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How to deal with depression – tips from our counsellors

worried man

This advice is meant to complement therapy and medication – not replace it. If you're finding it hard to cope, always seek professional help.

‹‹ Go back to main Depression page to check your symptoms.

1. Develop supportive relationships

Getting the support you need can alleviate the severity of depression and keep it away. On your own, it can be hard to retain perspective, but being depressed makes it difficult to ask for help.

The thought of reaching out to someone can seem overwhelming. You may feel embarrassed, too drained to talk or guilty for avoiding people. It’s vital to tell yourself that this is a symptom of your depression. Asking for support and contact is not a sign of weakness and it does not mean you’re a burden to others.

How to ask for help:

2. Move your body

Exercise is a powerful tool for dealing with depression. It can increase your energy levels and decrease feelings of fatigue.

Evidence suggests that physical activity triggers new cell growth in the brain, increases mood-enhancing neurotransmitters and endorphins, reduces stress and relieves muscle tension. All of these effects are vital to both fighting and recovering from depression, so that it is less likely to return.

Short, 10-minute bursts of activity can have a positive effect on your mood. Even very small activities that get your arms and legs moving can add up over the course of a day.

Try incorporating walking, running, swimming, yoga, dancing or another exercise you're comfortable with into your day. Pick an activity you enjoy - you’ll be more likely to stick with it.

Terrence Higgins Trust’s mindfulness course includes gentle yoga which is perfect for kick-starting a sustainable exercise routine into your life.

3. Challenge negative thoughts

Depression can put a negative spin on everything: the way you see yourself, situations you come across and your hopes for the future.

It's difficult to change a negative way of thinking. ‘Just think positive thoughts’ can be a very irritating piece of advice that often results in feelings of failure and causes further negative thinking.

Replacing negative thoughts with more balanced ones is a skill that requires discipline. Counselling and mindfulness are perfect places to start learning these skills and practising with support.

If you don’t have access to these resources then here are some ways to begin:

  • Cultivate self-compassion. Ask yourself whether you would say the things you think about yourself to someone else in your position. If not, stop being so hard on yourself. What would you say to a friend in your situation? Think about less harsh statements that offer more gentle and understanding descriptions.
  • Allow yourself to be less than perfect. Many depressed people are constantly chasing impossibly high expectations - they are perfectionists. Holding yourself to unbelievably high standards all the time is exhausting and takes a toll. Beating yourself up when you fail to meet your standards puts your whole nervous system under stress.
  • Begin thinking about balance - not perfection - as a goal. Do you relax enough? Do you spend time with people who you enjoy being with? Are you spending time in nature? Is there time in your day for some exercise? Is your job taking up too much of your thoughts or time? Is there anything you could do about this? Do you enjoy your job and working environment? Are you putting off making improvements to your life because you’re ‘too busy’? Perhaps it’s time to challenge that.

4. Do things that you enjoy

One way to help overcome depression is to make sure you do things that both relax and energise you.

This includes following a healthy lifestyle, learning how to better manage stress, setting limits on what you’re able to do, adopting healthy habits and scheduling fun activities into your day.

Aim for eight hours of sleep. Depression typically involves sleep problems. Whether you’re sleeping too little or too much, your mood suffers. Get on a better sleep schedule by learning healthy sleep habits.

Take a short walk outdoors - even if the weather isn’t great. If there is some sunshine have your tea or coffee outside, people-watch on a park bench or sit out in the park. Aim for at least 15 minutes of sunlight a day to boost your mood – even if it’s overcast you can still get some sunlight.

Practise relaxation techniques. A daily relaxation practice can help relieve symptoms of depression, reduce stress and boost feelings of joy and wellbeing. Try yoga, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation or meditation.

More help with depression:

Anxiety ››

‹‹ Depression and HIV



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The Information Standard: Certified member

This article was last reviewed on 30/11/2015 by Anna Peters

Date due for the next review: 30/11/2018

Content Author: Anthony Clarke & Kathy Osborne

Current Owner: Counselling

More information:

Mental Health Foundation's resources on depression

NHS Choices resources on Depression

Be Mindful, a Mental Health Foundation resource on mindfulness