweating and can’t breathe,” she says. “Getting outside and taking a 10-minute walk boosts your endorphins, which help in regulating your mood, and you also get some vitamin D, which helps your brain to function.”
Remember, whatever you can do today is enough.
A few tweaks to your routine may boost how you feel.
Some ideas include:
- adopting a support animal
- doing hobbies you enjoy
- getting 8 hours of sleep
- limiting drug and alcohol use
- engaging in relaxation activities
- spending time with loved ones
Activities for reflection
Even if it’s only a few minutes a day, taking time to pause and reflect may help you understand more about the cause of depression in your situation.
“Depression can be understood through a bio-evolutionary lens,” says Sherry Kelly, PhD, a clinical psychologist in West Hartford, Connecticut. “How does it serve us? What is it telling us? It is often a call to change or grow.”
Maybe it’s time for a more fulfilling job, or a major relationship needs to come to a peaceful end. Dig deep to find out what you can release that no longer serves you.
Tools for exploration include journaling, collaging, pros/cons lists, or making art.
If you live with depression, it’s natural to wonder if there’s a cure for it. And because mood disorders are complex conditions, the approach isn’t as straightforward.
However, symptoms of depression can be managed and remission is possible. You could find yourself living symptom-free for a long time when you receive treatment.
You may find an integrated approach helpful: tackling depression with support from a therapist, natural remedies, coping skills, and self-care strategies.
Most importantly, remember to be patient with yourself as you find the tools and resources that work for you. The answers are out there — and you’ll find them. You’ve taken the first step already.