Depression is a mental disorder extremely common in the United State, with a reported 9.5% of all American adults affected by it each year.. An important part of treating and curing depression is self-care: but knowing how to best do self-care can be a difficult task. In this guide, we will go through tips on how to care for oneself if you or a loved one are battling with depression.
What is Self Care?
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines self care as “the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider.”
In other words, self care encompasses the acts and ways of life one engages in to maintain their physical and mental health. It also includes preventing and fighting against harmful behaviors which impede on someone’s health. How self care is manifested and best performed depends on each person, but there are some general guidelines which can be helpful.
Self care is important not only for battling depression and mental illness, but also to prevent it. Whether you or a loved one are battling with depression, or just want to know more about what self care is, it is always a good idea to strive to incorporate it into your life.
Why is Self Care so Important When Treating Depression?
While it does not replace professional treatment such as therapy and medication, incorporating self care into a lifestyle is crucial to help prevent and alleviate depression. It gives the person suffering with depression the possibility to take action and do things to make them feel better.
Self care can also help becoming compassionate with oneself, which is essential when dealing with depression because so often depressive patients lose confidence and love in themselves. It is also about creating a long-term and sustainable solution, as therapy and medication is not always meant to be forever. Self care, however, can teach anyone how to best care for their body and mind no matter if they are dealing with depression or not.
How to Self-Care with Depression
1. Find someone you trust and talk to them
It can be difficult to trust people with your mental health problems. Often, people with depression will struggle to share their struggles due to fear of judgement or feeling like a burden. That said, it is absolutely essential to identify people in your life you can trust with these problems so you can create a support network and have someone to reach out to in case of more serious situations.
2. Try a support group
There are both online and in-person support groups created to help people battling with mental health illnesses feel less alone. These are excellent tools to help you feel connected and less isolated, without feeling the pressure of sharing difficult topics with loved ones. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) has support groups available you can find here.
3. Physically look after yourself
One of the main indicators of depression is not taking care of physical needs such as maintaining a proper diet, getting enough sleep, and regularly doing exercise. Although it may be difficult, taking care of physical health is essential to treating depression, and is an important part of self care. Below, we will further discuss how to best take care of your physical health if you are depressed.
4. Be aware of how you talk to yourself
Although this one may be often looked over, it is absolutely crucial for proper self care: making sure you are talking in positive ways to yourself. Using positive rather than negative phrases even when you are frustrated with yourself is necessary to getting better long term. For example, instead of saying, “Everything is terrible,” try thinking, “Things may not be perfect now, but I can work to make them better.”
5. Take time to manage stress
Managing stress can be done in a variety of ways. What is most important is to begin by identifying the sources of stress in your life, and from there, finding the best and healthiest ways to alleviate that stress. Meditation, writing, and yoga are good ways to reduce everyday stress and help clear your mind to invite more positive thoughts.
6. Set goals
Setting goals is a difficult task when dealing with the common symptoms of depression such as hopelessness, lack of confidence, guilt, and general negativity. Setting goals and outlining small, achievable steps to attain them can profoundly help you pull yourself out of deep, depressive cycles. Goals can be anything from finding a job you love to making your favorite meal from scratch.
7. Avoid alcohol and drugs
Drugs and alcohol not only impede on your physical health, they also are harmful to mental health. Although they may feel like short term solutions, they can become extremely detrimental in the long run. For serious addiction, seek out professional help to help you break the addictive cycle.
8. Discover what makes you feel happy
Discovering what makes you happy may seem like a basic and meaningless step to self care compared to the other ones, but it is important to making life have meaning. Connecting with new people, starting a new hobby, traveling, or learning a new recipe are all ways to help you discover a new passion and motivate you for the future.
9. Get help as much as you need
Make sure to never let yourself feel guilty about getting the help you need. Depression is not a weakness, and seeking help is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Today, there are a multitude of online, certified therapy resources, making professional help more accessible than ever before.
10. Make your home a place you want to be
Creating a space in which you feel comfortable and safe is crucial to self care. Decoration and cleanliness are important factors to making your living space as comfortable as possible. You don’t want to live in a space that worsens your mental health.
Lifestyle Changes to Help Cure Depression
Certain lifestyle changes can greatly impact someone’s ability to battle and overcome mental illness. Recent research has shown that factors such as a healthy diet, exercise, and regular sleep schedules are essential to decrease the symptoms of depression. Here are some tips for incorporating healthier lifestyle choices to your day to day life.
Foods which help depression
As silly as it may seem, certain foods can help you cure your depression. Again, dietary shifts should not replace professional treatment, but should accompany your journey of therapy or medication. Here are a few foods that should be incorporated into your diet to optimize your treatment results.
According to a study published in the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health (NCBI), zinc supplementation in a diet has been linked to more effective treatment in patients diagnosed with depression. Zinc can be ground in foods such as grains, lean lean red meats, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts, seeds, beans, milk, cheese and yogurt.
Although findings are not yet conclusive, recent scientific investigations have found Omega-3s intake to be linked with better mental health. According to Harvard’s health blog, recent studies show promising links between the consumption of Omega-3s and decrease in different kinds of depression. Omega-3s can be taken as supplements or found in fish and certain nuts.
Folate (Folic Acid)
Folate is a natural source of vitamin B9 which is found in leafy greens, oranges, and lentils, to name a few sources. The NCBI reports that several studies “show an elevated incidence of folate deficiency in patients with depression.” Not only are vegetables and fruit important for your physical health, they may also help you and your depression.
It is no secret that exercise is fundamental to a healthy lifestyle. This is a proven fact which has long been argued by scientists, and growing amounts of research have continued to show the numerous positive effects exercise has on us. Here, we will go through some easy ways to make exercise an elemental part of your life to help you be your best self.
There are plenty of different ways to incorporate exercise into your lifestyle. To reap the highest effects of exercise, remember to prioritize frequency over intensity. Your body will benefit more from three moderate-intensity walks per week than one high-intensity walk per week, for example. Here are some ideas of easy exercise routines:
● Taking your dog out for a 30-minute walk every morning
● Performing 3 HIIT online workouts for 30 minutes every week
● Taking a class at a gym
● Playing tennis in a local park
● Going on a run with some friends
These may seem like basic exercise routines, but they can make a world of a difference. As an important part of self care, it is important to not underestimate the positive effects it can have on your body and mind, such as releasing serotonin and giving you more energy in the long-run.
Maintaining a Regular Sleep Schedule
Maintaining a regular sleep schedule can be extremely difficult during depressive phases. Sleep deprivation and poor quality of sleep often go hand in hand, and end up making you feel more drowsy, fatigued, and unmotivated. This is why taking the time to set up a proper sleep schedule and seeking help you may need to do it is essential for your self care.
It is reported that “Sleep disturbance is one of the key symptoms” of depression, and that both cyclically affect each other. Insomnia, hypersomnia, and sleep deprivation are all leading factors of depression. One study shows that 97% of depressed patients involved in the study reported poor sleep. Sleep deprivation has also been linked to higher rates of suicide.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has several tips for improving sleeping schedules, which include:
● A good sleeping environment
● Putting away electronic devices
● Avoiding consumption of large quantities of food before bedtime
● Avoiding consumption of caffeine and alcohol before sleeping
● Getting exercise during the day
If your sleep schedule is totally off, try setting a certain time that you turn off the lights every night, even if you don’t fall asleep right away. Meditation is a great way to improve sleep as well, and there are many online and mobile resources available for guided meditations designed to help you fall asleep faster.
There is no handbook on how to best perform self care, because it will depend on a variety of things based on the person concerned. It will also depend on the type of depression you suffer from, whether you are receiving treatment or therapy, what your living situation is like, and the kind of material resources you have access to. In any of these cases, it is important to prioritize your physical and mental wellbeing in order to overcome your depression.
There are many online resources available for people dealing with depression. The CDC offers an online resource describing what depression exactly is and treatments available for it. The ADAA can help you find educational resources on depression as well as therapists available near you.
Self care is not just about caring for your basic necessities, it is also about giving yourself the love you deserve. Depression is a difficult battle and can be exhausting, draining, and seemingly hopeless, but it is important to remember that you are deserving of love and wellbeing. It is equally important to remember that seeking help is not a sign of weakness, but one of strength.