6 Tips for Managing Depression
By Lauren Krouse
Along with treatment such as therapy and medication, making changes in your daily life can help you push through hard days. Behavioral activation—therapist-speak for getting up and doing things—is an important part of depression management. Here are a few ways you can take care of yourself throughout the journey.
Keep a journal.
Journaling can help you enter a more meditative space so you can be present with your thoughts. Writing out how you feel can help you make sense of feelings and move on from them. Writing prompts can also be useful if you’re not sure how to resolve a certain problem. If that sounds helpful, ask your therapist how to incorporate writing into your daily routine and treatment.
Create a sleep schedule.
Depression can mess with your sleep in a number of ways. It can make it hard to fall or stay asleep (a.k.a. insomnia) or it can make you feel tired all the time and lead to sleeping too much (hypersomnia). Sticking with a bedtime and wake-up routine is tough, especially when you’re used to spending late nights scrolling through your phone or don’t feel like getting out of bed in the morning. But it’s one key step you can take to begin to feel better.
A parent, roommate, or friend can serve as an accountability buddy with a bedtime reminder and help encourage an early wake-up time with healthy new rituals, such as taking a 30-minute walk together every morning.
Make a meal plan.
Like good sleep, regular meals can get disrupted by depression. You may find yourself eating to cope with painful feelings or skipping meals because your appetite has disappeared. Either way, it’s another part of your life you can begin to piece back together with help from your support system. Schedule regular healthy meals throughout the day and ask for a friendly nudge from loved ones or tips from your health-care provider to stay on track.
Hang out IRL.
When you’re depressed, you may find yourself pulling away from people and spending more time alone. You may feel like you don’t want to bring others down, your bed’s too comfy and warm to leave, or you’d rather check out social media or text friends than go out and do something.
That may feel good in the short term, but spending too much time alone can make depression worse. Instead, make a point to spend quality time in person. If it feels impossible, start with small steps. You could join a club, support group, or workout class; schedule a weekly meetup with friends; or ask someone to chat in the hallway or parking lot after school or work.
Find a fun way to move your body.
Even half an hour of movement a few times a week can be really helpful for depression. Moving your body boosts your mood because it releases feel-good chemicals in your brain. Getting out and about can also serve as a helpful distraction from whatever is stressing you out, and give you yet another way to connect with people.
But it shouldn’t feel like punishment or be something you dread doing. Think about what makes the most sense for you and what you like to do, whether it’s walking, running, playing team sports, a hip-hop dance class, or lifting weights at home or the gym. On tough days, you can keep it simple with some slow stretches, a brisk walk, dancing in your room alone, or gentle yoga, which is easy to find online.
Be kind to yourself.
Managing depression takes strength, perseverance, and support. Bad days can and will happen. When they do, simplify your day, do what you can, decide what can wait until tomorrow, and give yourself permission to rest.
And don’t forget to acknowledge your progress and celebrate wins. When negative self-talk starts getting you down, try to give yourself the same compassion and care you’d give to a friend or family member. Even when steps forward feel small, know that they can add up to something much bigger and better.
Check out these articles to learn more about depression and get the help you—or someone you care about—needs:
What’s the Difference Between Sadness and Depression?
How Do I Know If It’s Depression?
Different Types of Depression: What’s the Difference Between Mild, Moderate, and Severe?
How Is Depression Diagnosed and Treated?
What Is the Connection Between Suicide and Depression?
How Can I Help Someone Who Seems Depressed?