Everyone has off days where they feel tired, irritable, and sad. It’s normal to feel sadness as a response to challenging life events, loss, or changes, but sometimes these feelings can stick around for a while if left unaddressed and make it difficult for you to get through each day.
Here’s how you can tell when you’re in a “funk” or maybe even experiencing a mild depression as well as what you can do to help yourself feel better.
What’s the Difference Between Sadness and Depression?
Whether you’ve lost a loved one, moved to a new place, or missed out on a job opportunity, there are plenty of stressful and upsetting events that can get you down. However, the difference between sadness and depression is that sadness usually passes with a little time, while depression is a mood disorder that can appear without any specific cause and last for two weeks or more.
Depression impacts almost every part of your life, interfering with how you think, feel, and go about your daily activities like sleeping, working, and socializing. Some common symptoms of depression include:
- Feeling “empty”
- Lack of energy
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty sleeping or sleeping more than normal
- Changes in appetite or weight
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Loss of interest in hobbies or activities
- Irritability or restlessness
- Aches and pains without clear physical causes
- Thoughts of death or suicide
To be diagnosed with depression, these symptoms must be present nearly all day, every day for at least two weeks.
What Causes Depression?
Although some people’s depression can be influenced by major life events, the truth is that depression can happen to anyone without cause or warning. In fact, depression is one of the most common mood disorders; 8.7% of women and 5.3% of men experience depression every year. Research has suggested that factors such as genetics, biology, environment, and psychology can all play a role in depression.
It’s important to note that depression exists on a scale from mild to severe, but even in mild cases it should be taken seriously. Depression is not simply a “bad mood” or something that someone can “snap out of,” but luckily it is very treatable.
How Can You Get Yourself Out of a Funk?
Although depression can become a very clinical subject, many of the ways to help yourself through this mood disorder are very simple and practical. Self-care is a key component to living a happy, healthy life and between your diet, exercise, daily routines, and social interactions there are plenty of steps you can take to influence your mood. As you move through your depression, be open to trying new approaches and understand that it might take a combination of these self-care practices before you notice a change in your mood.
1. Eat a Healthy Diet
What you eat can have a significant impact on the way your body and mind feel. While you might want to reach for snacks packed with sugar or fat when you’re feeling low, it’s best to stick to a healthy balance of fruits, vegetables, and proteins that will improve your energy levels and keep you nourished. Avoid skipping meals and be sure to eat meals at regular times to help you maintain a routine throughout the day. Additionally, you should limit the amount of caffeine and alcohol you drink, which can negatively impact your mood.
2. Get More Exercise
Studies have shown that just doing 15 minutes of moderate exercise a day can significantly decrease symptoms of anxiety, stress, and depression. This is because exercise helps to break down stress hormones like cortisol while releasing feel-good endorphins at the same time. However, not every activity needs to get your heart pumping and sweat running to be an effective tool against depression. Some other ways to exercise include:
- Walking for thirty minutes
- Cleaning the house
- Washing your car
- Going for a bike ride
- Playing outside with your kids
- Taking your dog for a walk
Experts recommend getting at least thirty minutes of activity each day to help regulate your mood as well as improve your overall health and protect against other risks like obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.
3. Soak Up Some Sun
Another self-care aspect that is easy to overlook when all you want to do is sit on the couch is getting outside into the sunshine! Sunlight and darkness trigger different hormones in your brain and too much time spent inside can have a huge impact on your mood. Along with boosting your serotonin levels, spending some time outside can help increase Vitamin D production, lower your blood pressure, build stronger bones, and allow you to get more quality sleep.
4. Get Quality Sleep
Sleep is something that can quickly influence every other part of your life, especially if you’re not sleeping well. Depression and sleep go hand in hand because a lack of sleep may cause or contribute to depressive symptoms and depression can cause sleep problems, ultimately impairing your ability to function on a daily basis.
To support a healthy sleep cycle, make sure that you keep a regular bedtime and waking up schedule, avoid taking naps, and get into bright light soon after waking up to signal to your brain that it’s time to start the day. Limiting your caffeine and alcohol intake and getting some exercise during the day will also help you get to sleep faster each night.
5. Socialize with Friends and Family
Even if you are experiencing mild depression or a “funk,” you might find yourself drawing away from others, avoiding social situations, or not wanting to burden people with your feelings. One of the hardest but most helpful things you can do to see yourself through depression is to find that strong support circle and spend time with the people you love.
Schedule times to visit with family and friends or plan to grab lunch with a coworker so you have a specific time and place where you can lean on others when you’re feeling blue. You might also find that some of these people have experienced depression themselves and they might be able to relate with you on the subject and share ideas of what has helped them in the past or just lend an open ear.
6. Plan Fun Activities
Before experiencing depression, you probably had plenty of interests, hobbies, and favorite activities that occupied your free time. Although you might have lost interest in those things recently, it doesn’t mean your passion has completely disappeared. Even when you don’t feel like it or you feel too exhausted to engage with anything, try to spend a little time doing the things that once brought you joy. This could be cooking a delicious meal, making artwork, listening to music, journaling, or even working on your car. Eventually, you will find yourself enjoying these activities again and feeling more like yourself each day.
7. Be Kind to Yourself
One last important way that you can help yourself through any difficult situation is to be kind to yourself. Remember that it’s not your fault if you are feeling depressed. Be your own ally and show yourself plenty of compassion as you work through challenging situations and days where it seems like nothing will ever make you feel better. Depression is a highly treatable disorder and you can come out on the other side.
When to Seek Professional Help
Any level of depression should be taken seriously and the faster you address the symptoms, the less likely you are to develop a more severe type of depression. Seeking professional help is a sign of bravery and self-respect because it shows that you are dedicated to caring for your mind and body. A therapist can offer more clinical advice and guide you through treatment with approaches that are more tailored to your specific situation and needs. However, if you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, tell someone you trust and seek assistance immediately.
Everyone experiences low points in their life and their mental health, but depression is a treatable mental illness and you 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.