How can I stay on top of my depression?

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To help you stay on top of your depression, the National Institute of Mental Health offers the following tips. If you are living with depression, these tips may help you find the path to recovery:

  • Do not wait too long to get evaluated or treated. There is research showing the longer one waits, the greater the impairment can be down the road. Try to see a professional as soon as possible.
  • Try to be active and exercise. Participate in an event or activity that you once enjoyed.
  • Set realistic goals for yourself.
  • Break up large tasks into small ones, set some priorities and do what you can as you can.
  • Try to spend time with other people and confide in a trusted friend or relative. Try not to isolate yourself. Let others help you.
  • Expect your mood to improve gradually, not immediately. Do not expect to suddenly "snap out of" your depression. Often during treatment for depression, sleep and appetite will begin to improve before your depressed mood lifts.
  • Postpone important decisions, such as getting married or divorced or changing jobs, until you feel better. Discuss decisions with others who know you well and have a more objective view of your situation.
  • Remember that positive thinking will replace negative thoughts as your depression responds to treatment.
  • Continue to educate yourself about depression.

Trinity Health is a Catholic health care organization that acts in accordance with the Catholic tradition and does not condone or support all practices covered in this site. In case of emergency call 911. This site is educational and not a substitute for professional medical advice, always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider.

Dr. Lara Honos-Webb, PhD
Psychology Specialist

You are bigger than your depression. You may be able to learn from your depression, or you may be able to manage your depression, but you are not your depression. The following exercise will help you to see this truth.

  1. Take a piece of paper and crumple it up like a piece of trash. Set the crumpled paper on a table in front of you. Tell yourself that this is your depression. Take a deep breath and see what it feels like to have your depression outside of yourself for a moment.
  2. Look at the crumpled piece of paper and ask it, "Who are you?" In your journal, write down any answers that come up. Pay particular attention if someone else's name comes up in your responses.
  3. If someone else's name does come up, ask yourself if you are depressed about someone else's life, or if you are depressed for someone else. Children will often take on a parent's depression. Sometimes if someone you love is depressed, you will feel depressed as a way of feeling close to them. If someone you loved was depressed when he or she died, you may feel that being depressed is a way to feel like that person is still present. Explore the possibility that your depression is not yours but somebody else's. If you have determined that the depression is yours, move on to the next steps. If the depression is someone else's, write a list of things you can do to feel connected to that person that don't involve being depressed. Do those things.
  4. Once again, look at the crumpled piece of paper representing your depression and ask it the following questions: "What do you want me to do?" "Who do you want me to be?" "What do you want me to know?"
  5. Ignore any answers that are negative and keep going until something useful comes up. Write down everything that seems helpful. Reflect on these answers.
  6. Write down a list of ways that you can do, be, or know the things that are on your list. For example, if your depression wants you to take a break from too many demands, make a plan to give yourself the break you need.
  7. Now, take the crumpled piece of paper and throw it in a garbage can.
  8. Finally, write a letter to your depression. Tell the depression that you are grateful for the many lessons that it has brought you. Write down the gifts of your depression. Tell your depression that you want to get your lessons in another way from now on. Promise yourself that you are willing to listen carefully and pay attention to your life without depression.
Listening to Depression: How Understanding Your Pain Can Heal Your Life

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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.