Caring for yourself or someone you love with Depression

When you or someone you love is dealing with depression, it is not a fun place to be. I remember in grad school one professor saying "depressed people are depressing." Its true. So, how can you care for yourself or someone else that's dealing with a bout of depression? There are some basic things you MUST do:

1) Make sure to eat, sleep, take a shower and get dressed. The basic things in life tend to be the first ones to be dropped when we're going through a rough spot. You may not feel like eating, you might feel like sleeping all day (or not at all) and you might just not want to get out of bed at all for days on end. The first thing to do to help cope with depression is the OPPOSITE of what your head is telling you! As Jennifer Lawson says "Depression LIES!" It tells you "stay in bed, you'll feel better...", "don't go out, you'll just have a terrible time...", "life isn't worth living..." and more. These are LIES and we must recognize them as such. So, no matter how much you don't feel like it, get up, eat some breakfast and take a shower. Get dressed even if you have no plans to leave the house. At the end of your day, go to bed, getting the 8 hours of sleep your body needs.

Image found on

Image found on

2) Get exercise. Again, the basic things tend to go by the wayside and this is a huge problem when dealing with depression. There have been several studies done that show walking at a brisk pace for approximately half an hour at least 5 times per week significantly reduces symptoms of depression. Its like giving a direct hit to the depression fiend. It helps on several levels. First, you usually have to get dressed to go out walking in the neighborhood or a park, so it forces you to do the items mentioned above. Second, it offers an opportunity to get out of your house and see new things. Third, it allows you some direct sunlight which also helps to boost mood. Fourth, it gives allows our bodies to produce endorphins, natural anti-depressants!

3) Go out and do something--ANYTHING! Especially if it will help someone else. Redirecting our focus away from our own depression and self-depreciation also helps alleviate the depressed feelings. Even if you're only doing something for yourself, just do it! If you don't want to go to the grocery store but you're out of several items, go. Even if you don't feel like it. Again, its the depression lying... saying "You don't really need to have good food..." After you've done something, even as small as pulling a few weeds, you'll have a sense of accomplishment.

4) Question your thoughts. So, I've already repeatedly said that depression is a lying fiend. It likes to tell you not to do things that will actually help you to feel better but it also likes to tell lies that make you feel worse. "No one likes me." "I have no friends." "I am a complete loser." Its time to question these. Just because we have a thought doesn't make it true! Its time to look for evidence that will show depression's lies... For example... "No one likes me." Really? Not one person in the entire universe likes you? Your parents? Your siblings or other family members? Your childhood friends, people at work, Facebook friends, the lady at the grocery store? Not ONE? How about "I am a complete loser." Every single thing you've done has been a failure? You've lost at everything? Are you homeless? Are you employable? Are you not doing anything for anyone including yourself? Some of these you might answer "yes!" to (that's the depression talking again) but if that's the case and you really feel or you are actually homeless, unemployable, and not doing anything for anyone... I want to say, its time to change those things! Start small--what can you do for yourself or someone else? How can you acquire skills to be employable? How can you find assistance so you will no longer be homeless? 

5) Feel the love. When we're feeling depressed, many of us reject contact with others. We isolate and don't want to be bothered with friends, family members, spouses... The power of a contact, even from someone you barely know validates your existence and helps you to feel better. So you don't have anyone around you because you've driven out everyone in your life and everyone hates you... cuddle with a dog or cat. It doesn't have to be human interaction. Petting a dog can be extremely helpful as you recognize that this other being needs you, loves you, wants you to be well, and enjoys your company. Its a small step but a step nonetheless.

6) Visit your therapist. It can be helpful to get another person's perspective on the issues with which you struggle. It is impossible for me to give you everything you need to know in a little blog like this but in session, when I know your specific issues, more ideas to try become available. Just having someone "hold" your stuff, accepting your burden can help tremendously. Also, a good mental health professional will be able to ask questions to get you thinking about solutions that are best for you with your individual resources.

7) Never give up. If your thoughts are turning to suicide, don't wait to feel better--call someone now. Call the suicide helpline 1-800-273-8255. Call someone to get you to the nearest emergency room. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.  

The good news is, there are lots of things you can do for yourself and those you love to help alleviate the symptoms of depression. There are additional things that a good mental health professional can assist with as well. The most important thing to remember, however, is not to believe the lies that depression tells you.