Everyone gets down from time to time, but depression is more than feeling unhappy or a little fed up. It can be a long-term debilitating health condition that drives sufferers to despair.
Sometimes it can go hand in hand with periods of mania (check out article on Bipolar Disorder), accompany certain life events (childbirth or following the death of a loved one), or be a recurring, persistent clinical condition on its own.
Studies have found that LGBTI people are more likely to suffer from depression than their straight peers – often because they have experienced prejudice, trauma or been made to feel less worthy.
Here are some tips on living with depression. None alone are likely to cure or dispel it, but they might help you cope or manage with it.
1. Get good rest
Your body needs adequate sleep. Too little will only make you feel lethargic, grouchy and unmotivated, while too much can also become a problem. Try to get yourself into a regular sleep pattern if possible – getting to bed at a decent hour and rising at a set time.
Physical exercise is known to improve mood and maintaining fitness can also help combat feelings of depression. It doesn’t have to be an intense workout at the gym – swimming or just walking are great for getting your heart beating faster. Yoga or other stretching exercises can also help. Why not try something new or try something in a new location?
3. Eat or prepare healthy meals
Like a lack of exercise, if you eat nothing but junk, your physical health will suffer. Your body needs a range of nutrients and vitamins, so try to eat a varied diet. The simple act of preparing yourself a tasty, nutritious meal – or treating yourself to something healthy at a restaurant if you can’t face cooking, is a way of looking after yourself.
Taking time to subdue your mind, or to clear it of persistent, negative thoughts, can help manage depressive moods. You don’t have to join a meditation class (as helpful as these can be). There are hundreds of guided meditation aids online (YouTube, Spotify, Soundcloud), as well as apps that can offer daily meditations.
5. Take care of your hygiene
When you’re feeling depressed, it can be easy to neglect yourself. Not washing or showering for prolonged periods will do nothing to lift your mood. Take the time to wash, groom and put on clean clothing, even if you’re not planning on leaving home. Little acts of pampering one’s self can help boost mood and make you feel better about yourself.
6. Spend time with friends
Meet up with a friend or friends: people who you feel will listen without judgment and give you space to talk. Maybe avoid pessimistic people who or those who just drain your energy. Planning a trip with a friend, or to visit friends that you’ve maybe not seen in a while, can give you something to look forward towards.
7. Get some peer support
There are many sources of support out there. You could join some sort of therapy self-help group, like an LGBT youth group, bereavement group or substance abuse group. There are hundreds of self-help books covering a wide range of topics. Online forums also allow people to share their stories. C
Counselors and psychotherapist are a hugely valuable source of support, but getting immediate support can be as simple as picking up the phone – check out these LGBTI helplines, especially if you’re feeling at crisis point.
8. Talk to your doctor
If depression is consistent or recurring, talk to your doctor or other health professional. They will be able to discuss coping mechanisms or treatment options, which may include medication, counseling or referral to another specialist.
9. Avoid self-medicating with alcohol and non-prescription drugs
Self-medicating can seem very tempting. It’s unlikely to help in the long-run, and can easily become a crutch that you turn to again and again – potentially risking your health in other ways.
Most illegal drugs are accompanied by some sort of comedown, leaving you feeling worse. Be cautious over using any non-regulated drugs, or alcohol, to make yourself feel better.
10. Be kind to yourself
We can sometimes beat ourselves up for our perceived failings: that we’re not richer, better-looking, successful, famous, or whatever. Remind yourself that none of us achieve all our goals, so try not to beat yourself up. Set yourself smaller goals, that are more easily achievable. You can set bigger goals at a later date or keep taking smaller steps in the direction you want to heading.
11. Make a list of things that lift your mood
Feel depression approaching? Having some tactics to fall back upon can help keep low moods at bay. Maybe there are ways to treat yourself that always make you feel better, or friends you know you can call upon to cheer you up. Perhaps it helps to have something to look forward towards: a holiday or concert to attend?
Planning a new experience can help break feelings of monotony and can bring a sense of achievement. Make a list of things that you know can help, and keep it handy