About 80% of the population will experience some bout of depression within their lifetime, making it crucial we understand how to manage and cope with it both for ourselves and for recognizing the signs in others.  Of course, only trained professionals can make an official diagnosis and provide treatment for the root cause of the condition, but being aware of these symptoms and understanding how to manage them is the first step in helping ourselves and/or others to get the help they need.

First, if you are someone who struggles with depression it is essential that you familiarize yourself with your own red flags. Not taking care of yourself, stress, sadness, guilt, lack of interest, and social isolation are a few common ones. In order to successfully cope with depression and decrease the likelihood of symptoms re-emerging, it is essential that you take time to care for yourself each day. This should be part of your regular routine, even if it’s just taking 5 minutes to breathe or keeping a mood journal to better assess your emotions. Make sure you are taking time to re-fuel your tank and keeping yourself balanced while managing stress.

Second, exercise regularly. Whether it be through walking, yoga, running, or taking your favorite spin class. Exercise regulates hormones for stress, sleep, and hunger and works to keep your body balanced.  By making this part of your self-care routine you not only enhance the mind-body connection, but you help to keep several regulatory systems in check. Some studies have even shown moderate to high intensity cardiovascular exercise for 45 minutes 4-5x/week to have the same effect as medication on improving mood and symptoms of depression overall. Our bodies crave movement, please listen to them!

Third, focus on giving your body whole, natural foods and lean protein sources to ensure you’re giving it the proper fuel it needs.  If we feed our bodies junk, we are going to feel like junk. If we feed our bodies well, we are going to feel well. Depression can actually increase inflammation within our bodies and chronic inflammation, likewise, can create symptoms similar to depression. The better we are at focusing on increasing essential nutrients  and hydrating with water, the more successful we’ll be in managing our overall health in the long run. Do not rely on caffeine or other substances not prescribed by a physician to help cope. Although they may temporarily improve your feelings, they end up wreaking havoc on your regulatory systems in the long run. If you’re feeling anxious or experiencing sleeplessness and restlessness, try and avoid caffeine containing products as this can exacerbate your symptoms and increase gas and bloating. Likewise, if you are feeling down, try to avoid alcohol as it can impede judgement, increase feelings of guilt, and negatively impact your sleep quality. If you feel the need to rely on substances to help get through the day, consider this as one of your red flags and a major signal to take a break to destress and/or seek help form a mental health professional.

Lastly, talk with someone. Whether it be a friend, family member, or mental health professional, it is essential to have positive support structures in our lives.  Keeping a good social circle both in good times and bad, improves our wellbeing as a whole and gives us a sense of purpose. Maintain and fuel positive connection sources in your life, and try to weed out the negative ones. We are only as good as the company we keep, and it’s important to have people we love, rely on, and trust. Talking things out with either a friend or a mental health professional can help to change our thought patterns and gain positive insights or perspective. Remember that you’re not alone. At the end of the day, we’re all human and it’s okay to ask for help!

Be self aware, exercise regularly to give your hormones and mood a boost, fuel your body with whole, natural foods and surround yourself with good people. Coping with depression looks different to each person, and the tips above will help to point your body chemistry and mindset in the right direction.  Don’t hesitate to schedule appointment with a mental health provider or your physician if you feel you need it. You’re important!

Note: Common symptoms of depression include general lack of interest or pleasure, frequently feeling down or sad, weight loss/gain, changes in appetite, too much and/or too little sleep, sense of hopelessness, fatigue, irritability, feelings of guilt, increasing anxiety, feelings of dread, mood swings, inability to concentrate, and sometimes suicidal ideation. Sometimes these are accompanied by other symptoms not listed or present in a combination of symptoms listed above, ranging in severity.