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Depressed? What Do You Do Now?

Self Help Techniques You Can Use to Help Yourself Feel Better

  1. Tell a good friend or family member how you feel—ask them if they have some time to listen to you. Tell them not to interrupt with any advice, criticism or judgments. Assure them that you can discuss what to do about the situation after you get done talking, but that just talking with no interruptions will help you feel better.

    Your friends and family members may not know what to say. You can tell them to say any of the following:

    “I’m sorry you are having such a hard time.”

    “What can I do to help?”

    “Tell me how you feel.”

    “I’m here to listen.”

    “I love you.”

    “You are very special to me. I want you to get well.”

    “You will feel better. You will get well.”

  2. Get some exercise. Any movement, even slow movement, will help you feel better—climb the stairs, take a walk, sweep the floor.
  3. Spend at least one-half hour outdoors every day, even if it is cloudy or rainy.
  4. Let as much light into your home or work place as possible—roll up the shades, turn on the lights.
  5. Eat healthy food. Avoid sugar, caffeine, alcohol and heavily salted foods. If you don’t feel like cooking, ask a family member or friend to cook for you, order take out, or buy a healthy frozen dinner.
  6. If you are having lots of negative thoughts or obsessing about difficult issues and hard times, divert your attention away from these thoughts by doing something you really enjoy, something that makes you feel good—like working in your garden, watching a funny video, working on a craft project, playing with a small child or your pet, buying yourself a treat like a new CD or a magazine, reading a good book or watching a ball game.
  7. Relax! Sit down in a comfortable chair, loosen any tight clothing and take several deep breaths. Starting with your toes, focus your attention on each part of your body and let it relax. When you have relaxed your whole body, notice how it feels. Then focus your attention on a favorite scene, like a warm day in spring or a walk at the ocean, for at least 10 minutes.
  8. If you are having trouble sleeping, try some of the following suggestions:
    • drink a glass of warm milk, eat some turkey or drink a cup of chamomile tea before going to bed
    • read a calming book
    • take a warm bath
    • avoid strenuous activity
    • avoid caffeine and nicotine—both are stimulants
    • listen to soothing music after you lie down
    • eat foods high in calcium like dairy products and leafy green vegetables
    • avoid sleeping late in the morning; get up at your usual time
  9. Ask a family member, friend or co-worker to take over some or all of your responsibilities for several days—like child care, household chores, work-related tasks—so you have time to do the things you need to to take care of yourself.
  10. Keep your life as simple as possible. If it doesn’t really need to be done, don’t do it.
  11. Avoid negative people who make you feel bad or irritated. Do not allow yourself to be abused in any way. Physical or emotional abuse can cause or worsen depression. If you are being physically or emotionally abused, ask your health care provider or a good friend to help you figure out what to do.
  12. Avoid making any major decisions like career, relationship and housing changes until you feel better.
Depressed? What Do You Do Now?

Mary Ellen Copeland, Ph.D.

APA Reference
Copeland, M. (2020). Depressed? What Do You Do Now?. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 29, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 14 Jan 2020 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 14 Jan 2020
Published on Psych All rights reserved.