Since the beginning of the pandemic, the United States has seen the number of depression diagnoses triple, according to the Boston University School of Public Health. These numbers only increased in 2021, and it is estimated that one in three adults is depressed. Coping with depression is difficult, and working with a mental health professional can help.
Getting into a routine to feel more like yourself is a good place to start. Consider the eight strategies for coping with depression below to get started.
1. Seek Support
Depression can seem like a monster, a dark thing that works to isolate you from friends, family, interests, work, and even from yourself. That is why seeking support from trusted friends and family is imperative for coping with depression.
It is easy to draw inward, but God created you for community. “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:25). Reach out to trusted family and friends. Connect with others at church through Bible studies or other groups. Find other activities in the community where you can meet new people. Friendships take work but are well worth it.
2. Fuel Your Body
What we eat impacts our physical and mental health, and making nutritious choices can help improve our mood. You want to avoid blood sugar spikes and rapid drops, which can affect your mood. Sugar, simple carbohydrates, and processed foods can create a rollercoaster with your blood sugar and leave you feeling worse off than you were before.
Choose healthy whole foods such as amino acid-rich proteins like beef, fish, chicken, and turkey. The amino acids found in these foods include tryptophan and tyrosine, among several others, and are essential for activating neurotransmitters that reduce anxiety and depression. You can also consume these amino acids with eggs, milk, Greek yogurt, and other dairy products.If you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, you still have access to foods high in amino acids. To add these foods to your diet, try quinoa, tofu, edamame, buckwheat, sprouted bread, rice, beans, lentils, or a sprinkling of nutritional yeast in dishes.
Antioxidant foods such as strawberries and blueberries fight free radicals, which can cause mood and neurological disorders. Berries are not the only food you can use; add spinach, asparagus, sweet potatoes, kale, and dark chocolate to your next grocery order.
Fish and fish oil supplements are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids. These acids reduce inflammation and control serotonin synthesis. You can also receive a good dose of omega-3s in chia seeds, flax seeds, soybeans, and walnuts.
3. Move More
Exercise releases “feel good” chemicals in the brain and lowers blood pressure. It improves sleep, digestion, and heart health. Endorphins are powerful and work as a natural antidepressant. Exercise promotes nerve growth, making new connections in the brain pathways. When these nerve cells grow and make connections in the smaller region known as the hippocampus, the growth stimulates mood.
Unfortunately, when you do not exercise consistently, you can feel sluggish. Depression can also keep you unmotivated. This is when you will need to dig deep and remember that your body is a temple for the Holy Spirit if you are a Christian.
“Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So, you must honor God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
As long as you have breath, God has a purpose for you. He is not done with you yet, so you need to train your body to be strong and flexible to carry out His plans for your life. Start small by walking for a few minutes every day, increasing your time or distance. Eventually, you can add more movement to your days, like high-intensity interval training, weightlifting, and flexibility training to strengthen your core and improve balance.
4. Get Some Fresh Air
What is it about a bright, sunny day? The rays from the sun lighten your mood, and everything feels fresh and renewed. During the pandemic, people in lockdown were encouraged to go outside and get some fresh air to lift their moods. Nature, God’s creation, has a way of elevating our spirits, improving our thoughts and perspective, lowering stress, and reducing the risk of developing mental health conditions.
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to depression, yet sunlight provides us with 90% of the vitamin D requirement. Sunlight also increases serotonin in the brain, the chemical that regulates happiness.
Try to plan for a picnic in a park or visit a nearby lake or ocean for some downtime. Going on hikes is an excellent way to fit in your exercise while enjoying the scenery. If you have children or dogs, take them with you for the company. Breathe deep and thank God for being alive and for His creation.
5. Manage Stress
You know you can use community, healthier foods, and exercise to manage stress. You can also get creative. What are some of the things you enjoyed as a child? Is there something you have been meaning to try and just have not done it yet? These “new adventures” can help you relieve stress and give you a sense of accomplishment.
You might want to try a physical activity like bike riding or a yoga class. Puzzles, mystery novels, and games stimulate and challenge your mind. Try a professional massage, or pedicure, or simply soak in a hot tub of bathwater for a more relaxing activity.
It is easy to get wrapped up in the worries of today and let them bring you down. “That is why I [Jesus] tell you not to worry about everyday life – whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25). Trust that God will provide and give your worries and stressors to Him.
6. Laugh More
Have you ever sat down and rewatched a comedy on television? Did it make you laugh aloud? Humor and the act of laughing relieve stress and anxiety and elevate your mood. Many people use humor to cope with depression by watching a funny show or video, listening to a comedian, or sharing ridiculous stories with friends.
If it has been a while since you have wanted to laugh, find a favorite comedy or comedian either on television or online. Or spend some quality time with a friend or family member who is naturally funny and leaves you feeling good.
7. Train Your Spirit
Just like exercising your body can lift your mood, training your spirit can help you cope with depression. Read God’s Word and rely on His strength to remove some of the worries that weigh you down. Spend time talking with Jesus in prayer during the day to give your burdens to Him.
Although reading the Bible and praying are essential, worship is equally powerful. Worshiping God when you are struggling can help you remember God’s truth and reorient your perspective. You can praise God anywhere with or without music to communicate your thankfulness and your awe of Him in your life. Give it over to Him in praise, and God will fill you with joy.
8. Ask for Help When You Need It
Chronic depression can last weeks or months, and with the onset of the pandemic, more people are finding depression lasting more than a year or two. If this sounds like you, it is time to ask for help. Licensed therapists are trained to recognize depression and create a personalized plan to manage and overcome the condition.
Implement the strategies for coping with depression and work with a professional to manage the symptoms. You can get back to being you.
“The Scenic Route”, Courtesy of v2osk, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Walking Down the Road”, Courtesy of Emma Simpson, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Group Therapy”, Courtesy of Kylie Lugo, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Concert”, Courtesy of Mic Narra, Unsplash.com, CC0 License