Woman smiling in field after overcoming depression.

My Top 5 Skills to Overcome Depression

Depression is one of my clients’ most common struggles, and I’ve had to climb out of that pit myself. There are many tools you can use to manage it, but when you’re feeling this low it’s hard to know where to start. Here’s what helped me overcome depression, simplified. Perhaps it will help you, too!

1. Get Plenty of Sleep

Poor sleep can cause you to feel tired, sad, more easily stressed out, and unable to concentrate. You are more likely to feel anxious or overwhelmed, too. These issues mirror those of depression, and can make overcoming depression more difficult.

If you lie awake trying to fall asleep, practice clearing your mind with meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, or with a nightly routine. If your main issue is getting yourself into bed, identify what activities get in the way, and set a limit on how late you’ll let yourself do them. For instance, I don’t start reading new books after 6pm because I know they’ll keep me up.

Sleep issues can be vague and hard to untangle. Consider consulting a therapist or having a sleep study done if you struggle to solve it on your own.

2. Get a Check-up

Physical illnesses, low exercise, and poor nutrition can contribute to depression. Ask your doctor to run a few blood tests to rule out physical causes that might be making you feel down. Low levels of sunlight, Vitamin D, iron and B12 are common deficiencies for my clients with depression.

Follow your doctor’s recommendation. This may include taking supplements or changing your diet, exercising more, or taking medication. Or your doctor might find no physical causes, in which case I’d suggest exercising and getting outside anyway. It almost always helps.

3. Overcome Depression By Writing About Your Feelings

When you’re depressed, a lot of your thoughts will feel stagnant, hopeless, or like they’re going in circles. It’s hard not to get caught up in your own head. Writing these thoughts down fixes them in place and makes it easier to look at them more objectively.

If you aren’t used to writing, try a few of these prompts:

  • Think back to a time you felt upset. What was the event that caused it? What thoughts went through your mind? How did you feel?
  • Look at a list of emotion words. Which ones apply to you right now?
  • What do you wish other people knew about what you’re experiencing?
  • If your problems were gone when you woke up tomorrow, how would you spend your day?
  • What would you want a compassionate friend to say to you right now?

Many of my clients find that when they write down their thoughts, they feel a greater sense of control over them, and it’s easier to be compassionate to themselves. The fears and frustrations that seemed overwhelming become manageable problems they can study. This takes time and regular practice, but helps greatly with overcoming depression.

4. Overcome Depression By Reaching Out For Help

It’s incredibly difficult to overcome depression on your own. You might have a voice in the back of your head saying, “I don’t want to burden others,” or “My problems aren’t that important.” That voice is wrong. If a person you loved was going through this, and feeling as bad as you do, would you want them to hide it from you? Probably not. Your friends and family will likely want you to tell them about your needs, too.

If you’re worried about putting too much on other people’s shoulders, ask them whether they’re in a good mental space for it. If they tell you it’s fine, and they can handle it, take them at their word. Trust them to tell you if they need a break.

You can also work with a therapist or other mental health professional. Therapists are trained not only to support your recovery, but to teach you skills for managing your thoughts and getting things done. We can also help you work on other mental health issues that might influence your depression, such as trauma, anxiety, loneliness or grief. If you’re thinking of ending your life, call or text the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, or find your local warmline if you just need someone to talk to.

Lastly, if you suspect that your problems are no big deal, or don’t deserve attention because other people have it worse…it’s good to seek support for milder depression, because that’s the best way to prevent it from getting worse! I love it when people come to me with “small” issues because it makes treatment faster and easier. You don’t have to be at rock-bottom for help to be worthwhile.

5. And Finally…Sometimes You Just Have to Hold On

The good news is that nearly all of my depressed clients eventually recover. We have a wide variety of tools to try, more than I could ever list in a blog post, and eventually something almost always helps.

The bad news is that it is not easy, and sometimes it takes a long time. Sometimes it’s an accomplishment just to get out of bed in the morning. I’m here to tell you to keep going, because even if you do everything “right,” and see a therapist, your brain will still need time to uncoil from “depressed mode” and start healing. You might have to practice exercising, writing, socializing when you don’t feel like it, and more, for several weeks or months before you notice a difference. But it can happen, even if you’ve lived with it for years.

Depression is not permanent. All you have to do is outlast it. And I believe you can.