However, when a depressed mood or unbearable sadness is present for a long time – a couple of weeks or months – then it might meet the criteria for depression.
Depression affects over 264 million people worldwide. Between 76% and 85% of those experiencing depression do not seek or receive treatment for their disorder (World Health Organization, 2020a).
This article provides a starting point to understand depressive symptoms and also offers helping professionals resources to assist their patients with recovery.
Please note that the resources provided in this article are not a substitute for treatment from a medical professional. If you are suffering from depression or know someone who is, we recommend you seek help. Guidance is provided at the end of this article.
1. Build A Support Network
For some, this may mean forging stronger ties with friends or family. Knowing you can count on loved ones to help can go a long way toward improving your depression. It may involve a community group that meets in your area or you might find an online support group who meets your needs.
2. Reduce Your Stress
When you’re under stress, your body produces more of a hormone called cortisol. In the short-term, this is a good thing because it helps you gear up to cope with whatever is causing the stress in your life.Over the long run, however, it can cause many problems for you, including depression.
3. Improve Your Food Habits
Research continues to find clear links between diet and mental health. In fact, there have been so many studies that have shown improving nutrition can prevent and treat mental illness that nutritional psychiatry has become mainstream. There are many brain-essential nutrients that can affect depression. For example, a 2012 study found that zinc deficiency increases symptoms of depression Improving your diet could be key to reducing your symptoms. But before you make any major changes to your diet or begin taking vitamins or supplements, talk with your physician.
4. Improve Your Sleep Hygiene
Sleep and mood are intimately related. A 2014 study found that 80% of people with major depressive disorder experience sleep disturbances. But, you might feel like you just can’t fall asleep. Or perhaps you struggle to get out of bed because you feel exhausted all the time. Good sleep hygiene could be key to improving the quality and quantity of your sleep. Turn off electronics at least an hour before you go to bed. Use dim light to read a book or engage in another relaxing activity. Only use your bed for sleep and sexual activity. Doing work in bed, or even in your bedroom, can cause you to associate your bed with stress, rather than relaxation.
5. Create a Wellness Toolbox
A wellness toolbox is a set of tools that you can use to help soothe yourself when you are feeling down.The tools you find most helpful might not work for someone else so it’s important to carefully consider what things can help you feel your best. Think of things you like to do when you’re happy. Then, when you’re feeling down, try one of those activities.Cuddling your pet, listening to your favorite music, taking a warm bath, or reading a good book are just a few tools you might find helpful.Create a list of the activities you might try when you’re feeling bad. Then, choose an activity to try when you’re having a particularly rough time.