Self Help for Depression - what's the best approach?

THE first thing to realise when looking at self help for depression is that the very nature of depression can make self help difficult. If your depression is making it difficult to think clearly, your best option may be to get help from a trained professional. If you are going to go the self help route, take a look at the Depression Learning Path before you do so, to make sure you get someone who knows how to treat depression.

However, if you feel up to helping yourself, here is a comprehensive list of what you need to do.

  1. Get a good understanding of what depression is. Self help for depression is much more effective once you know what you are dealing with. Complete the Depression Learning Path and ensure you know clearly what is going on.
  2. Regulate your sleep patterns. Get up no later than 8am and go to bed no later than 11.30pm, even if you can't sleep. If you have problems getting up in the morning, get someone else to rouse you, or have a friend call.
  3. Eat 3 meals a day, whether you are hungry or not, at the right times.
  4. Ensure you get outside early to make sure you get enough bright light to help regulate your sleep patterns.
  5. Do things to occupy your mind. If you have nothing to do all day, you will tend to ruminate over your problems.
  6. If you are facing a big problem, make the decision to put off thinking about it for, say, 2 weeks, or whatever is appropriate in your case. If you cannot put it off, speak to someone else who you know to be a good practical problem solver.
  7. Begin a 'depression diary'. In this rate each day from 1 to 10, where 1 is the worst kind of day, and 10 the best. This will help break down the 'all or nothing' thinking that depression can cause.
  8. Get as much exercise as you can. Make yourself walk briskly every day, at least. If you have any concerns about your health, see your doctor before beginning this. Research shows that exercise can lift depression.
  9. Get some kind of relaxation during the day. If you know how to do meditation, self hypnosis, tai chi or some other mind-calming technique, do it. It will help reduce the physical effects of the depression greatly.
  10. Start challenging your own thinking about things. If you find yourself thinking about things in a depressive way, as outlined in Thinking Styles that Cause Depression, deliberately think in a new way. A good way to do this is to write down the original thought, then generate some alternatives.
  11. Understand that depression is not part of you, it is due to a set of symptoms. These symptoms cause you to feel, think and act differently to normal. Once depression goes, things will be different. And when you have the skills to beat it, it is more likely to stay away.
  12. If you like what you read in the Depression Learning Path, consider our step-by-step guide to applying the principles to your own situation: Depression Self Help Program

Self help for depression can be difficult. Don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Once you have beaten it, you can help others.

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Take the Depression Learning Path for answers to all of your depression questions.