10 ways to cope with depression
While everyone has some experience with the symptoms, either feeling sad or low during their life, many do not fully comprehend the difficulty of constantly coping with depression.
Rather than just having a bad morning, your low mood lasts for weeks or months, impacting your day-to-day life. As such, coping with depression can, for some, feel like an uphill struggle. That’s why it’s important to look for help coping with depression, in order to manage the condition and move forward.
In this guide, we give some suggestions on the best ways to cope with depression, from eating a healthy, balanced diet and exercising regularly to finding a network of people to support you.
Continue reading, below, for 10 ways to help cope with depression.
1. Acknowledge your negative emotions
The very first step on the path to beating depression is to come to terms with the validity of your emotions.
Don’t worry, we understand that it’s no easy task to simply acknowledge your depression outright. In fact, many people might not realise that they are dealing with depression on a day-to-day basis, believing their feelings to be temporary. However, recognising and acknowledging these emotions are vital for addressing them.
Even if it just feels like one bad day, it’s important that you take the time to recognise your negative thoughts, rather than just ignoring them. This will help you understand whether your low mood is a one-off or part of a more long-term condition. You can also identify the most common causes of those emotions, which will teach you how to cope with your depression in the future.
2. Set attainable goals
Living with depression can be a disruptive experience, with your negative emotions sometimes impacting your ability to complete normal, everyday tasks. In some cases, it can feel like a struggle to even get out of bed in the morning.
To cope with this depression, the trick is to not overwhelm your schedule with a list of complicated tasks. That’s because you could risk exacerbating your negative emotions if you do not meticulously tick every one of them off.
Instead, set smaller, more attainable goals to work towards. Maybe you want to prepare a homecooked meal for the first time in days, or perhaps you need to carry out a proper spring clean. The task itself does not particularly matter; it’s just about creating a loose routine to keep your mind occupied.
If you do achieve your goals for the week, or even just for the day, you should take the time to reward yourself. This can range from small tokens of self-appreciation to larger acts of self-kindness, like enjoying a trip to the cinema.
3. Do something you love
One of the most impactful or surprising things about coping with depression can be a general loss of interest. This isn’t just in mundane tasks like work or cleaning, but with hobbies and activities that previously brought you joy.
Whether you used to love nothing more than getting lost in a good book or liked to blow off steam by playing 5-a-side football, it’s important to try and reconnect with these welcome distractions.
Alternatively, if you really can’t find the heart to take part in some of your old favourites, don’t be afraid to try something completely new. Look up pottery classes, join your local running club, or even take up gardening to improve your health.
We understand that this is easier said than done, but it’s invaluable to have a collection of reliable distractions to call upon to help you cope with depression in the future.
4. Reassess your diet
While many people struggle to find the appetite to eat when feeling depressed, it’s vital that you maintain a healthy, balanced diet to help you best cope with your depression.
Of course, you don’t need to do anything too extreme. It’s just about introducing more protein, fruit and veg, and wholegrains to your diet, eating three square meals a day to keep your energy levels up.
We can even help you with your meal prep. Just browse our nutrition articles to find delicious recipes that can help you better cope with depression and improve your mental wellbeing.
You should also try to limit your alcohol intake. It can be a tempting way to cope with depression, but as they are technically a depressant, they can actually exacerbate your negative symptoms.
5. Exercise regularly
There’s no getting around it; regular exercise can work wonders for your mental health.
However, depression can be draining on your motivation, with going for a 5k run being the furthest thing from your mind. On those occasions, it’s hard enough to get out of the house in the first place, never mind planning an entire workout.
But you don’t need to go to the gym to cope with depression. It’s just about finding the time and motivation to exercise where you can. This could be as simple as going on a 10-minute walk on your lunch break or fitting in a quick yoga session in the comfort of your own home.
If you’re not quite sure which type of exercise is best for you, read our fitness tips for beginners guide, which offers easy advice on how to get moving.
6. Fix your sleeping pattern
To give yourself the best chance possible of beating depression, you need to consistently get a good night’s sleep.
Yet, much like with people coping with anxiety, simply telling someone with depression to get more sleep is easier said than done. Sleep disturbance is a common symptom of depression, which can make the advice all the more frustrating to hear.
Thankfully, there are simple ways to help improve your sleep routine. For example, your diet could be impacting your ability to get a solid eight hours, with certain foods keeping you awake at night. To find out more, read more about the best and worst foods for sleep.
You can also make changes to your bedtime routine, which can help you better cope with depression. This can include practicing mindfulness, reducing your screen time at night, avoiding alcohol, and exercising earlier in the day.
7. Make time for your loved ones
When coping with depression, it’s natural to want to be on your own, managing the symptoms as best you can. However, it’s important not to isolate yourself from your friends and family.
By spending all your time in solitude, you can compound those negative thoughts and make yourself feel worse. That’s because you have no outlet for your emotions, keeping them bottled up, which can exacerbate the symptoms.
Even if it’s just once or twice a week, you should always try to organise quality time with your loved ones. Whether you go for a coffee, watch a movie together, or even get on a quick video call, it’s invaluable to remind yourself that you aren’t alone when coping with depression.
8. Create a support network
Talking is such an important part of coping with depression, helping you process your negative thoughts and emotions. The issue is that many people would prefer not to admit their struggles to their loved ones, not wanting to be a burden or cause a fuss. However, it’s vital to be open and honest about depression, especially when considering severe issues like talking about suicide.
In these cases, we always recommend seeking a mental health support group where you can be open and honest about your experiences coping with depression. If you find it difficult to create this with loved ones, you can always research these groups in your local area. Alternatively, you can find equally-welcoming communities with accredited online support groups, such as Mind’s Side by Side peer support.
For some, it can be harder than others to open up and communicate with loved ones, such as men coping with stress. However, there are also mental health counsellors available over the phone, if you’d prefer a less regular, but still reliable source of support.
9. Start a journal
While you should still seek regular support from your network and loved ones, you can also effectively process and cope with your depression by starting a journal. This can include as much or as little detail as you’d like, as sometimes just the act of putting pen to paper can be therapeutic. However, when you’re trying to beat depression, it often helps to be as open and forthcoming about your troubles as possible.
Whether you write weekly, daily, or just when the inspiration strikes, getting your thoughts and emotions down on paper is a great way to come to terms with your state of mind. You are also likely to be more honest in a journal than you are when speaking to another person, helping you confront unpleasant feelings more readily.
In fact, keeping a journal and attending regular counselling or group talking sessions go hand-in-hand. Often, the most intense depressive episodes happen when you’re alone, making it difficult to articulate at a later day. If you have clear notes on how you felt in that moment, it’s easier to identify how to cope with that depression in the future.
10. Speak to a medical professional
If self-care treatments aren’t cutting it or your depressive episodes are becoming a regular occurrence, we’d always recommend speaking to a medical professional about the next steps you can take to handle your depression.
Of course, medical professionals won’t have an overnight fix to beat depression, but they can advise on alternative coping methods that could improve your quality of life. For example, you could benefit from cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or depression medication, like antidepressants. These treatments differ from patient to patient, depending on their symptoms and circumstances.
To find out whether you could benefit from medical treatment, book an appointment with a GP or therapist. We’d also recommend writing down your symptoms before talking to a medical professional, ensuring your situation is made as clear as possible.
How can Benenden Health help deal with your depression?
Want to find out more about how to cope with depression? As a member of Benenden Health, you can speak to a counsellor at any time of day or night on our 24/7 Mental Health Helpline. Alternatively, head over to our Health and Wellbeing hub to read our complete guide to mental health and many other supporting articles, including 10 ways to help with your general mental health.
Medically reviewed by Llinos Connolly in October 2023. Next review date: October 2024.