As far as long-term recovery goes, talk therapy in a variety of modes offers the best option, with around 90% of depression patients responding positively to treatment. This is unfortunately of little use when I can’t find a good therapist near me, or if I need to get back on track as quickly as possible and get on with my life.
John M. Grohol, Psy.D. once said, “Depression symptoms take many forms, and no two people’s experiences are exactly alike. A person who’s suffering from this disorder may not seem sad to others.” Sadly, it seems that the depression switch flips only the wrong way, and it always takes more or less work to restore your mental equilibrium. There are, however, a number of things to do in order to shorten the length of a depressive spell, which will work for nearly everyone regardless of their situation.
Although the first step may be hard, any action a person takes extends their reach, and any kind of productive work helps build up a kind of momentum that enables greater efforts later. Many people suffering from depression have found that establishing a routine for their mornings, which they follow no matter what, are helpful. If they brush their teeth and shower as soon as they wake up, after which they eat breakfast regardless of whether they’re hungry or not, a good start has already been made for that day instead of whacking the snooze button numerous times. These kinds of habits are not too difficult to build and it provides a structure to daily life that often falls by the wayside when someone is suffering from depression.
“Regular exercise helps you relieve stress and may help prevent or reduce depression. Aerobic exercise and yoga have been found to be particularly beneficial for reducing stress and improving mood,” says ADAA member Stephanie Kriesberg, PsyD. Any kind of exercise, particularly a more strenuous workout than the body is used to, releases endorphins in the short term, which immediately improves a person’s mood. Over time, the improvements in your health through exercise will inevitably help depression to fade. Exercise may be the last thing on the mind of someone who’s depressed, but breaking the effort down into smaller steps – like deciding to do just one push-up, and taking things from there – will make it seem more manageable. Exercise is also effective against insomnia, a common side effect of depression.
Help Someone Else
Although a depressed person may feel unable to take care of himself, let alone anybody else, volunteering has proved to be a way to recovery for many people after divorce or the loss of a loved one. This forces a person to be active in the society and allows them to see the positive effects of their efforts. Animal therapy, in a sense, is a variation on the same theme. As taking care of something weaker and more helpless than ourselves lets us change our outlook from passive to positive.
Say Goodbye to Your Comfort Zone
Although indulging in risky behavior is one of the ways depression can cause a person to act in a self-destructive mode, testing your boundaries is a horse of a different color. This may be done through engaging in a new kind of activity, such as taking an art class, travelling or trying to find new ways of having fun. This kind of change shocks the mind into a new groove and forces it to face new challenges, instead of repeating the same demoralizing thoughts over and over again.
Keep Your Perspective
Even in the midst of depression, it remains possible to intellectually realize that it is only a temporary state and that the emotions and attitudes felt are the result of an illness rather than an objective condition. Bearing this in mind will give a person the strength to keep on trying, confront feelings such as shame and worthlessness logically and celebrate any small gains made along the way. Remember “Mindfulness meditation practices are effective interventions, and sometimes for mild to moderate conditions—depression and anxiety—super-effective as front lines,” says Saundra Jain, MA, PsyD, LPC.
In the end, medication and changes in a person’s environment can only do so much to alleviate depression. Much of what needs to be done is internal and mental, and most people who recover from depression find themselves to be more compassionate, resilient and open-minded afterwards.