April 10, 2024

What Are Practical Strategies for Managing Depression?


The number of U.S. adults who have been diagnosed with depression is on the rise, with young adults and women experiencing the most significant increases. We know that the effects of depression can ripple through every aspect of your life. Seeking treatment for depression is vital for reducing symptoms, learning practical strategies for managing depression, and improving your overall quality of life. 

What Is The Most Common Approach To Treating Depression?

Depression is a complex condition, so there isn’t one best single approach to treatment that works for everyone. Because depression can vary in severity and causes, often a tailored approach is needed that factors in the unique situation of the individual. Typically, there are three approaches to depression treatment

  • Medication: Antidepressants target brain chemistry, regulating neurotransmitters that influence mood. They can help reduce symptoms like sadness, fatigue, and hopelessness. However, medication alone doesn’t address underlying thoughts and behaviors that contribute to depression.
  • Psychotherapy: Therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy (IPT) tackle the psychological aspects of depression. They help individuals identify and change negative thought patterns, develop coping mechanisms, and improve interpersonal relationships. This empowers them to manage symptoms and build resilience.
  • Combination Therapy: Combining medication with psychotherapy addresses both biological and psychological factors, which, for some people, can lead to more effective symptom reduction, improved long-term outcomes, and reduced risk of relapse.

Many people choose to navigate depression without medication for many reasons, like concerns about side effects, fear of dependence, or preference for non-pharmaceutical treatment. The choice to take medication for depression is entirely personal and will depend on your needs, and recommendations from your healthcare provider.  

How Can CBT Be Used To Treat Depression?

CBT for depression is an evidence-based therapy that works by addressing the harmful thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to depression symptoms. Here’s how CBT can help with depression: 

  • Identify negative thought patterns that fuel depression.
  • Challenge the helpfulness of these thoughts.
  • Restructure negative thoughts with more realistic and balanced ones.
  • Change unhelpful behaviors that worsen mood. 
  • Build coping skills for managing emotions and stress effectively.
  • Focus on the present moment to avoid getting stuck in negativity.

CBT is one of the most evidence-based therapies for a number of mental health conditions, including anxiety disorders and substance use disorders. This is because numerous studies suggest that CBT leads to an improvement in functioning and quality of life. In many cases, CBT has been shown to be as or more effective than other types of therapy or psychiatric medications. 

Part of CBT involves learning practical strategies and tools to manage difficult emotions and cope with stressful situations more effectively. Through learning practical methods to cope with depression, you can gain greater control over your emotions and, ultimately, feel more empowered to manage depression. 

What Are Strategies You Can Use To Cope With Depression?

Establish A Support Network

Social support can play an essential role in treating several mental health conditions. Humans are social creatures, and having a friend and family support system can give you a sense of belonging and provide emotional validation. 

One study found that increased social interaction during the COVID-19 crisis was associated with reduced depressive symptoms. There’s also evidence linking perceived social isolation to health consequences like depression, poor sleep, and impaired immunity. 

Be kind to yourself and recognize that you may not have the energy to handle large social interactions, so start small. Talk to your family, share your struggles with a trusted friend, or join a support group near you to speak with others in a similar situation. 

Practice Self-Care 

Alongside seeking professional help, there are some self-care practices and lifestyle changes that can help manage depression. 

  • Regular Exercise: Physical exercise can help to reduce depression, anxiety, and stress
  • Improved Sleep Hygiene: Aim for 7-8 hours of quality sleep. 
  • Healthy Diet: Eat a balanced diet with a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein. 
  • Relaxation Techniques: Try mindfulness meditation, deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, or yoga. 
  • Gratitude Practices: Focus on things you’re grateful for. 

Engage In Meaningful Activities 

Another part of self-care strategies for depression involves trying something new, doing creative activities, and pursuing hobbies you enjoy. While doing anything can feel impossible right now, trying a few different things can help you find something that works for you.  

Here are some activities to consider: 

  • Walk in nature 
  • Volunteer in your community 
  • Paint or draw 
  • Join a fitness class
  • Have coffee with a friend 

Develop Coping Mechanisms 

Depression can drain everything you have, zapping your energy and drive leaving you feeling hopeless. Coping mechanisms can help you to manage depression by taking small steps towards recovery each day. Even just getting out of bed is something to be proud of. Useful coping mechanisms to try include: 

  • Meditation 
  • Deep breathing 
  • Yoga 
  • Exercise 
  • Journalling 

Create A Routine 

A daily routine can help create and solidify healthy habits that promote overall well-being. Depression can make deciding about simple choices feel extremely tough. Taking out the need to make many daily choices and stick to a predictable routine can help boost motivation. 

A consistent routine encourages a sleep schedule, regular exercise, healthy eating, and empowers positive change. Remember to start small and be patient with yourself. Celebrate even the smallest victories and take every day a step at a time. 

Seek Professional Help 

While self-care and practical strategies can be beneficial for managing depression, seeking professional help for depression is important. Signs that you may benefit from speaking with a mental health expert include: 

  • Symptoms significantly impact daily life (work, school, relationships). 
  • Co-occurring issues like anxiety, substance abuse, or trauma require professional support.
  • Difficulty managing even basic tasks like self-care, eating, or sleeping. 
  • Significant changes in sleep, appetite, social interaction, or decision-making ability. 
  • Inability to enjoy activities you once loved, coupled with persistent low mood. 
  • Feelings of fatigue that interfere with daily life and hopelessness. 
  • Constant self-criticism, feelings of worthlessness, and negative views of the future. 
  • Impaired cognitive function impacting daily life. 
  • Strained relationships due to depression-related changes in behavior. 

If you have any thoughts of self-harm, seek immediate help from your healthcare provider or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (988).

Everyday Strategies To Complement Your Depression Treatment

While it’s normal to experience sadness from time to time, depression is a debilitating mental health disorder that can impact every part of your life. The good news is that depression is a treatable mental health disorder. 

According to the American Psychological Association, 80-90% of people with depression eventually do respond to treatment, with almost all patients gaining some relief from depression symptoms. With proper diagnosis and treatment, people with depression can start the road to recovery.  

Seeking treatment for depression is a crucial step towards reclaiming control over your life. By implementing practical strategies alongside your treatment, you can effectively manage your symptoms and work towards a brighter future. 
Remember, you don’t have to face depression alone. At Thriving Center of Psychology, our compassionate therapists are here to support you every step of the way. Book an appointment online today, or call one of our offices located in NYC, LA, and throughout the country. 

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