If you are suffering from depression, it’s a big step to think about self-help. The readiness to help yourself shows that you fundamentally trust yourself – even if you don’t realise that a lot of the time. And it shows that you want to care for yourself. We’d like to support you with these 5 self-help tips for depression. The steps we recommend can help you work your way back towards a better quality of life.
Many people suffering from depression withdraw into themselves. They are not in the mood for activities or conversations. To help yourself out of this state of withdrawal, you can set the goal of contacting one friend or family member today. It doesn’t have to be a visit or call, it could also be a voice message or a text.
2 Do something good for yourself
During a depressive phase many people forget what they actually enjoy. So think about three things you could do for yourself today. It could be something delicious to eat, your favourite film or book, or a song you haven’t heard for ages. Choose one thing and let yourself feel it doing you good.
What did you do for fun before you got depressed? What activities were you into? “Being active” in this sense doesn’t mean going jogging. It’s about activities that are naturally appealing to you – it might be a shopping trip, going to a cafe or the cinema, or a game of poker. Think about three activities like this and make a plan to do at least one over the next three days.
Outsmart your brain with just three letters
Sometimes the language we use influences us without us realising it. A word that we use a lot is “but”. “I would like to go to the birthday party, but I’m too sad.” In this sentence your depressed mood is virtually forbidding you from doing a positive activity. Try replacing “but” with “and”.
Exercise instructions: Write down three things that are stopping you from being more active, maintaining your relationships and doing something good for yourself.
- I would like to be more active, but…
- I would like to see my friends/family more often, but…
- I would like to do something good for myself, but…
Then write the same sentences but with “and” instead of “but”. Read the “and” sentences through again. As you’re doing so, pay attention to the fact that you can actually do things and be in a depressed mood at the same time. The change in language can lead to a change inside your head.
4Observe your thoughts
Many people with depression suffer from repeated unpleasant thoughts. Have a go, perhaps right after reading this article, at observing your thoughts for five minutes. That means being aware of them but trying not to react to them. Don’t keep turning them over in your head. You might be able to catch your mind constantly chewing over the same or similar thoughts. If you observe your thoughts in this way it will help you to distance yourself from them. This way fewer unpleasant feelings will arise.
5Observe your feelings
Just as you paid attention to your thoughts, you can do the same with your feelings. Feelings can seem overwhelming. Sometimes it feels like we are helpless as they crash over us like a wave. But who is really being overwhelmed by who here? Try to discover the “observer” in you, which becomes aware of the feeling. You can be a witness to how feelings come and go. Practise and experiment identifying more with the “observer” than with the feeling. This technique can gradually help you gain more mental stability.
The way out of depression: self-help in daily life
If you have spoken to other people about how you are feeling, you have probably already been given a few tips. But how do you motivate yourself to implement them? Have a go at doing one thing to help yourself every day. For example, you could plan to do a nice activity every other day, to call a friend once a week, for example on Mondays, and to do something for yourself every evening. And make the observer of your thoughts and feelings into a daily companion. You can set aside a set time period in which you observe your thoughts and feelings particularly attentively, for example the first ten minutes after you wake up.
One step at a time
It’s very important not to push yourself too hard. If you aim to do too much, you risk not managing it all and getting frustrated. In the worst-case scenario you might give up on your whole self-help project. So for example, instead of planning a day trip you might go for a half-hour walk. At first, don’t contact people you often have conflict with, but get in touch with people who are always supportive. Don’t try to observe your thoughts and feelings all day long, but instead just for a few minutes – but really concentrate. This way you can gradually improve your mood. Be patient and kind to yourself.
If you have tried implementing these tips for a while but you haven’t noticed any improvement, our online course for depression can give you further help. Over six weeks, you will learn effective strategies to reduce depressive symptoms and to improve your mood in the long term. You can find more information on the course page.