We all experience sadness or disappointment from time to time, but depression is more than just feeling “blue.” With depression, everyday activities like work, school, and socializing can become more challenging and it can even make people lose interest in activities they once enjoyed. Seeking help for depression or approaching a loved one about changes in their behavior can be intimidating and nerve-wracking, (and if you’re the one experiencing depression it might seem too hard) but this mood disorder is treatable.
Here’s how you can talk with a friend, family member, or coworker about depression and address your own mental health if you need help overcoming depression.
You’re Not Alone
Recently, mental health advocates have made a big push to normalize mental illness and bring attention to a subject that frequently gets swept under the rug. Regardless of age, race, health, background, or personality, depression can affect anyone. In fact, according to Mental Health First Aid, nearly one in 10 U.S. adults will have a mood disorder in any given year, and depression is one of the most commonly experienced disorders.
If you or a loved one is experiencing depression, know that you’re not alone. Thanks to mental health awareness, it’s becoming easier and easier to recognize the signs, get help, and learn to manage symptoms.
Signs and Symptoms of Depression
The signs of depression can range from mild to severe and while sadness can certainly be an element, there are plenty of other symptoms to look out for. Some of these include:
- Persistent sadness or an “empty” mood
- Decrease in energy
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty sleeping
- Anger or irritability
- Changes in appetite or diet
- Unexplained physical aches and pains
- Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Depression is a very real illness that should be taken seriously. Although difficult situations like the loss of a loved one or the end of a relationship can cause someone to feel sad for an extended period of time, it’s important to note that being sad is not the same thing as having depression.
Another misconception is that depression is the result of a sad event occurring. However, different factors like the chemicals in your brain, genetics, personality, and exposure to violence, neglect, abuse, or poverty can make people more vulnerable to depression, but it is not necessarily “caused” by something bad that happened.
How to Help Yourself When You’re Dealing With Depression
Depression can feel like a giant obstacle to overcome, but there are small steps you can take to manage your symptoms and feel more in control of your wellbeing.
- Meet Yourself Where You’re At – Recognizing that depression affects millions of people and that you’re not alone can help you accept yourself during an emotionally challenging time. Be kind and loving to yourself throughout the process and know that each day with depression can be different.
- Challenge Negative Thoughts – Depression can change your entire outlook and bring a negative perspective to your thoughts. Learn to challenge these ideas when they come up and seek out the good in each situation instead of jumping to the worst conclusion.
- Build a Support Network – Loneliness and isolation can be signs of depression and increased time alone can make symptoms worse. Establishing time to connect with loved ones can reaffirm your self-worth and help you develop a strong social support network to get through the bad times.
- Set Yourself Up for Success – A mood disorder can make it difficult for you to accomplish everyday tasks like cleaning the house or cooking dinner. Set yourself up for success by making small, attainable goals. Instead of cleaning the entire house, just sweep one room, and if you don’t think you can cook an entire meal, at least try to find a healthy takeout option. Smaller goals motivate you to push through a task and set your sights on the next small thing so you can keep moving forward.
- Improve Your Sleep – Sleep is essential to good mental health. If you’re sleeping too much or too little, try to create a healthy sleep routine that involves going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, shutting down screens at least an hour before bed, and aiming for eight hours of sleep each night.
- Eat Healthier – Your diet can have an impact on the way your mind and body feel. Try limiting stimulants like caffeine, coffee, and alcohol and boost your intake of proteins, fruits, vegetables, grains, and water.
- Exercise More – Studies have shown exercise can be an effective, natural treatment for depression because it releases feel-good chemicals like endorphins while burning off stress-related chemicals like cortisol. Start with small goals, like just taking a walk around the block a few times a day and work up to more intense or longer exercises as you feel mentally and physically ready.
- Spend Time Outside – Don’t underestimate the power of nature and time spent outdoors when it comes to combatting depression. The vitamin D you get from the sun plays a crucial role in increases serotonin levels, which can boost your mood while also helping your body strengthen its immune system and fight off infections.
How to Help a Loved One Through Depression
If someone you love is depressed, you might feel frustrated, afraid, or even helpless as you watch them navigate difficult emotional challenges. It’s normal to feel confused or overwhelmed by a loved one’s depression, but there’s plenty you can do to support them while still looking after your own mental health and wellbeing. Start the conversation by making simple statements like “I’ve been feeling concerned about you lately,” or ask a question such as “How can I best support you right now?” From there, you can offer support and assistance in finding professional help.
- Listen Without Judgement – Acknowledging that a loved one is depressed and letting them know that you’re there to support them can make a world of difference. Make sure they know that you understand depression is not their fault.
- Educate Yourself – You can’t “fix” someone else’s depression, but you can educate yourself to better understand their condition, confront stigma, and offer viable resources or information.
- Be Patient – Some people may be more prone to depression after they’ve experienced it once before. Be patient and remember that just because someone is having a better or day they seem to have overcome mental illness, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will never come back.
- Encourage Activities – A strong social support network is essential for someone struggling with depression. Respect your loved one’s boundaries, but invite them to participate in normal activities with you like walks, game nights, or trips to the coffee shop to help them feel included and know that support is always nearby.
- Help With Everday Tasks – Another simple way to help out someone with depression is to take some of the load off their plate. Maybe this means walking their dog once a week or doing the dishes. Everyday tasks can feel daunting to someone when some days it’s a challenge to even get out of bed, so helping out in small ways can make a huge difference.
- Encourage Professional Help – Mental health professionals like therapists, counselors, and peer specialists can help someone who is depressed and offer a variety of treatment methods to meet their specific needs. Encourage your loved one to seek professional help when you begin to notice the signs of depression.
- Set Healthy Boundaries – Supporting someone with a mood disorder can be draining. Make sure you take some time away to recharge and address your own mental health and wellness needs.
Warning Signs and When to Seek Help
Although depression is a common mental illness, it should be taken very seriously. Watch for signs of suicidal thoughts and behaviors, non-suicidal self-injury, or other warning signs like extreme mood swings. If you observe these behaviors in a loved one, you should seek emergency help. If you are suffering through depression and begin to have suicidal thoughts, tell someone you trust and get help immediately.
Depression is a treatable mental illness and people can recover. Whether you or a loved one is feeling depressed, every person’s experience with mental illness is different but help is available. Visit our Key Services page to learn more about the treatment methods we offer and to explore our list of additional health and wellness classes to support your overall mental health.
If you are in a crisis, please call us at 303-425-0300 or by calling the crisis line at 844-493-8255. The 24/7 crisis walk-in center and withdrawal management program is open at 4643 Wadsworth Blvd, Wheat Ridge, CO 80033.