Depression is a serious mental illness, and if you have symptoms of it, you deserve care. So whenever possible, find professional help from a health-care provider.
But that kind of help isn’t always accessible to everyone. Even if you have insurance, it may not cover mental health services. And life can get in the way. You might have work and family obligations that make it nearly impossible to pursue meaningful professional therapy. Or maybe you had a bad experience with a therapist. Whichever situation you’ve been through, simply being told to get help probably doesn’t seem very useful to you.
While self-help can’t replace professional psychological help, there are certain things you can do. This article will show you how to get started.
First, set SMART goals.
When we set goals for ourselves, it’s easy to be too vague and too lofty. For instance, New Year’s resolutions like “I will eat healthier and exercise more” aren’t very helpful and are easy to abandon. They don’t have the necessary details to keep you on track.
To stick to your goals, consider the SMART way of setting goals. SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound goals, and it’s used by fitness trainers, businesses, and of course, psychotherapists.
If you want to eat healthier, for example, you need to give yourself some criteria:
- Specific— “I will eat five servings of fruit and vegetables a day.”
- Measurable— “I will keep a list of the foods I eat in a food diary.”
- Achievable— “I’m already eating three or four servings of fruit and vegetables daily; eating one or
- two more is achievable.”
- Relevant— “Healthy eating is linked to having a healthy mind.”
- Time-bound— “I will be consistent in eating enough fruit and vegetables by the end of January, and will keep it going until at least March.”
Make physical activity one of these goals.
Exercise has been suggested by studies to be as effective as antidepressants, and you don’t need a doctor’s prescription for them!
Exercising is a very difficult thing to do for many people, especially people with depression. Some days, just getting out of bed may feel like a workout. This is where SMART comes in. You don’t need to be a marathon runner to reap the benefits of exercise. Studies say just 10-minute bouts of exercise can be beneficial.
Start with a goal that you can very easily achieve, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator to your apartment. Then, slowly, gradually, build your ambitions from there.
Consider self-directed psychotherapy.
You may be interested to know that modern therapy approaches work like classes. Instead of simply discussing your past, they can teach you concrete tools to handle your emotions and anxiety. Therapy can even sometimes involve homework, which may be initially challenging to complete.
While it’s best to do therapy with the help of an expert, there are home exercises you can try. See if you can find a workbook based on evidence-based therapy models like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT aims to change the way you react to situations that you may be interpreting in overly negative ways. There are numerous free CBT resources as well, such as this free workbook offered by the U.K.’s National Health Service.
Use caution with natural remedies.
Natural remedies may be more accessible and attractive to many people, and studies suggest some do have modest evidence for success against depression. But you should always talk to your doctor first before trying a herb, supplement, or vitamin.
It’s important to note that the popular anti-depression herb St. John’s wort does not interact well with many antidepressants. An adverse reaction can cause serotonin syndrome, which can be dangerous. So be wary about trying natural remedies if you are already on medication for your depression.
Meditation is another DIY tool that is accessible and doable for most people. And there is moderate evidence to suggest that meditation can be useful in relieving anxiety and depression.
Meditation is quite popular and trendy these days, so there are numerous websites, apps, articles, and videos out there to help you get started. Meditation is not limited to sitting cross-legged with your eyes closed. You can also practice more active forms of meditation like mindful eating.
Spend time with nature.
If you have access to natural spaces, take advantage of this! Research suggests that being in a natural environment has positive effects on your mood. In fact, a study showed that subjects who walked in nature had less neural activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, which is an area of the brain that is active when you ruminate or feel negativity.
You can combine this tip and Tip 2 to plan an outdoor hike, giving you fresh air, healthier muscles, and added tranquility.
When DIY-ing is not enough.
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, DIY efforts are not enough to alleviate your low mood.
If this is the case, talk to a health-care professional if you have not done so already. If you have thoughts about hurting yourself or others, please seek emergency medical help as these thoughts are considered a medical emergency.
Clinical depression is a serious illness. Your doctor may prescribe you an antidepressant medication like sertraline or fluoxetine. You can access these antidepressants for a cheaper price online through pharmacy referral websites like Rx Connected, which ships prescription drugs from licensed pharmacies outside the United States where drugs are generally less costly compared to their American counterparts.
DIY depression-busting tips can be useful, but they are no replacement for professional help. Find professional advice if you can.
Whether it’s psychotherapy or medication, there’s no shame in seeking help. In fact, seeking help is a brave, mature, and responsible thing to do. If help is not immediately available, hopefully, you can use these DIY tools to relieve symptoms in the meantime.