Here’s my list (in no particular order):
- Fight the war on many fronts: Don’t rely on just one thing to alleviate your depression; bring as many weapons as you can to the battle. For example, combine medication with some form of therapy; add exercise to your daily regime and also add make time for relaxation or mindfulness.
- Be aware: Foster the habit of being aware of your mood and thoughts, “in real time”. Notice when your mood is lifting or falling, and try to pinpoint triggers for either type of mood shift. Also listen to your inner voice, and be aware of your self-talk: is it overwhelmingly negative, or positive?
- Reach out: Get yourself an appropriate support group, people you can talk to about your struggle. Choose these people carefully – you want empathetic, compassionate people. I especially appreciate the support of people who don’t always immediately try to solve my problems for me, but listen and validate my experiences.
- Use medication well: If you’re prescribed medication, take the right dose at the right time.
- Focus on things you can control: … and don’t dwell on the rest. Remember, worry is like a rocking chair; it gives you something to do, but doesn’t get you anywhere (thanks to depressedbuthopeful for that quote, which now adorns my fridge).
- Balance your life: So often, I read tales of how an imbalanced life lead to depression – an overemphasis on work, for instance, at the cost of relationships, exercise or relaxation. Online resources such as this one test your knowledge of work-life balance.
- Nurture your ‘self’: I never understood the importance of self-care until mental health became a pressing issue in my life. Self-care is not only a great stress-buster, but affirms your importance – your “right to life”, if you will.
- Control your ‘input’: Are you watching, reading, listening to or engaging in things which are feeding your depression? For example, recently a good friend pointed out to her husband that days when he reported talking to workmates about the deterioration in workplace conditions were days he came home in a lower mood. (I think there’s a wonderful distinction to be made between a vent and a bitch.) Switch your ‘input’ to uplifting, positive messages.
- Minimize alcohol consumption: Yes, I know this is where I differ from some, but I firmly believe that if you’re prone to severe depression and you drink heavily, you’re playing with fire. Alcohol is a known depressant. Personally, I choose not to drink alcohol at all, anymore. This might not be the right choice for everyone, but it was a great choice for me.
- Exercise: An absolute must! Boost those endorphins, get that natural high and benefit your overall health at the same time.
The danger in making a list is what you might accidentally leave off it! Do you agree with my top ten? What would you add, change or delete?