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Depression: What You Can Do In Addition To Treatment

How You Can Help Yourself

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In addition to treatment under the supervision of a professional, following are some suggestions from the National Institute of Mental Health that may help:

  • Set daily realistic goals.
  • Break large tasks into small ones.
  • Do what you can as you can.
  • If possible, participate in activities that may make you feel better, such as going to a movie, or participating in religious, social, or other activities.
  • Don't isolate yourself. Try to socialize with other people.
  • Consider confiding in someone. It is usually better than being alone and secretive.
  • Think about attending a support group - even if it is only to see what one is like.
  • Let your family and friends help you.
  • Expect your mood to improve gradually rather than overnight. While people rarely "snap out of" depression, treatment can help you feel a little better day by day.

If you're physically up to it, consider regular exercise.

  • Just about any exercise is likely to help. According to the Mayo Clinic: 
    • The word "exercise" may make you think of running laps around the gym. But exercise includes a wide range of activities that boost your activity level to help you feel better. Certainly running, lifting weights, playing basketball and other fitness activities that get your heart pumping can help. But so can gardening, washing your car, or strolling around the block and other less intense activities. Anything that gets you off the couch and moving is exercise that can help improve your mood.
    • You don't have to do all your exercise at once either. Broaden how you think of exercise and find ways to fit activity into your routine. Add small amounts of physical activity throughout your day.
  • A study in the January 2005 issue of the Journal of Preventive Medicine indicated that a half hour of exercise six days a week (the amount recommended by the federal government for all Americans) might be ideal. The study found that the group that performed only 80 minutes of exercise a week received little to no mental-health benefit. But the three-hour-a-week group had a substantial reduction in symptoms.

Also consider the following:

  • Try whatever has helped you cope in the past.
  • The American College of Physicians states that St. John's wort can be considered for short-term treatment of mild depression. If this is of interest to you, discuss the subject with your doctor before starting to take this or any other complementary or over the counter medicine.
  • Stay away from drinking a lot of alcohol or using other substances to numb yourself or alter your mood.
  • Consider comfort foods. Recognize that the type of carbohydrates you eat may impact how long the good feelings last. For example, a candy bar may raise your spirits for a short period of time, but then you may feel even less energetic than before.
  • Consider focused breathing (deep, rhythmic breathing). It can relax the body and focus the mind, which helps to relieve anxiety and depressed feelings.
  • Take care of your mouth. Yes - your mouth. See the following section.
  • Try to do your best. How other people do is not relevant. This is not a competition.

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