You May Be Depressed! What Do You Do Now?

by Mary Ellen Copeland, MS, MA

When you are depressed, it is often very hard to think clearly or make any decisions. It is also hard to think of anything to do to help yourself feel better. This brochure will help you take positive action in your own behalf.

Keep in Mind

  • Depression is not your fault.
  • Depression is a temporary condition. You will get well. You will feel happy again.
  • The best time to address depression is now, before it gets any worse.
  • It's up to you, with the help of your supporters, to take responsibility for getting better.

See Your Doctor

Depression is serious. You need to see a general physician as soon as possible – don’t wait longer than a few days. The sooner you get treatment, the sooner you will feel better. You need an appointment with your physician for a complete physical examination to see if there is a medical condition that is causing or worsening your depression, to plan your treatment and for possible referral to a specialist. If you do not have a physician, contact a mental health organization in your area for a recommendation.

If any of the following apply to you, insist on an appointment within 24 hours or ask a friend or family member to do it for you (it's hard to do things for yourself when you are depressed).

  • You feel absolutely hopeless and/or worthless.
  • You feel like life is not worth living anymore.
  • You think a lot about dying.
  • You have thoughts of suicide.
  • You have been making plans to end your life.

Ask a family member or friend to stay with you until it is time for your appointment. Make sure you keep the appointment.

When you see your doctor, take a complete listing of all medications and health care preparations you are using for any reason, and any unusual, uncomfortable or painful symptoms.

Self Help Techniques You Can Use to Help Yourself Feel Better

1. Tell a good friend or family member how you feel – ask them if they have some time to listen to you. Tell them not to interrupt with any advice, criticism or judgments. Assure them that you can discuss what to do about the situation after you get done talking, but that just talking with no interruptions will help you feel better.

Your friends and family members may not know what to say. You can tell them to say any of the following:

"I'm sorry you are having such a hard time."

"What can I do to help?"

"Tell me how you feel."

"I'm here to listen."

"I love you."

"You are very special to me. I want you to get well."

"You will feel better. You will get well."

2. Get some exercise. Any movement, even slow movement, will help you feel better – climb the stairs, take a walk, sweep the floor.

3. Spend at least one half hour outdoors every day, even if it is cloudy or rainy.

4. Let as much light into your home or work place as possible – roll up the shades, turn on the lights.

5. Eat healthy food. Avoid sugar, caffeine, alcohol and heavily salted foods. If you don't feel like cooking, ask a family member or friend to cook for you, order take out, or buy a healthy frozen dinner.

6. If you are having lots of negative thoughts or obsessing about difficult issues and hard times, divert your attention away from these thoughts by doing something you really enjoy, something that makes you feel good – like working in your garden, watching a funny video, working on a craft project, playing with a small child or your pet, buying yourself a treat like a new CD or a magazine, reading a good book or watching a ball game.

7. Relax! Sit down in a comfortable chair, loosen any tight clothing and take several deep breaths. Starting with your toes, focus your attention on each part of your body and let it relax. When you have relaxed your whole body, notice how it feels. Then focus your attention on a favorite scene, like a warm day in spring or a walk at the ocean, for at least 10 minutes.

8. If you are having trouble sleeping, try some of the following suggestions:

  • drink a glass of warm milk, eat some turkey and/or drink a cup of chamomile tea before going to bed
  • read a calming book
  • take a warm bath
  • avoid strenuous activity
  • avoid caffeine and nicotine – both are stimulants
  • listen to soothing music after you lie down
  • eat foods high in calcium like dairy products and leafy green vegetables
  • avoid sleeping late in the morning; get up at your usual time

9. Ask a family member, friend or co-worker to take over some or all of your responsibilities for several days -- like child care, household chores, work-related tasks – so you have time to do the things you need to to take care of yourself.

10. Keep your life as simple as possible. If it doesn't really need to be done, don't do it.

11. Avoid negative people who make you feel bad or irritated. Do not allow yourself to be abused in any way. Physical or emotional abuse can cause or worsen depression. If you are being physically or emotionally abused, ask your health care provider or a good friend to help you figure out what to do.

12. Avoid making any major decisions like career, relationship and housing changes until you feel better.

Things to Do After You Begin Feeling Better

1. Educate yourself about depression so that if you ever get depressed again, you and your supporters will know exactly what to do.

2. Become an effective advocate for yourself – figure out what you need and want for yourself, and then work toward it until you get it.

3. Develop and keep a strong support system of at least five supporters, people you feel comfortable with, trust and enjoy. If you don't have five supporters, make some new friends by joining a support group, attending community events, or taking an interesting course.

4. Write a plan to keep yourself well. Include lists of:

  • things you need to do every day to keep yourself well, like getting a half hour of exercise and eating three healthy meals
  • things that may not need to be done every day, but if you miss them they will cause stress in your life, like buying groceries, paying bills or cleaning your home
  • events or situations that, if they come up, may make you feel worse, like a disagreement with a family member or loss of your job, and an action plan to follow if these events occur
  • early warning signs that you are starting to get depressed again, like feeling tired, sleeping too much, overeating, and dropping things, and an action plan to follow if they come up
  • signs that things are getting much worse, you really are depressed, like you can't get out of bed in the morning and you feel negative about everything, and an action plan to follow if this happens

Ask your health care providers, family members and friends for help in developing these plans.


This article also appears on Mary Ellen Copeland’s Web site http://www.mentalhealthrecovery.com and is reprinted here with her permission.

Date published: 8/18/00
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 9 Oct 2013
    Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.

 

 

There are defeats more triumphant than victories.
~ Michel de Montaigne