When depression hits, it’s overwhelming and debilitating. Whether it’s your first or twentieth episode, you may never feel ready for it. Maybe you feel too depressed to get out of bed, too depressed to work, and even too depressed to sleep. Since depression often gets in the way of participating in your daily life, we often are desperate to find ways to “snap out of it.” Unfortunately, coping with depression takes time and energy to practice and implement the skills that will help you manage it. It can be hard to know what to do if you’re depressed when you’re still in the process of learning how to cope with it. Here are a few things that do help.
How To Regain Focus When Depressed
- Stay connected with your loved ones. Depression can feel very isolating. Making sure you are connected to others is a great way to battle any loneliness. For example, setting up times to call, FaceTime, or meet up with friends and loved ones can give you something to look forward to as well as a way to structure your time. Asking friends to call or check in on you more frequently when you’re depressed can be uncomfortable, but any amount of social connection can be helpful in managing depression.
- Exercise is a highly effective tool to help cope and manage depression. High-intensity exercise can release endorphins that result in a more positive mood. But, don’t worry if you don’t have the ability or energy to engage in high-intensity exercise. There are studies that show that low-intensity exercise can cause new nerve cells to grow in the brain, which make new connections and can result in improved brain function to make you feel better. Especially if you are feeling exhausted, too depressed to work, or have feelings of worthlessness, the idea of starting a new, intense workout regime can be overwhelming. That’s why it is important to find a form of exercise or activity that you enjoy or believe to be beneficial. That way, you are more likely to maintain this activity level throughout your life as a tool to manage your depression.
- Stay consistent with your therapy. If you are seeing a mental health therapist or psychiatrist, continue to see them regularly. If you are taking medications, continue to take them consistently. It can be easy to stop seeing your providers or taking your medications if and when you are feeling better. Or, in some cases, feel too depressed for therapy. However, consistency is important in treating depression. Continue to meet with your providers until it is mutually agreed upon that you feel well prepared to discontinue treatment.
- Make practicing gratitude a part of your daily routine. We know depression is really good at amplifying negative self-talk and making it the loudest and strongest among our thoughts. Working on challenging these unhelpful thoughts in the moment can give you some relief. Practicing gratitude can be a great reminder of things or people that you have in your life that provide you some sense of peace and contentment. Write these thoughts down in a journal to look at whenever you need reminders, or say them out loud. When we hear our thoughts, we may interpret them differently than when we simply think about them.
- Practice doing activities that bring you pleasure. A common hallmark of depression is experiencing a lack of pleasure or interest in activities you once enjoyed. While you may not feel like doing any of these things when you’re depressed, encouraging yourself to do these activities that you know you enjoy can get you back into a routine, and hopefully assist you in experiencing small moments of joy and pleasure. These interests can be more active or social, such as a sport or meeting up with friends. They can also be as simple as listening to or your favorite music, TV show, or movie. Allowing yourself to do things that are genuine and valuable to you are great ways to give the depression a little less power.
- Spend more time outdoors. There’s growing research that suggests that being outdoors can improve mental health and reduce stress. If you are able to go to a nearby park, go on a hike, or even open a window to hear sounds of nature, this may contribute to improving your mood. A study from the United Kingdom suggests that people who were able to be outdoors or explore nature for 2 hours each week reported significantly higher health benefits and well-being. Of course, living in urban areas may make connecting with nature more difficult, especially during the busy work day. Luckily, even finding an urban park or any kind of greenery can be beneficial.
Depression takes a toll on your mind, body, and spirit, and people who have depression know it is hard to regain your focus when you’re depressed and show up in our relationships the way we want to. We can’t “just snap out of” depression. But, intentionally engaging in these coping skills and activities can move you closer to getting out of a depressive episode.
What To Do If You’re Depressed
Chronic feelings that are getting in the way of everyday life can be a sign of clinical depression. There are many kinds of therapy that can help, including transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). TMS is a non-invasive procedure using magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain to improve symptoms of depression. TMS has become a great option for treatment, as it’s become widely available and is covered by many insurance providers. TMS is FDA-cleared and has no reported systemic side effects.
Harvard Health. (2021, February 2). Exercise is an all-natural treatment to fight depression. Retrieved June 23, 2021, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/exercise
Smith, M., Robinson, L., & Segal, J. (2021, June 17). Coping with Depression. Retrieved June 24, 2021, from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/coping-with-depression.htm#
Weir, K. (2020, April 1). Nurtured by nature. Retrieved June 24, 2021, from https://www.apa.org/monitor/2020/04/nurtured-nature