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“I Feel Depressed”

Help for when you’re feeling sad, numb, worthless, fatigued, or trapped in negativity

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Human beings are social creatures, so it’s no wonder we feel the effects of quarantining, isolation, and social distancing so acutely, especially if we’re in areas subject to lockdowns or stay-at-home orders. Feeling isolated and lonely can take a heavy toll on your mental and physical health. It can send your stress levels soaring, trigger anxiety and depression, and increase your risk for heart disease and stroke. But even in the darkest days of winter during this pandemic, there are steps you can take to alleviate loneliness, protect your health, and strengthen your sense of connection with others.

Talk to someone
Get moving
Reframe negative thoughts
Find hope and contentment within
Add mindfulness to your day
Express gratitude
Savor simple sources of joy
Get a daily dose of sunlight
Don’t ignore thoughts of suicide

Talk to someone

The simple act of talking to someone who cares about you is crucial to dealing with feelings of depression. While the pandemic has made it difficult for many of us to meet in-person, it’s still important to stay in touch via video, phone, or text.

  • Talk to a close friend or family member about what you’re going through. Reaching out is not a sign of weakness and won’t make you a burden.
  • The person you talk to doesn’t have to be able to fix you; they just need to listen without being distracted or judging you.
  • It can be tempting to retreat into your shell when you feel depressed, but try to stay as social as you can—even when you don’t feel like it.

Get moving

It’s probably the last thing you feel like doing right now—but getting active, even for a short period, is one of the most effective ways of boosting your mood. In fact, regular exercise can be just as effective as antidepressant medication in easing depression. Even if you’re under lockdown or a stay-at-home order, you can still find ways to fit movement into your day.

  • Take a short, 15-minute walk to boost your mood for several hours.
  • Dance to your favorite music.
  • Play with your dog or kids.
  • Try online exercise classes for aerobics, interval training, or Pilates.
  • Create a simple home gym using resistance bands, water bottles, or your own body weight.
  • Stretch or practice simple yoga poses.

Reframe negative thoughts

While external factors such as isolation, financial worries, or fears about your health can contribute to depression, so too can the way you think. But there are ways of looking at your situation in a more realistic, hopeful way.

  1. Note when you have a negative thought such as “I’ll never be able to pay the mortgage and I’ll lose my home,” or “Everyone thinks I’m a loser.”
  2. Challenge the thought by asking yourself “Do I know that for sure?” or “What would I say to a close friend who had the same thought?”
  3. Change the thought to a more helpful way of thinking. “I can renegotiate mortgage payments with the bank” or “I’ve made it through bad times before. I can do it again.”

Find hope and contentment within

It’s natural to blame life circumstances for how you feel—especially in these difficult times. But there are ways to find contentment within, regardless of your situation.

Be your own friend. Instead of rehashing past mistakes, focusing on the negative aspects of your life, or dwelling on worst-case scenarios, talk to yourself in a kinder, more realistic way—the same way you’d expect a friend to talk to you.

Pat yourself on the back. Take a moment to acknowledge your role in any successes you experience and give yourself credit.

Change your morning thoughts. Before you go to sleep, write down something positive you can read as soon as you wake up in the morning—a hope you have for today or something you’re grateful for.

Add mindfulness to your day

Mindfulness is the practice of focusing your attention on the present moment and accepting it without judgment. It can prevent you from getting caught up in worries about the future or regrets about the past.

Listen to a favorite song. Sit somewhere comfortable and give your attention fully to the music, even if it’s a song you’ve heard a thousand times before.

Try a mindful chore. Complete a household chore such as washing dishes while giving your attention fully to the task. Notice how things feel, smell, or sound and whenever your mind wanders, gently bring it back to the task.

Meditate. HelpGuide’s Mindful Breathing Meditation can help you harness the power of your breath to ground yourself in the present moment and find inner calm.

Express gratitude

When you’re depressed, everything in life can seem bleak and hopeless. But even on the darkest days, it’s usually possible to find one thing you can be grateful about—the beauty of a sunset or a phone call from a friend, for example. Acknowledging gratitude for little things can give you a break from negative thinking and instill hope back into your day.

  • Take a deep breath and think of one thing you’re grateful for: your children, your home, or a pet, for example.
  • Before you switch off the light at night, take a moment to write down something that made you grateful today. Focus your mind on it as you fall asleep.
  • Try HelpGuide’s Gratitude in Difficult Times meditation to find gratitude even during the struggles of this pandemic.

Savor simple sources of joy

You can’t just will yourself out of depression or force yourself to feel happier, but you there are things you can do throughout day to find joy, boost your mood, and ease stress.

  • Listen to uplifting music, watch funny videos online, or download episodes of your favorite sitcom.
  • Try to spend some time in nature—go for a walk in the park or find a new hiking trail.
  • Help a friend or neighbor with an errand. Helping others can be just as beneficial to you as it is for them.
  • Take a class online, listen to a lecture, or take a virtual tour of a museum.
  • Take up a new hobby, learn to play an instrument, or write your memoirs—anything that brings you a sense of joy.

Get a daily dose of sunlight

While the COVID-19 pandemic left many of us feeling depressed over the summer, its impact during winter could be even more severe. Sunlight helps to boost serotonin levels and improve your outlook, so the reduced daylight hours of winter can take a serious toll on your mood. Therefore, it’s important to try to expose yourself to sunlight for at least 15 minutes a day.

  • Take a walk at lunchtime, drink your morning coffee outside, or spend time outdoors exercising or doing yardwork.
  • Increase the amount of natural light in your home by opening blinds and drapes and sitting near windows.
  • Paint your walls in lighter colors or use daylight simulation bulbs.
  • If you live somewhere with little winter sunshine, try using a light therapy box.

Don’t ignore thoughts of suicide

Depression is a major risk factor for suicide. If the deep despair and hopelessness that accompanies depression makes suicide feel like the only way to escape the pain, please reach out for help.

While your problems may seem overwhelming and permanent now, with time you will feel better, especially if you get help. There are many people who want to support you during this difficult time, so please reach out!

Read Are You Feeling Suicidal?, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the U.S. at 1-800-273-8255, or find a helpline in your country at Befrienders Worldwide.