Everyone experiences bad days. If you have depression, those days can seem particularly challenging. But they don’t have to be permanent.

Symptoms of depression can take many forms and may manifest in different ways at different times.

Living with depression is more than experiencing sadness. You may also experience a debilitating sense of loneliness, emptiness, and hopelessness for the future.

Some days, you may feel your depression symptoms intensify, and it can be difficult for you to go about your usual routine.

Developing specific coping skills can help you go through these bad days when you have depression, even those that feel the darkest.

Depression around the world

The World Health Organization reports that nearly 5% of adults globally and up to 264 million people worldwide live with depression. In the United States, that number hovers around 7%, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

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Having a bad day now and then isn’t a sign of depression. But when you live with depression, a bad day can mean some of your symptoms intensify, or they impact your routine more than usual.

It’s natural to feel discouraged or disheartened when this happens. You may feel like you’re taking a step backward or that nothing works for your depression.

Untreated depression could be one reason you may feel your symptoms are intensifying.

If you’re treating your depression, other factors can contribute to your bad days. For example, your antidepressants may have stopped working, or you’re living with symptoms of other conditions.

In any case, the first step to getting through difficult days may be remembering that they’re not permanent. Identifying what works for each symptom when it intensifies can also help.

Depression can sometimes manifest as a feeling of hopelessness. You might have a hard time figuring out “what’s the point” in moving on? But this is depression talking to you. This feeling can be managed.

You may also feel lonely, especially on a bad day.

Hopelessness and loneliness may feel like a profound sense of emptiness and lack of purpose.

It’s possible to regain purpose when you have depression, though, and you can also manage these symptoms.

Here are some tips:

Try to limit social media

Consider giving social media a break for the day if you’re feeling particularly lonely or hopeless.

A 2018 study conducted among 143 undergraduate students at the University of Pennsylvania found that limiting social media to 10 minutes a day per platform significantly reduced symptoms of depression.

It’s natural and common to think social media connects you with people. But in some cases, these platforms can intensify a sense of loneliness that makes you compare your life with other people’s. Social media use has been linked to symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Spending more time with loved ones can help

If you’re having a bad day and you live with depression, you may not find pleasure in some of the activities you typically enjoy.

But not engaging in these activities may contribute to a vicious cycle where you feel lonely and hopeless because you don’t share moments with others or do the things you like.

Consider connecting with a trusted friend or relative, particularly during bad days and when you feel lonely.

If stepping out to a public place or joining a social gathering feels overwhelming, try to start with a video call. You may then move to a cup of coffee at home or a walk around the neighborhood.

Any step helps, and you might find that connecting with those who care about you helps you get through a bad depression day.

Consider asking for help

Living with depression sometimes feels like there’s no point in trying. These negative thoughts can impact the way you feel and behave.

Negative thoughts are like filters, though. They can tell you things about your reality that may not always be based on evidence.

For example, you may feel others aren’t there to support you. This could magnify your sense of loneliness and lead you to socially withdraw. Isolation can, in turn, make you feel even lonelier.

If you’re having these thoughts or feel you’re having a bad day, try to find evidence around you that you’re cared for.

People may not always understand what it’s like living with depression or how you feel. Consider letting them know and asking for help. This likely provides you with evidence that other people are there to support you.

Searching for local support groups may also help you receive the help you need.

Depression symptoms can include low energy, difficulty focusing on tasks, exhaustion, and aches and pains.

During a bad day, you may feel more tired than usual, have neck and back pain, or have a hard time stepping out of bed.

There are a few ways to manage these symptoms.

Try to stay physically active

Movement and exercise may be the last things on your mind when you live with depression. But scientific literature shows physical activity can help you manage depression symptoms.

A 2017 cohort study of 33,908 adults also found that regular exercise can prevent episodes of depression in people with no preexisting symptoms of mental health conditions. Exercise intensity made no difference.

Try to engage in any physical activity at least once a week, even for a few minutes. This could include:

  • walking
  • dancing
  • skating
  • swimming
  • jumping rope
  • going up and down the stairs
  • using a pedal exerciser

If you’re having a bad day, consider spending at least 30 minutes on any physical activity. This can help you boost your endorphin production. Endorphins are hormones produced in the body that act as natural painkillers and improve your mood.

Consider prioritizing your nutrition

Among many other benefits, eating nutrient-dense foods whenever possible might help you feel better in the long run.

A 2019 systematic analysis of 11 studies found that pro-inflammatory foods like processed sugars, red and processed meats, and refined carbs could increase your chances of depression. Fruits and vegetables, and other anti-inflammatory foods, on the other hand, were linked with a lower chance of depression symptoms.

Sadness and crying for no reason can be symptoms of depression but aren’t the only ones.

You could also experience bouts of irritability, emotional detachment, and anger. Dealing with these emotions can make a given day feel particularly challenging.

Developing skills to manage emotions can prevent and help you handle depression days differently.

Try to identify what sets off these emotions

Everyone is different, so what may affect you might not affect someone else. But learning to identify those thoughts and situations that make you react in specific ways can help you manage your emotions.

For example, caffeine might make you feel irritable. If you’re having a difficult day managing irritability, you may want to skip the morning coffee.

Or negative thoughts about yourself can increase your stress levels. Becoming aware of how these thoughts impact you can help you reassess them and switch to more positive self-talk.

Journaling can help you identify those thoughts and situations that spark intense emotions.

Try to save a few minutes each day to write down how you felt or those situations that were particularly challenging.

Consider these journal prompts for these moments:

  • What was the greatest challenge today?
  • How did I feel about this challenge?
  • What was I thinking or doing when I started feeling this way?
  • What did I eat, drink, or do before feeling this way?

Consider practicing meditation and yoga

Mindfulness meditation and yoga have been shown to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Both of these practices may help you feel grounded and focus on the present moment, which could help you avoid negative thoughts that fuel your emotions.

If you’re having a difficult moment dealing with intense emotions, consider this exercise:

  • Find a quiet place and sit up in a comfortable position.
  • With eyes closed, focus on the rhythm of your breath.
  • Place both of your hands on your belly and feel how it lifts as you breathe in and flattens as you breathe out.
  • As you breathe in through your nose, count until 5.
  • Hold your breath for 5 seconds.
  • Breathe out through your mouth as you count until 5.
  • Repeat the breathing in, holding, and breathing out cycle for as long as it feels comfortable.

Having a bad day when you live with depression can mean some symptoms intensify. It’s natural to feel frustrated when this happens.

But bad days don’t have to be permanent. Depression is a treatable condition, and symptoms can be managed, even on those days you feel nothing helps.

Keeping physically active, recognizing those situations that intensify negative emotions, and connecting with loved ones are some ways that can help you manage a bad day.

If you feel you’re still having a hard time managing your depression, consider seeking the help of a mental health professional.