Recovering From Depression: 10 Steps

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Depression is a serious medical condition. If you believe that you are experiencing depression, seek help immediately. For people who are in treatment for depression, here are 10 simple things that the individual can do to help the process of professional care:

  • Start acting better even if you don’t feel better quite yet. This doesn’t mean “just cheer up”. Remember that your condition is being treated and that you might not have reached the point where you can “feel the effects”. If you do nothing, your depression will probably only become worse.
  • Set realistic goals that you can accomplish despite feeling depressed. The choice as to whether or not you want to manage your depression is one that only you can make. You can choose to allow your depression to slowly get worse, or you put the energy that you do have into doing things that can make you feel a little bit better. Think of it as an investment of your available energy. Schedule activities to get you out of the house, tell your friends and family about your depression and progress in treatment, ask your friends and family to help in your treatment. Easy does it, but do it. Just don’t push yourself too hard or expect unrealistic results and keep in mind that the last thing that you want is to give in and become isolated.
  • Create a schedule of activities and write it down. Set an alarm clock and wake up every morning at the same time. Come up with a morning ritual that gets you showered and dressed for the day. Have something to do morning, afternoon, and evening and observe a regular meal schedule.
  • Break large tasks into small ones, set priorities, and do what you are able to do. Recovery from depression is similar to body-building programs in the sense that you build strength slowly. Start by putting small, simple tasks that can make you feel better on your schedule every day and then commit to doing these small tasks no matter how depressed you feel.
  • Don’t allow yourself to become isolated. Schedule time each day to be in the company of other people and eat meals with your family and friends whether you feel like it or not. Don’t wait until you feel like being with other people. Because of the nature of depression, depressed people feel like they want to be alone. Don’t give in to this.
  • Find someone you can talk to and confide in. Talk therapy and support groups offer excellent opportunities to “get it all out”.
  • Make a list of things that you enjoy doing and put one or two in your daily schedule. What do you consider fun? If you were not feeling depressed, what would you be doing for enjoyment? The idea is to distract yourself from your depression and give yourself a few minutes of enjoyment in your life. Just remember to start small and not to wait until you want to do it. Depression drains your motivation and stops you from doing things that give you joy.
  • Do a little mild exercise each day. Moderate exercise three times a week has been proven to significantly reduce depression.
  • Expect your mood to improve gradually and not immediately. Feeling better takes time. Prepare small steps you can do every day, build in social support, and expect ups and downs in your depression. Yes, you’re depressed and feel very down, but you still can choose to do little things that will either make you feel better or worse and only you have the power to make those choices. It’s never hopeless until you decide that it is.
  • Postpone important decisions until your depression has lifted. This is one of the few exceptions to the “keep doing what you would be doing if you weren’t depressed” rule. When you are depressed, your judgment is impaired because depression causes pessimism and a negative view of the future. Try not to put yourself in a position where you need to make decisions about significant life changes such as changing jobs, getting married or divorced, buying or selling automobiles and homes, etc. If you cannot avoid such decisions, discuss them with people who know you and your situation in life. Seek advice from those around you who may have a more objective view.

Excerpted from Terrence T. Gorski, Depression and Relapse – Ten Guidelines for Starting Depression Recovery, Gorski-Cenaps Corporation, Spring Hill, FL, Spring 2006

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