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  • Writer's pictureViktoryia Biheza Ferretti

Tips For Managing Depression

Depression is more than "feeling down" or " feeling blue." When you are depressed, you may find it hard to simply "let go" or "snap out of it." Depression is very common, however the specifications of this mood disorder may vary, as do clinical diagnoses and terms. Two very important characteristics of major depression include hopelessness and anhedonia or inability to feel pleasure and/or joy.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many of us are still dealing with social isolation, fear of getting seriously ill and various restrictions that make it even more difficult to cope with symptoms of depression. Whatever your current circumstances may be, please remember, there are still many ways to overcome feelings of sadness and despair, improve your mood and health status, and regain a sense of well-being and peace. Here are some tips to implement day by day:

1. Accept that you are feeling depressed. Acceptance is always the first step when trying to overcome mental health struggles and challenges. This does not prove you weak or incapable, acceptance as well as vulnerability are actually major strengths.

2. Stay connected. This is an excellent tool for combating depression though tendency to withdraw and isolate when feeling depressed can make it harder to reach out. If you can identify just one caring person who you can turn to - great, if there is noone you can think of try a national helpline (1-800-662-HELP) or local support resources for your state. You are not alone and there are people out there who care for your well-being.

3. Get moving. It is really hard to overestimate the importance of daily exercise. Just 20 minutes a day of the activity of your choice will make a difference! Behavioral activation is a term mental health professionals use when treating depression, and it means literally to "get moving" or "get going." Walk to your grocery store instead of ordering online, walk to post-office, do some laundry, stretch and try a few simple yoga poses, start small and when those endorphins kick in, you will find yourself wanting more. Please make sure to get your outdoors time in spite of possible restrictions in your area due to Covid-19. You could wear a mask and still enjoy much needed fresh air!

4. Challenge negative thinking. Depression is frequently reinforced by negative triad- thinking poorly of yourself, your world and your future. There are also multiple cognitive distortions (negative thoughts that are not realistic but FEEL like it) that can fuel depressed mind. Being aware that thoughts are just that and not facts is the first step to challenge them. Next time you find yourself lost in negative or worry thoughts, tell yourself " I am thinking" and bring yourself back to the present moment. Check out this list of common cognitive distortions:

5. Practice mindfulness. Speaking of present moment- the benefits of increased state of awareness, paying attention to present, having your mind literally FULL of attention to HERE and NOW include: reduction of stress, decreased anxiety and negative affect, improved sleep, decreased emotional reactivity, decreased rumination (feeling stuck in negative thinking),improved focus and concentration, increased cognitive coping (ability to navigate your thoughts in helpful ways), improved sleep and more. There are many ways of practicing mindfulness in our daily lives: breathing exercises, yoga, mindful meditation and gratitude practices are some of the ways to get you started. Some long-term benefits determined include improved relationship satisfaction and work performance, increased self-esteem, insight and empathy, increased compassion toward self and others, improved immune functioning (also related to decreased stress and improved sleep quality), increased tolerance to pain and more, all resulting in a perceived happier existence.

6. Get your daily sleep and nutrients. This is like going back to basics- 7-8 hours of sleep and eating all of your fruits and vegetables. Depression will certainly try to intervene- you may have difficulty falling and staying asleep or oversleep, as well as stay up at night while sleeping in the afternoon. Mindfully attending to your sleep schedule and utilizing resources like relaxation, limiting screen time, etc. will help your body cope with depression from inside out. Depression may make you crave lots of sugar and carbs for the lacking energy, so try to fill up your empty tank with dietary fiber and foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acid (e.g. fatty fish like salmon).

7. Seek professional help if: you have tried to cope but your depression is getting worse, if you have thoughts of harming yourself, if it is hard for you to manage your ADL (activities of daily living) or ANYTIME you feel like. There is no shame in getting help and giving yourself a helping hand to overcome depression!

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