How do I manage my depression on a daily basis?

Donna Hill Howes, RN
Family Practitioner

Good habits can help reduce the symptoms of bipolar depression. Closely follow your doctor's instructions, particularly about medication. Sticking to a regular routine can help stabilize your moods. In particular, eat meals, go to sleep, and wake up as close as possible to the same time every day. Get plenty of sleep. Check in regularly with your doctor to make sure you are doing everything possible to manage the symptoms. Keep track of warning signs that you are about to undergo an abrupt mood change.

Dr. Lara Honos-Webb, PhD
Psychology Specialist

The tragedy of depression is the loss of interest in things that once enlivened. In depression, you don't care about the things that used to make you tick. Work may seem meaningless, your new car may lose its glamour, and even the thought of an upcoming vacation no longer fills you with excitement. This emptiness and meaninglessness may be quite frightening to you.

One way of looking at emptiness is to see it as something that creates a space for you to receive something new in your life. You can also see that emptiness offers you a sense of relief. When you don't care about moving ahead at work, getting that new car, or planning an exotic vacation, you finally feel unburdened by the pressures of fulfilling all of these desires. Before your depression began, you may have spent a lot of time and energy striving for new experiences, new achievements, new possessions. Your depression may be a signal that your striving has become unbalanced. Depression, and the loss of interest that comes with it, may provide a much-needed reprieve from the demands of being more and having more.

The empty feelings of depression, while uncomfortable, are part of the terrain you must cross if you are to live a life guided by a commitment to honor your own interests and energies.

Listening to Depression: How Understanding Your Pain Can Heal Your Life

More About this Book

Listening to Depression: How Understanding Your Pain Can Heal Your Life

A New Way of Thinking About DepressionWhat does it really mean to be depressed? You know depression as a collection of symptoms—fatigue, listlessness, feelings of worthlessness—and the source of...

Self-management is the most important part of your treatment, but it can also be the most difficult. After all, when you're depressed, you probably don't feel like "managing" anything at all!

Creating a goal-centered action plan can help. For different areas of your life, choose realistic goals that match your natural "style" and personality. Work on only one goal at a time, and reward yourself for any progress you make.

  • Stick to your treatment plan. It's easier if you understand how you and your family naturally prefer to deal with health problems and if you set realistic goals to stay on track. Example goals: Take your medication. Participate in counseling and care management. Keep appointments. Call your doctor if you have questions.
  • Maintain supportive relationships. When you're depressed, it's tempting to shut out concerned family and friends. But fulfilling relationships are important to your recovery and long-term mental health. Understanding your natural style of asking for and accepting help should shape your goals in this area. Example goals: Talk with a friend every day. Attend scheduled events. Volunteer. Join a support group. Leave the house at least once a day.
  • Get proper nutrition, exercise, and sleep. Often, people who are depressed don't eat a balanced diet or get enough physical exercise. They may sleep too little or too much. All this can make them feel even worse. Take steps to make sure this doesn't happen to you. Example goals: Drink plenty of water. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Avoid alcohol. Take a walk once a day. Go for a bike ride. Sleep 8 hours each night. Stick to a schedule for going to bed and getting up.
  • Make time for spirituality and pleasurable activities. If spirituality has been important to you in the past, include it in your current routine. Also, commit to a pleasurable activity every day -- even if you're not motivated. Example goals: Meditate. Worship. Do your hobby. Listen to music. Keep a journal.

After you have been diagnosed with depression it is important that you fully follow the directions of your health professional. If medication has been prescribed as part of your treatment, it is important that you take it as directed. If your depression increases or if you have thoughts of suicide, you should promptly tell someone you trust.

Reduce your stress levels by communicating with loved ones, getting regular exercise, joining a support group, and maintaining a healthy diet. During events that may trigger depressive thoughts, such as holidays or the anniversary of a loved one's death, avoid isolating yourself and make sure to communicate your feelings with those you trust. Be proactive by keeping your health professional informed and actively seeking out additional treatment if you feel it is needed.

Continue Learning about Living With Depression

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.