When you're feeling depressed, it can be difficult to get up, get dressed, and get through your day. You might be tempted to call out of work, stay in bed, or skip out on your responsibilities. And while that's totally understandable, know that there are plenty of ways to make your day better when you have depression, so all that'll be less likely to happen.
The first thing to do, though, is seek out professional help for any ongoing depressive symptoms. "Depression is not something to manage on your own," Joshua Klapow, PhD, clinical psychologist and host of The Kurre and Klapow Show, tells Bustle. "Like diabetes, hypertension, or any other medical condition, depression must be treated by a trained professional. If you are trying to just 'ride it out' or manage it without the use of medication and/or specific psychotherapeutic treatments from a mental health professional who is licensed to treat depression — then you are putting yourself at risk for continued symptoms."
If you think you have a problem, don't be afraid to reach out for help. But whether your symptoms are really holding you back, or simply making you feel a bit down, it can help to make a few small changes to your day — so that it's easier, more comfortable, and more enjoyable. "It can be difficult to get through the day when you have depression, but by doing little things to care for yourself it might make it more manageable," Yadira Cruz Granado MS, LMFT tells Bustle. Here are a few things you might want to try, according to experts.
1Stick To A Routine
You might not feel like doing anything. But it's still important to stick to a routine when you have depression. "Shower, get dressed, and eat breakfast everyday — even if you have no other plans but to stay at home," therapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW tells Bustle. "It is difficult to push yourself when depressed. Having a routine makes it easier to accomplish tasks because it becomes habitual and takes away any decision making." This can help you get through the day, but it can also prevent you from succumbing even more to your symptoms.
2Make Time For Self-Care
Showering and brushing your teeth is important. But give other self-care a try, too. "Start a meditation practice (free apps are available on your phone such as 10% Happier or Breathe), take a long shower or bubble bath, cook yourself your favorite meal, or get your favorite meal delivered," Hershenson says. "Taking time for yourself will help center you."
3Start A Gratitude List
While a gratitude list certainly won't "cure" depression, setting aside time to acknowledge the little things that make life good can start to change the tone of your day.
"It is all too easy to focus on the negatives in your life but the focus should be on what you have positive in your life," Hershenson says. "List 10 things you are grateful for, which can be anything from your physical health to your family."
4Help Someone Else
To shift your focus for a while, try to get out and help improve the world. You might offer to walk a neighbor's dog, find an easy volunteer experience, or stroll around the park and pick up garbage.
But it can also be as simple as reaching out to say "hey" to a friend, and see how they're feeling. As Hershenson says, "Listening to others' problems and lending an ear is a good way to 'get out of your head.'" And that's so important when you're feeling depressed.
5Let Go Of Guilt
Depression has a way of making you feel like you're dragging others down with you. You might start to view yourself as the "dark rain cloud" or the "Debbie Downer." But that's not going to help you feel better.
"It is not your fault you're feeling depressed, so let that go," Hershenson says. "One way to let go of the guilt is to accept what you can and cannot control in the situation. You cannot control the fact that you're currently depressed. You can control whether you take care of yourself with proper nutrition, sleep, and look after your mental health by seeing a professional if needed."
6Move Just A Little Bit
"Depression can make you feel like doing nothing," Dr. Klapow says. But it's important to get some form of exercise every day — even when you don't feel like it.
"This may mean nothing more than a walk. But exercising will help boost your mood," he says. "It is not a substitute treatment but it will help boost the effects of the other treatments."
Whether it's texting a friend, calling your mom, or chatting with someone online, try to have some form of social contact every day. "Don’t isolate yourself," Dr. Klapow says. "You may not feel like the life of the party with depression, but interacting with other people daily is important to keep your mood up."
If you don't trust yourself to reach out, "give friends and family members permission to make sure you don’t slip away by yourself for too long," he says. You can also ask your therapist to check in on you, if you're prefer.
8Talk About How You Feel
It can be tempting to keep your symptoms to yourself, or try to put on a brave face as you go through the day. But there's no shame in being honest about your feelings — especially if you could use a little support.
"People may or may not recognize something is wrong," Dr. Klapow says. "Letting them know will reduce the pressure to 'act normal' all the time, and it will connect you with people who want to help and give support."
Depression can cause symptoms of fatigue, so be gentle with yourself and take plenty of breaks while you're out or at work. "Take a break and do something that brings you joy," Emily Roberts, a psychotherapist and author of Express Yourself: A Teen Girl’s Guide to Speaking Up and Being Who You Are, tells Bustle. "Watch a funny YouTube video, read an intense op-ed, or look at pictures that make you remember positive events. It will shift your feelings from negative to neutral or joyful. Notice what activities you engage in that improve your mood." And do those whenever you need to.
10Appreciate Little Moments
Instead of expecting the whole day to be great, it can help to appreciate the little moments of greatness. "It could be the chair you are sitting in, the AC blowing in your office that feels nice on a humid day, the coffee you had this morning, the nice receptionist you talked to on your way into the office," Roberts says. "It is an exercise that can really shift your mood."
11Get Some Natural Light
Even if it's just for a few minutes, make sure you see the sun each day. "Get as much natural lighting as you can into your house, or get out for a walk/sit outside," Cruz Granado says. "Vitamin D helps improve our mood." And, it helps keep your internal clock on schedule, so you'll be less likely to sleep the day away.
12Limit The Decisions You Have To Make
To make your day easier, limit how many decisions you'll have to make by narrowing down your choices. "So instead of having to labor over deciding what to have for breakfast every morning, decide that you're going to eat the same thing for breakfast when you're depressed so you don't have to worry about it," Dr. Crystal I. Lee, licensed psychologist and owner of LA Concierge Psychologist, tells Bustle. "You can make 'default' decisions about lots of things, which will free your mind."
13Try Doing One Thing
Even little things can feel insurmountable when you're depressed. So promise yourself you'll just do "one" thing. "Doesn't matter what," Dr. Lee says. "Just choose what it is and do it by the end of the day. Sometimes, once you're up and running, you can do more. Even if you can't, at least you got one thing done!"
14Make Sure You Eat
While you may not feel like being a gourmet chef right now, it's still important to eat and make sure you're getting proper nutrition. "It's OK to lean on prepared foods if you need to, just try to include something well-balanced to give you the nutrients your brain and body need," psychotherapist Brennan C. Mallonee, LMHC, tells Bustle. "If depression leaves you without an appetite, it can be helpful to think of food as fuel and remind yourself that you need good fuel in order to give yourself the best chance of getting into a better space."
15Ask For Help
If you're truly struggling to get up, make food, or get anything done, don't be afraid to ask for help. "There will be days when little tips and tricks just won't cut it. Plan for those days by enlisting the help of a loved one," Dr. Lee says. "Discuss ahead of time how they can help you and in what way; if you skip that step, they might encourage you in a way that makes you feel worse. But, if done in a way that feels helpful to you, can really help you get stuff done."
While these little tips may not cure depression, they can make it easier to get up and get through the day. By seeking professional treatment, however, you can expect to feel better and enjoy life again. So don't be afraid to reach out for help.