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Feeling depressed? Try these 9 ways to cope with depression and nurture your mental health

Feeling depressed? Try these 9 ways to cope with depression and nurture your mental health

Just keep swimming

Text: Eugene Chen

Image: Pexels via Maksim Goncharenok
Image: Sundae Kids
Image: Jared Kane

Depression is a constant feeling of sadness and it's very different from temporarily feeling low. It also varies in severity, ranging from mild to moderate to severe

COVID-19 has had an impact on many, not just causing physical but also psychological distress. Statistics indicate that depression symptoms are three times higher during lockdowns compared to before the pandemic. This is the outcome of many factors which include being isolated from others, not having a set routine, and being uncertain about the future. As we continue to live through this pandemic, we need to prioritise our mental health as much as our physical health.

Symptoms of depression include (but are not limited to) excessive sadness, a sense of hopelessness, a loss of interest in enjoyable things, and low motivation. It is a draining experience, which leaves you feeling constantly empty and tired. Sometimes, doing the absolute minimum can seem like a tedious task. It is important to be gentle with yourself; recovering from depression isn’t quick and easy or something you can just "snap out of". There are small steps you can take to feel more in control and alleviate most of your symptoms. The hardest part of this journey is finding the will and energy to take the first step to recovery.

Here are some tips on how to cope:

Manage stress

The best thing to do when going through depression is to minimise the stressors around you, as stress can actually prolong the symptoms of depression. Find ways to create pockets of calm either by meditating, exercising, or even writing your thoughts in a journal.

Challenge the negative

Negative thoughts will creep up while you’re actively doing things to make yourself feel better. Sometimes, you might not even realise you’re heading towards a downward spiral. Remember that most of the time, the worse-case scenarios conjured up by your mind are highly unrealistic and stem from feelings of inadequacy. The next time a negative thought pops up, try to confront it with logic and gratitude by thinking of things that you’re grateful for.

Make a routine

Setting a daily routine for yourself can help motivate you to be productive. This routine doesn’t have to be a strict hourly schedule that you have to follow every day; it can be a flexible but structured routine to get you going. Give yourself a couple of hours every day to do an activity you enjoy.

Do things you enjoy

A symptom of depression is losing interest in the things you love. However, doing the things that used to fill you with joy will actually help to lift your spirits. Maybe not immediately, but as you continue to do the things you once enjoyed, you will gradually feel more energetic and joyful. Activities like dancing to music in your room, going out for an evening jog, or playing with your pet can really do wonders. A little bit, every day, goes a long way.

Reach out to loved ones

It's helpful to speak with friends and family who offer unconditional love. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others for help or just a listening ear. You’ll think that you’re a burden by reaching out to others, but that really isn’t the case. Those with depression have a tendency to isolate themselves, but getting the right support is essential to overcoming depression.

READ: 9 Instagram accounts to follow for mental health resources in Malaysia

Eat well

What you put in your body is going to significantly impact your mind, too! Watch what you eat by minimising sugar, alcohol, caffeine, preservatives, and processed foods; while eating more lean meats, vegetables, grains, foods rich in omega-3, and B vitamin supplements. Also, remember to not skip meals!

Sleep well

Sleep disturbances are a common occurrence for those dealing with depression. Not having enough sleep or sleeping too much can make your symptoms worse. Try to get eight hours of quality sleep every night by having a regular schedule. When you wake up, you’ll be in a healthier mindset to face the day, keeping to the routine that you‘ve set for yourself. If you’re having trouble sleeping, you can try out apps like Headspace and Simple Habit.

Exercise

Working out might be the last thing on your mind while you’re feeling depressed. However, exercise is a powerful depression fighter that can help speed up your recovery. Research has shown that engaging in physical activity could be just as effective as antidepressants in some cases. Take it day by day: You could start out with a 20-minute walk.

Seek professional help

Think about seeking professional help. Doing this doesn’t mean you’re "weak"; it actually means you're taking charge of your mental health. Some people experience stronger symptoms, but the good news is that depression can be treated!

For more on mental health, click here.