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The Importance of Self-Care for Managing the Symptoms of Depression

A paper cutout of a persons head with the brain drawn in the center with the words mental health written inside. Other words such as hope, positive, mood, love, and control are written in cursive in various bright colors

When living with depression, feelings of persistent pessimism, hopelessness, and loneliness can rob you of your energy and interfere with your relationships. You may sleep less, isolate yourself, or have difficulty concentrating or making decisions. Depression can leach the joy from your life and trigger physical pain.

The treatments for depression typically consist of medication, counseling, therapy, self-care, or a combination of these methods. While self-care is better than no care, self-care is often most effective when combined with other treatment options. The following self-care suggestions can help in managing the symptoms of depression and keep you focused on recovery.

Accepting Depression as a Treatable Medical Condition

Depression is a complex mood disorder, the result of biochemical, psychological or environmental influences. Too often, people living with depression delay treatment, denying to themselves or others that depression is impacting their lives.

While denying depression is not unusual, those living with symptoms may need reminding that depression is not a character flaw. There is no reason to push through symptoms or resist treatment. Recognizing depression, and the need for self-care, medication, or depression counseling is an essential component of depression recovery.  Self-care for depression can include the following:

  • Expanding Your Knowledge About Your Condition
    The more you know about depression and your treatment options, the better your chances of finding relief and reducing your risk of relapse. Your quest for knowledge will lead you to the discovery of valuable coping skills and additional self-help strategies. Keep learning, keep exploring. Many reputable doctors and therapist write books and self-help articles. You can also learn from others living with depression by engaging in a local or online support group.
  • Tending to Your Basic Physical Needs
    The care of your body directly impacts your moods and emotions. Nurturing your body and spirit will aid in your recovery. Take care of yourself by maintaining basic hygiene, adequate hydration, and avoiding alcohol. A nutrient-rich diet; lean protein, leafy greens, whole grains, fruit, vegetables and healthy fats can reduce symptoms. Omega-3 fatty acids from fish and nuts and folic acid found in sources like spinach and avocado are shown to ease depression.
  • Making Quality Sleep a Priority
    If you are not sleeping as much as you should, make an effort to get more sleep. Establishing a relaxing sleep ritual will encourage quality sleep. To reestablish your circadian rhythms, go to bed and get up at the same time each day. Sleep deprivation, even a few hours a week, can intensify your symptoms. If your sleep issues persist, consider bringing the issue to the attention of your health care provider.
  • Increasing Your Activity Levels
    Physical activity is one of the most recommended self-help strategies for overcoming depression. If you currently lack the motivation to start a new-to-you exercise regimen, walk. Start small if you must by walking five minutes the first day, adding a few minutes each day until you reach 20 minutes. Exercise boosts your endorphins, the chemicals responsible for regulating your moods and emotions. Investing in a pedometer or fitness tracker can help you monitor your progress.
  • Practicing Yoga to Alleviate Symptoms
    Yoga is proven to provide a multitude of health benefits and is available to everyone. Poses are easily adaptable to accommodate illness or injury and shown to improve depression.  A study conducted at the Center for Integrative Psychiatry in the Netherlands investigated the benefits of yoga for those with chronic or treatment-resistant Participants practiced yoga two and a half hours per week for nine weeks. Researches documented the participant’s levels of depression, anxiety, and stress before the study. Depression levels decreased throughout the trial period.
  • Challenging Your Negative Thoughts
    Depression has a way of coloring your moods and emotions to generate a negative interpretation of your world. The pessimistic attitudes are called cognitive distortions. You may be able to reestablish positive thought patterns by challenging your negative thoughts and feelings. Consciously resist the urge to overgeneralize, jump to conclusions, or diminish the positives in your life. Also make an effort to avoid negative labeling, especially the labels you put on yourself.
  • Establishing a Daily Routine
    Depression can steal your motivation and strip your life of structure. Setting a daily schedule may help you reclaim some of your priorities. You may need to start by setting a simple daily goal, like a 10-minute walk or a shower, and build from there. Sticking to a routine can instill a sense of accomplishment and get you on the path to feeling better.
  • Remaining Involved in Your Social Circles
    One of the symptoms of depression is isolating your self from others. While you may not find social interaction as enjoyable as you had in the past, it’s important to stay connected. Social engagement can distract you from negative self-talk and despair. While phone calls, social media posts, and text messages may seem easier, having lunch with friends or scheduling a weekly activity can help alleviate

Self-Care Enhances Your Recovery Efforts

While no single treatment method offers universal results, incorporating self-care into your treatment can improve your mental health. While self-care may initially feel like a great deal of effort; the results are worthwhile. Here are a few additional suggestions for consideration:

  • Volunteering connects you with others while those you assist benefit from your services
  • Caring for a pet helps you feel less alone and distracts you from negative thought patterns
  • Soaking in sunlight 15 minutes a day boosts serotonin levels, enhancing moods
  • Writing in a journal provides an outlet for your thoughts and feelings. Journaling may also help you identify counterproductive thought patterns.

You can recover from depression. If you don’t have the motivation to implement self-help measures, or self-care alone is less effective than you had hoped, consider enlisting the services of a qualified professional. In Clark County, Washington, contact Real Life Counseling. A counselor or therapist will help you learn practical, effective techniques to manage your symptoms and alleviate your distress.

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