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Depression treatment - Self care

While psychotherapy and antidepressants can be effective treatments for depression, there are steps you can take on your own to keep depressive episodes at a minimum, or better cope when they hit.

Get exercise

Medical studies have shown that exercise is an inexpensive and effective supplemental therapy for depression and is also helpful for anxiety. Both aerobic (such as walking, biking, and jogging) and nonaerobic exercise (e.g. strength training, yoga) work equally well. Just make sure that you exercise at a moderate level of intensity (about 50 percent of your maximum heart rate), for 20 to 60 minutes for at least three times weekly.

Of course, exercise can be risky for people with certain medical conditions, so please check with your doctor before you start any exercise program, just to make sure that it's safe for you.

Manage stress

Try to take life as easy as possible. See this as a time of recuperation and healing. Delay stressful interactions until you are feeling better.

You can also try to lessen your feelings of stress and anxiety by practicing a relaxation technique such as meditation or guided imagery. Choose carefully, however. Some meditation techniques focus on rather depressing concepts such as the impermanence of life. Don't meditate on anything that might worsen your depression. Instead, choose a neutral meditation technique such as concentrating on your breath. Or meditate on an uplifting subject -- an inspiring prayer, for example.

Change negative thinking

Making an effort to change negative thoughts to more positive ones can help you feel better. One way to change your thinking patterns is to keep a diary. Recording painful or unpleasant situations and your responses to them can help you better understand your thought processes.

Find support

Depression is an invisible disease, so it's easy to think that you're all alone. Talking with others who have this disease will remind you that you're not the only person who has lived with depression. Members of a support group can give you practical suggestions on how to deal with the symptoms of depression, and are living proof that you can feel good again.

Join ThriveOnline's Depression and Anxiety Support Chat, Sundays at 9 p.m. ET. Find companionship and a place to share your story on the message boards.

Recognize warning signs

Don't forget the symptoms of depression. If you think you are entering a depressive state, seek help. Symptoms include:

  • Frequently feeling sad or empty
  • Loss of interest in, or enjoyment of, previously enjoyable activities
  • Weight loss (when not dieting) or weight gain
  • Insomnia or oversleeping
  • Agitation, irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of energy
  • Feeling worthless, guilty, hopeless
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Indecisiveness
  • Repeated thoughts of death, suicide

Dos and don'ts

When you're depressed:

DO:

  • Take your antidepressant. It can't help you if you don't swallow it.
  • Attend your psychotherapy. One of the biggest reasons that therapy doesn't work is because people don't show up for their sessions.
  • Confide in a close friend or relative -- or both. Find a sympathetic ear. Research shows over and over that talking helps, and that having relationships with others helps.
  • Join a support group.
  • Tell your doctor if you're experiencing side effects or any other medical problems.
  • Tell someone you trust if you're feeling suicidal and get medical help.
  • Be as active as possible. If you can't concentrate, do something mindless like cleaning your house. Depressed people usually feel guilty about everything and they feel guilty when they lie in bed all day. So being active may give you a sense of accomplishment and at least will reduce your guilt level.
  • Volunteer. It sounds difficult, but studies have shown that depressed people feel better when they help others.

DON'T:

  • Stop taking your medication without first telling your doctor. You can go into withdrawal if you abruptly quit taking many types of antidepressants.
  • Make major decisions, such as changing a job, starting or ending a relationship, if you don't absolutely have to.
  • Drink or use drugs. These will worsen your depression and may interact with antidepressant medication to cause serious side effects or lessen the effectiveness of the antidepressant.
  • Forget that this is a temporary condition and you will feel better. The vast majority of depressive episodes respond to treatment within two to six weeks.
  • Keep working with a doctor or therapist with whom you don't feel comfortable.
  • Give up hope.

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Comments

My sister is showing signs of all of the above. Is she going to kill her self in the future because she doesn't see a reason to live? How can i help and or make fun of her to cure her illness so she can be the happy go lucky person she use to be.

I'm only 15 years old. I know people are thinking what the hell does this kid have to be depressed about? I've had a pretty crappy childhood and blah blah blah. But I thought I was over everything that has happened in the past and recently. I'm guessing it's just a phase but it's been going on for over a year now. I read about something saying 5 to 12% of guys suffer from serious depression and it sucks to think that I could possibly be in that percentage. I'm not some dumb teen feeling bad for himself. I've known something was up but i was never quite sure what exact until a few months ago. And I just read all of the symptoms of depression and I fall under practically every category.

I know I'm depressed but one one cares. Thanks you so much. This article was really helpful. I'm only 14 years old and I really want help. -Thanks again

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