December 5, 2022

Self-Care for Depression: Tips to Help You Feel Better

When a person experiences depression, key ingredients of a healthy lifestyle can suffer—diet, physical activity levels, and sleep. 

By the same token, maintaining adequate nutrition, regular physical activity, and a proper sleep schedule can help relieve tension and stress and leave a person less vulnerable to depression and mood changes. 

Here are some self-care activities that may help to relieve symptoms of depression, prevent depression from recurring, and help other treatments you may be receiving work more effectively.

Stick to a Regular Sleep Schedule

  • Establish a regular, consistent time for sleeping and waking.
  • Do something relaxing before sleep like reading (in a different room) or taking a warm bath.
  • Don’t use the bedroom for non-sleep activities (e.g., watching TV or eating in bed).
  • Avoid strenuous exercise, caffeine, alcohol or tobacco a few hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid naps during the day. Get outdoors for some activity (e.g., a short walk) to refresh.
  • Talk to a health care provider about using a sleep medication.

Stay Active

  • Choose enjoyable activities.
  • Plan activities for times when they can be performed consistently.
  • Be active on a regular basis. Aim for 10 minutes of continuous activity three times a week. As fitness increases, the duration and intensity of activity can be increased.
  • Take advantage of opportunities to be more active by making small daily changes (e.g., take stairs instead of an elevator, exit a bus one stop earlier than a destination, and walk).

Keep Up with Proper Nutrition

  • Meals should be eaten regularly (breakfast, lunch, and dinner with a mid-morning and a mid-afternoon snack).
  • Include a variety of healthy foods at mealtimes (e.g., whole grains, dark green vegetables, brightly colored fruits, lean proteins, milk products). Avoid food with added fats, sugar, and salt.
  • Drink alcohol and caffeine in moderation.
  • Drink several glasses of water daily (5-8 is a good goal).

It is always easier to make positive lifestyle changes with the support of others. If you are comfortable discussing goals to take better care of yourself and manage your depression, consider involving family and friends as part of your ‘get-better’ plan. For example, exercise with a friend, make healthy recipes for the entire family at mealtimes, and participate in group activities.

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