Ways to Overcome Depression

By Margaret Seide, MD  Medically reviewed by Akeem Marsh, MD Updated on March 29, 2021

Overcoming Depression
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The first thing you should know about overcoming depression is that it is possible. Your choices matter and can make an impact on the course of your illness.

Fortunately, lots of research has been done on some of the lifestyle choices and treatment options that can potentially shorten a depressive episode or decrease the likelihood of a relapse.

Depression is such a complicated illness and effects each individual differently. It makes sense then that there isn’t one silver bullet for recovery from depression. Successful management of depression is typically achieved using a multi-pronged or the ‘come at it from all angles’ approach.

Here is some of what we know about what you can do to help overcome depression.

Lifestyle Changes

Sometimes, making some changes to your lifestyle can help to improve your depression.

Exercise

There is some evidence that exercise can lead to improvement in mild to moderate depression.1

However, you should know that some studies are inconclusive about the benefits of exercise on depression or show that the benefits are not long lasting. But don’t put away your sneakers just yet.

Physical activity can still be a constructive coping mechanism, provide temporary relief or distraction from negative emotions and be an integral part of self-care, all of which contribute to the management of depressive symptoms.How Exercise Can Help Reduce Depressive Symptoms

Limit Your Alcohol Intake

Watching your alcohol intake is another important step in the battle against depression.

In the short term, alcohol can feel great, alleviate boredom and lessen anxiety. For these reasons, alcohol can be a bit too appealing to the depressed individual. It can feel like a quick fix and easily become an inappropriate way of self-soothing.

Frequent alcohol use can lead to unwanted consequences such as dependence, sleep disturbances and may actually worsen your mood.2

This is not to vilify your glass of wine with dinner, but alcohol is a mood-altering substance that should be approached with caution if you are prone to depressive episodes.

Alcohol added to a festive celebration is quite different from alcohol added to the sadness and anxiety that comes with depression.

Keeping your relationship with alcohol in check can be crucial to keeping your depression in check. Taking a step back with periods of abstinence can help you evaluate the role alcohol is playing in your life.

Make Time For Fun

When was the last time you had fun or had one of those belly laughs that feels like an ab workout? Making time for pleasurable activities and nurturing, quality relationships that bring you joy is an integral part of defeating depression.3

Although depression isn’t always a direct result of your present life circumstances, it is a factor. Your day should include some amount of fun.

Simple acts like connecting with a loved one, a bubble bath or watching a comedy can help you connect to happiness, even if it’s briefly.

Sometimes good times just happen, but you are not alone if you find yourself having to mindfully pursue and make time for a bit of bliss. In other words, take fun seriously.

Medication

The catch about lifestyle changes that help with depression is that, sometimes, you can be too depressed to set those positive changes in motion.

For those individuals who are stuck in that thick, immobilizing mud of depression that makes brushing your teeth or making your bed feel insurmountable, starting an exercise program may not be realistic.

Antidepressants

Medication can be used to diminish your symptoms enough to get started with healthier habits.4 Medication; however, is not a replacement for healthier habits.

Antidepressants sometimes get a bad rap, but they are shown to be safe, effective and can significantly shorten the duration of a depressive episode.4

Find a prescriber who can discuss your options with you and who makes time to listen to all of your questions and concerns. You should feel heard and that you have a clear understanding of what you can reasonably expect regarding side effects and benefits.

Many people often wait too long to try medication and view it as a last resort option. While it may not be the best option for everyone, it’s possible that it may work well for you.

When Medication Might Be a Good Option

The standard used in medicine is that the effects of an illness have to be worse than the side effects of treatment for that illness. In other words, if your depression symptoms are more debilitating than the potential side effects of medication, then taking an antidepressant it might be a good choice for you.

If you’re considering medication, speak with your doctor or therapist; they can help you determine whether it’s a good option for you.

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