What to do if you're depressed | Education Support

What to do if you're depressed

One of the most important things to do is to firstly recognise that you are depressed rather than feeling that this is just how I am or it has to be.

It is often hard to know what will help as mostly individuals do not have the training to be able to work out what the causes are. Going to a psychological professional to help work out what is causing the depression will help inform what may work best for example is it to do with events in our historic past or more recent past or an illness?  

What to do

Here is some advice and information that may help. However the you should get advice on your individual circumstances from a professional either a counsellor, psychotherapist, psychiatrist or doctor. 

  • Counselling, psychotherapy and other talking therapies are often highly effective in helping people with depression. Call our helpline for emotional support: 08000 562561 or visit your GP as a starting point.
  • Medication can help change brain chemistry and if you are not coping it can be of help. You should consult a doctor and there is significant evidence that medication taken in conjunction with talking therapy is more effective  Not all medication works and sometimes people have to try a few types of antidepressants before they start feeling better.  Also, there can be side effects like numbness, lack of libido and others. Currently there is research being done on treating depression with MDMA, Psilocybin and other drugs that can build resilience prior to stressful events to help mitigate feelings of stress and depression. This is very exciting as currently antidepressants are not as effective as we would want them to be for enough of the population.
  • Exercising and getting out into nature can kick start changes in our brain chemistry which increase our levels of serotonin and dopamine.  Even a fast walk for 20 minutes can be useful to change brain chemistry and stop the inner monologue that can cause or make our depression worse (See Physical wellbeing).
  • Spending time with people who we trust and feel care for us
  • Journaling: Our thoughts have a profound influence over our feelings and so managing these can often help with depression:
    • Write down your thoughts and feelings
    • Share this with someone trusted and spot the errors in thinking e.g. are we catastrophising, blaming self or others, labelling, mind reading etc.
    • Rescript to correct errors in thinking and provide a more realistic narrative e.g. if we are telling ourselves that we are useless and never going to find a job, it can have a large impact on our how we feel; writing down thoughts that are more realistic can help e.g. I was upset to not get the job I went for, this is not a prediction of the future and does not mean I will never get a job, I can get some feedback, work out what I can do differently next time and put a plan together to get some help for the next one  (see ABC model).
  • Doing activities that we used to like even if we do not feel like doing them.
  • Laughing can also change our brain chemistry whether this is doing activities, watching good comedy, or being around children.
  • Sometimes faking it initially can kick start feeling better e.g. dressing well, doing something enjoyable, reaching out to people, or doing something that we are good at.
  • Eating; what we put in our bodies can often affect our feelings and moods  (See Eating well) Eating a balanced and nutritious diet can help you feel better, think clearly and increase energy levels. When people over eat fatty foods or those high in sugar, it can lead to more depressive feelings or heighten anxiety.  Also, the guilt people experience when they over eat can exacerbate their depression.  Under eating can also affect our performance by reducing the ability of our rational brain.  We need our rational brain (pre frontal cortex) to help counter errors in thinking like catastrophising and  labelling.
  • Sleep.  Sleeping when depressed can sometimes be really difficult even when trying all advice given (see Sleeping well).  If so seek help from professionals.
  • Mindfulness and meditation. Mindfulness and meditation help to quieten the internal dialogue that can cause depression or make it worse.  It also builds our emotional muscle so we are less likely to experience stress, anxiety or other difficult emotional states that can either cause or make depression worse. You can either join a group or use the many apps found in Spotify, ITunes, or through the apps on your mobile phone.
  • Peer support; even though this may be the furthest thing you want to do, doing a group activity can help on a number of levels. Joining a choir, a walking group, a running group etc. can provide companionship, peer support and you will get the benefits of the activity too.

What can you do?