This is the fifth article in a series about depression.
Q: What are some do’s and don’ts for people who are depressed?
A: The most important task for any depressed person is not to give up. Unfortunately, not giving up is also one of the most difficult tasks for anyone who is significantly depressed.
The family.org website enumerates important do’s and don’ts to help depressed persons help themselves. First, under do’s, is to pace oneself, followed by getting into activities that build positive self-esteem and feelings of achievement. The recommendation for exercise is 4 to 6 times a week for at least 30 minutes each session. For nutrition, one should eat well balanced meals and healthy foods. Getting enough sleep matters because sleep deprivation itself can cause depression.
Taking medication as directed is extremely important because if someone takes it less than regularly as directed, the medicines won’t work. Following the doctor’s recommendation for therapy is also important.
Depressed persons should set small goals because they might have less energy than normal for them. Depressed persons need to encourage themselves. Reading as much information as possible about depression and how to treat it might help someone get motivated for self-help. The last item on the what-to-do list is certainly among the most significant self-help suggestions. If someone starts thinking about suicide, that person needs to call the doctor or the suicide crisis center right away.
On the don’t list is do not use alcohol or any other drugs, either street drugs or prescription medications. These substances can worsen depression and cause harmful and dangerous side effects with antidepressant medication. Depressed persons should not isolate themselves from their significant others: their pastors, priests, rabbis, or family doctors.
Very important is for depressed persons not to blame themselves. Negative thinking is also part of depression and not to be believed, such as expecting to fail. Such thoughts will go away as the depression lifts. Because thinking is affected by depression, people who are depressed should not make major life decisions. If such decisions cannot be postponed until someone is no longer depressed, the recommendation is to choose someone trustworthy to help with that decision.
Depressed persons cannot expect to do everything they can do normally. A depressed person should set a realistic schedule that is modified. Depressed people should try not to get discouraged and work on developing patience with themselves. A final thing not to do is not to give up.
Additional do’s and don’ts are discussed in an article on patient info/health/depression. First, depressed persons should not bottle things up. Rather, they should tell people who are close to them how they feel. Depressed persons need to remember that most people do recover. Depression responds to individuals who distract themselves with things that do not need much concentration, such as watching TV or videos.
Depressed patients should tell their doctors if they feel they are getting worse. Depressed patients need to evaluate whether or not they need to take time off work. However, taking too much time off can be the wrong thing to do because brooding about problems at home can intensify negativity. Another issue to examine is whether or not there is a psychological problem causing the depression, such as past sexual abuse. If that is the case, counseling is available for those persons who have experienced past sexual abuse.
In an article entitled Mental Health Fitness, dedicated to self-care, there is a list of positive steps to dissipate depression. Educating oneself about the depression diagnosis and treatment plan is a good place to start helping oneself. Sticking with the plan is absolutely necessary. In order to accomplish keeping on the plan, depressed persons should learn how to manage stress, finding and trying out many different techniques.
Positive self-talk is recognizing negative and unproductive thoughts and turning them around to become positive. A tool that is helpful to many depressed people is journaling. Journaling means writing down one’s thoughts and feelings and starting to keep a journal. Spirituality means finding out what’s involved in one’s own spirituality and incorporating that into one’s frame of reference.
Everyone needs a positive support system, not one that is critical and judgmental.
But depressed persons, in particular, need strong support systems, to counteract their own negativity. Depressed individuals also need to learn coping skills and strategies for work that will keep them productive and healthy on the job.
When you think a friend or relative is depressed, talk with that person and encourage the person to make an appointment. Go with the person to see a doctor. Offer the depressed person emotional support, patience, understanding, and encouragement. Listen carefully when conversing with a depressed person. Never dismiss someone’s feelings, but it may be helpful to point out realities. Do not ignore comments about suicide and report these to the person’s therapist or doctor.
Invite the person who’s depressed to participate in activities. Examples would be walks, movies, or dinner. The person may refuse any invitations but a friend should keep trying. But beware of pushing the person to do too much too soon. That person may simply then avoid any contact with someone who expects too much or get more depressed because the person feels like a failure.
Provide help in getting a depressed person to a doctor’s appointment, such as driving the person to an appointment. Remind the depressed individual and oneself that depression takes a long time to lift. A depressed person may need unwavering support for a long time.
There are several ways to deal with giving someone long-term support. More than one or two friends or relatives can share that responsibility. There are also support groups for caregivers that deal with the stresses of caregiving. The final point to emphasize is the importance of self-care for the caregiver.
Not neglecting one’s own needs is exceedingly important or the caregiver will end up stressed out and/or depressed.
Next week’s article will continue with self-help tips for depressed persons and their significant others.
Judy Caprez is professor emeritus at Fort Hays State University.