Serious depression can be treated, but it is easier to treat it early. It is important to stay in close contact with your doctor and/or therapist if you are chronically depressed. Still, as with mania, you can try to minimize the likelihood of a depressive episode by taking certain practical measures in your daily life.
Tending Mind and Body
Things will always go less than perfectly and it's normal to gripe a bit when they do, but when negative thoughts become dominant, you are increasing your chances of sliding into depression. It affects your ability to function and can lead to a skewed view of everything in your life. Breaking the cycle of self-defeating thoughts can increase your resilience and your ability to handle setbacks and stress. Cognitive behavioral or other therapy may help you with this.
In addition to doing away with negative thought patterns, there are other things you can do that have been reported to improve mood. Fresh air, exercise, and a balanced diet can help you feel good about yourself. But try to make eating well and exercising fun, not work. Try different exercises and/or find someone to exercise with. Choose activities that interest you. Rather than forcing yourself to go outside, can you find something you enjoy doing indoors, or vice versa? If you truly hate going to a gym, is there some other form of exercise — such as taking long walks — you enjoy more? You are in charge. Experiment, find what works for you, but get moving before you fall into a slump that gets worse and worse.
Many people benefit from taking up meditation or other relaxation techniques. If you cannot afford classes, use books or tapes from your public library. But take charge and fill your time with healthy habits.
A Well-Paced Life
Remember the advice: Nothing in excess. Try not to do too much or too little. If you are pushing yourself too hard, you might become unhappy, especially if things go wrong after all your effort. You also might wear down your immune system and make yourself vulnerable to physical illness.
By contrast, doing nothing day after day can be depressing for anyone. If you are unable to work outside the home, perhaps there is work you could do at home. Or if unable to work at all, you might be able to take up a craft or hobby that engages your attention. If money is an issue, there is the public library. Become well read or an expert on a given topic. Set a goal such as reading the complete works of a certain author.
Even though a solid 80 percent of the people who seek treatment for depression find improvement, the majority of people afflicted by the illness do not seek treatment. Their depression not only keeps them from accomplishing all they could, but negatively affects the people they know and love.
Consider volunteer work. You might meet some good people while doing something that helps others, and remind yourself there can be a deeper purpose for living.
If you work, plan interesting evenings, weekends, and vacations. Open your world to people and things other than yourself.