How to Cope With Depression

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Depression is more than just a mental health concern. It can impact every area of life, including career, relationships, and overall well-being. However, there are ways to cope that can help manage symptoms and other negative effects of depression on your health and life in general.

Coping strategies work for emotional health beyond depression alone, including physical health, social well-being, and the practical challenges that occur with depression.

Depression women hug

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Emotional

As a mental health disorder, depression has a significant emotional component to it. Many people think of depression as just sadness, but symptoms may also include losing interest and joy in daily activities, weight changes, sleeping too much or too little, low energy, difficulty concentrating, negative feelings, or suicidal thoughts. Despite these challenges, there are ways to manage overall emotional well-being while living with depression.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Meditation and Mindfulness

Living with depression may bring up feelings of anger or frustration, among others. Mindfulness-based practices and meditation have been shown to improve both depression symptoms and overall mood and quality of life. Mindfulness practices and meditation can be learned independently with electronic or print resources, one-on-one with a trained professional remotely or in person, or in a group setting.

Journaling

Like meditation and mindfulness practices, journaling has been found to lessen depression symptoms and help to boost overall mood. Journaling can be done independently at home.

Resources can be found online to learn journaling strategies, and journals can be purchased with prompts for specific challenges and goals. For example, there are journals with prompts about gratitude, the act of showing appreciation. Another option is to get a blank notebook or piece of paper and just start writing. Journaling about feelings and emotions can be especially helpful.

Stress Relief

There is a link between stress and depression. Stress can trigger depressive feelings and increase symptoms, and depression can make it harder to manage stress. This leads to a cycle of increased depressive symptoms and increased stress levels. However, the cycle can be reversed with stress management techniques, along with depression treatment and coping strategies.

How Do I Relieve Stress?

Stress relief is unique to the individual. Some examples of possible stress relief options are taking walks in nature, prioritizing sleep, nourishing with healthy foods, breathing exercises, guided visualizations, and doing relaxing activities that are enjoyable.

Physical

Sleep

Depression can make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep, or it may cause daytime sleepiness and a tendency to sleep longer. Sleep challenges can also make depression worse, leading to a cycle of worsening depression and increased problems with sleep.

Improving nighttime sleep can improve daytime sleepiness and depression symptoms at the same time, making it easier to cope with depression. Some of the same things that help with depression also help with sleep, such as going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, exercising regularly, and avoiding alcohol.

Nutrition

Nutrition plays a role in regulating the body, including brain chemicals such as serotonin, which impacts mood and depression. This means that food choices can help to improve symptoms of depression and help in other areas of health and life, such as sleep.

It may help to limit alcohol, caffeine, and foods that are processed or high in sugar. Foods that contain complex carbohydrates, such as vegetables, beans, and whole grains; proteins, such as meats and eggs; and essential fatty acids, such as those found in certain fish, nuts, and seeds, can help.

Exercise

Exercise has been shown to improve mood and depression symptoms, as well as other health concerns. It can be an extra challenge to begin exercising with depression because of low energy levels, so starting slowly with 10–15 minutes of activity at a time may make it easier to adjust.

To improve depression symptoms, it is recommended to increase exercise to 30 minutes or more three to five days per week. However, this will vary by person and ability.

If motivation or knowing what to do is a challenge, it can help to make an exercise plan that includes enjoyable activities, exercising with others, or working with an exercise professional for support.

Supplements

It can be challenging to get enough nutrients from food alone, so it may be helpful to add nutrients to what you eat. Some supplements, vitamins, and minerals may have benefit in helping with mood and depression symptoms. These include omega-3 fatty acids, B12 and B6, folate, chromium, iron, selenium, and zinc.

Social

Depression can take a toll on social well-being. It can be a challenge to attend social gathering and keep up with friendships when battling symptoms such as negative thoughts, being low on energy, and feeling unmotivated to go out or be social. This is a problem because humans need some connection with other humans to thrive, and not having enough social support can make depression worse.

However, there are some ways to cope with this challenge to improve social relationships while living with depression.

Friend and Family Relationships

Unfortunately, sometimes relationships with friends and family members are negatively impacted by depression. This can happen with interactions that don't go well or with a lack of interaction due to depression symptoms. For example, depression symptoms may lead to social withdrawal and canceled plans, which may not always be understood by others.

Opening Up to Your People

It can help to have conversations with friends and family members about depression so they are more aware, better able to understand, and can possibly even provide support.

Practical

Tracking

Keeping a daily log of depression symptoms and overall mood can be helpful in recognizing trends, and it can be a helpful tool to share with healthcare professionals in order to optimize treatment plans. Essentially, it gives depression patients and their care teams a better idea of what is going on long term so adjustments and decisions can be made using this information.

In addition to tracking specific depression symptoms and mood, it can be helpful to also track coping elements, such as total sleep time each night, daily exercise, and foods eaten throughout the day. This way, when there is a day with more severe symptoms, it is easier to see what led up to those symptoms.

Awareness helps to determine the coping strategies that work best for each person.

Work and Finances

Depression can impact your ability to work and may even impact your finances. Those with depression lose 4.8 workdays and are less productive 11.5 days, on average, over three months. It can be helpful to communicate with employers to explore ways to alleviate the impact of health challenges on career objectives. For example, it may be helpful for an employer to allow flexible hours or options to work from home some days.

A Word From Verywell

Receiving a depression diagnosis can be hard. Even with a treatment plan such as medications, therapy, or both, you may be faced with remaining symptoms and other challenges.

Coping strategies can help you to make symptoms and other health and life challenges more manageable. Talk to your healthcare team about depression coping strategies, and before making any exercise, dietary, or supplementation changes.

There will be things out of your control, but you can make the best of the situation by optimizing the factors you do have control over and taking advantage of opportunities to feel better and make your life with depression easier.

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12 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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