Hi everyone! Today’s topic: ways to overcome depression. For the past few months in Spain, I’ve been working, traveling, and focusing on my future by studying for my LSAT. However, as exciting as the future can be, I want to reflect on the past and how far I’ve come. Learning how to manage my depression made it possible for me to be where I am today. My journey to recovery was a whole lot of trial and error. Using these experiences, I want to help others discover new ways to manage their mental health. These tips are useful in managing depression, but they can also be applied to other mental health illnesses like anxiety. Below, I listed the top 10 ways to overcome depression and how I stayed on track during my journey towards recovery!
10 Ways to Overcome Depression
1. See a therapist.
Showing up at my university’s clinic was the first step I took towards recovery. It was the first time that I reached out for help. This step helped me come to terms with the fact that I couldn’t deal with my depression alone. Some people, like those who see a psychologist for years while depressed, could argue that the therapy visits don’t help. However, I personally consider this an important step towards acknowledging your mental illness. Therapy helps you get into that ‘warrior recovery mode’ – a mentality that you don’t accept your current mental state and are willing to let others help you fight it. In addition, talking to someone helps you uncover realizations about yourself that you might of not seen otherwise. In therapy, you can share your thoughts, both the good and the bad, in a safe environment.
2. If you don’t know where to start, do the opposite of what you’re used to.
When I finally decided to take action and deal with my depression, I didn’t know where to begin. I was severely depressed for more than four years and couldn’t imagine life without it. Suffering from depression during your teenage years brings an especially unique challenge: it interferes with your development. During these years you grow and change the most (physically and mentally). However, depression can hinder the process of discovering who you are and who you want to be. By the time I found myself in college, depression was so engrained into who I was and who I though that I was. I didn’t know how to separate from myself and who I was without it. All I knew what that I didn’t want to be the person who I was with depression and so I decided to do and be the opposite.
What did this mean? It meant to stop listening to my depression. Even though my depression told me that I didn’t deserve to feel good because I allowed my depression to happen, I was to make myself feel good. I went out of my way to express my sense of fashion and to dress to feel nice. I made sure to do my make up more often to feel pretty. Contrary to what my depression told me, I did deserve to feel good about myself. I deserved all the things that my depression denied me.
Of all the ways to overcome depression, this might be the hardest habit to adapt. Fight your instincts and do what you know that you must.
3. Set small goals.
When tackling something as complicated as depression, it’s so important to cherish and celebrate the small victories. There will be times that you relapse or let depression get the best of you. When this happens (and it will!), you must not let those disappointments destroy you mentally. Set and complete daily goals. Goals like making the bed, reading for an hour, or completing small errands helps us feel in control and positive. Also setting long term goals such as getting an A on the class, finishing a book, or getting a good LSAT score, help us work towards something bigger yet feasible.
4. Get a support system and trust it.
As you progress through recovery, you’ll realize that it’s a cycle of ups and down. More than once, you’ll relapse and find it easier and comforting to let your depression take the reins; DON’T. Our ultimate goal is to fight back for control. However, sometimes you won’t have the energy to fight relapses. In moments like these, it’s important to have a support system to reach out to. Your support system should be people who care about you – your family, friends, mentors – who are a part of your recovery journey. Trust that they care and will help you feel better and support you. Trust them to motivate you to get back up and fight your mental illness.
5. Find a hobby.
Hobbies are important. They help you create (whether its intangible or tangible) and reminds you that you are capable of beautiful things. They give you a sense of identity and comfort, especially as you deal with the ups and downs of depression.
Exercise played one of the most important roles in my personal journey. Even now, I continue to go to the gym 4-5 times a week for mental clarity. Beyond the physical benefits of exercising, just an hour at the gym leaves me focused and boosts my confidence in tackling my day and goals. It’s no secret that exercise helps with the release of endorphins, a chemical that helps relieve pain and stress. I strongly encourage you to take advantage of this phenomenon! Even on days when I’m tired or down, just 30 minutes of weight training or cardio makes a world of a difference in my attitude.
7. Travel by yourself.
There’s no better way to learn about yourself than to spend some quality alone time. Solo traveling gives you the perfect opportunity to make decisions entirely on your own, to wander, and to explore. I treasure my study abroad experience in Buenos Aires during college so much for this reason. It played such a vital role in helping me learn who I was. Traveling through Patagonia in southern Argentina and experiencing the Atacama Desert in northern Chile reminded me how beautiful the world is and how life is worth living. Figuring out my travel plans and meeting so travelers from all across the world taught me how capable I was and how much I could learn from other people.
Discovering who you are is one of the most beautiful parts of life. Traveling is one of the best ways to overcome depression and to learn who you are destined to be. Even if you can’t take a trip out of the country or state, just a day out in the city or on a hike gives you time to reflect and look at the world around you. It’s a refreshing experience to be reminded that the world is full of possibilities and wonders.
8. Don’t give up.
Relapses are inevitable and the faster you accept it, the better off you’ll be. However, the best way to decrease and mitigate the effects of a relapse is to resist it. Obviously, this is easier said than done. But I’ll also be the first to tell you that recovering from depression isn’t easy. Resist the habits of your depression. This means that if you don’t feel like going out and being social, then go out. When you feel like crying in bed all day, dress up, do your make up, and call a friend. The key is to do these things automatically and mechanically. The minute you start to negotiate with yourself is the minute you lose and your depression wins. You won’t win every time. Luckily, over time, it’ll become easier and easier to overcome the depressive urges. Just don’t be too hard on yourself!
9. Fake it till you make it.
Embarking on a journey of recovery doesn’t mean that you know where you’re going. You probably don’t remember what it was like to get up from bed without heavy sadness. Most likely, you can’t imagine going about your day without a struggle or what it’s like to live blissfully in the moment, and that’s okay. Fortunately, you do have a vision of who you aspire to be. Someone happy and without depression controlling your life. With enough effort, you will become this person. Get comfortable with the uncomfortable as you embark on the journey of a better you and ignore the voice of depression. So get dressed and go out for a coffee with a friend. Laugh and socialize even though you might feel like you’re dying on the inside. Remember that you are actually not dying. You are surviving and you are alive. You will live to see that day when you finally make it.
10. Lose the shame, get comfortable with your depression.
As you continue with your journey of managing your depression, you will learn that depression is not you, only a part of you. For some, like myself, depression is something that will always be a part of our lives, and that’s okay. Through recovery, you’ll understand your relationship with depression and that any periods of sadness and heaviness won’t last. Recognize that depression is something that happens to you and don’t let it shame you;. You are strong and beautiful even with your scars.
And there they are folks, my top 10 ways to overcome depression. We are all different and while not all of these tips might not work for you, I’m sure that some will. Read them, chew them over, and see if any resonate with you. There are many ways to overcome depression. What habits did you use? What tips will you try? Let me know what you think!
(Republished from January 21, 2018)