The start of a new year provides time to reflect on the past and make plans for the future. As you reflect back on last year, consider how depression affected you. What symptoms were most difficult? How did depression impact your daily life?
The symptoms of depression can be oppressive and feel impossible to control. Oftentimes, it seems like improvement is impossible. But, in reality, there are treatments that help depression. People who take practical steps to manage their depression and carry these steps out over long periods of time often see results.
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- Join a Support Group – Research shows that peer support in the form of support groups is an effective means of reducing symptoms of depression.[i] When you are battling difficult symptoms day in and day out, it can feel like you are the only one who struggles in this way. Support groups help people realize this is not true. Many people are struggling in the same way, and being around them can help you feel less alone. Support groups are also great places to learn strategies that have helped other people. In general, peer relationships can be incredibly healing.
- Create an Exercise Routine – It’s hard to deny the research on how exercise is an important part of depression treatment. While exercise is certainly not a cure-all, it is an effective complementary treatment to be used at the same time as other strategies.[ii] Consider committing to exercising three times per week for a few months to see how it impacts you. The best type of exercise for depression is aerobic exercise, which includes activities such as running or biking. Think of an exercise you might enjoy and mark the days you will do it into your calendar.
- Develop an Activity Schedule – Activity scheduling is a simple yet effective means of treating depression.[iii] It helps people work through symptoms such as a lack of motivation, numbness, and lack of pleasure in activities that used to be enjoyable. Activity scheduling simply entails deciding ahead of time what you are going to do each day and each week. You put it in your calendar and follow through regardless of how you feel. This is the most important part – to follow through with the plans, even if you feel terrible or that it will not be pleasurable. Over time, as you re-engage in life, many people begin to re-develop a desire to participate in meaningful activities.
- Read a Self-Help Book– What good books have you read lately? Bibliotherapy – reading books as one aspect of therapy – is a helpful complementary treatment for depression.[iv] Not sure what to read? Try a memoir such as Noonday Demon, a workbook such as Retrain Your Brain, or a best-seller such as Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy.
- Counseling and Medication Management – Complementary treatments can be important aspects of helping yourself when you have depression. However, many people also need the help of a trained therapist who can provide cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) for depression. Cognitive behavioral therapy and medication are two of the most effective treatments in the management of depression.[v] If you have never taken steps to be assessed for counseling and medication, consider committing to this in 2018.
Depending on the level of severity, depression can be treated in an outpatient mental health center, day program, or residential treatment center. Consider calling us today to learn how you can be assessed by one of our trained mental health professionals. If you choose to come in, you can also be assessed by a psychiatrist who can determine if an anti-depressant or other medication might help you. We would love to help you move past your depression in the new year.
[i] Dodding, C. J., Nasel, D. D., Murphy, M., & Howell, C. All in for mental health: A pilot study of group therapy for people experiencing anxiety and/or depression and a significant other of their choice. Mental Health and Family Medicine, 5(1), 41-49.
[ii] Blumenthal, J. A., Smith, P. J., and Hoffman, B. M. (2012). Is exercise a viable treatment for depression? ACSMs Health & Fitness Journal, 16(4), 14-21.
[iii] Cuijpers, P., van Straten, A., Wamerdam, L. (2007). Behavioral activation treatments of depression: A meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology Review, 27, 318-326.
[iv] Jorm, A. F., Christensen, H., Griffiths, K. M., and Rodgers, B. (2002). Effectiveness of complementary and self-help treatments for depression. Center for Mental Health Research, 176, 84-96.
[v] Driessen, E. & Hollon, S. D. (2010). Cognitive behavioral therapy for mood disorders: Efficacy, moderators, and mediators. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 33(3), 537-555.