Constructive Self-Management Strategies for Depression
During my involvement with support groups for depression I was impressed by the range and scope of views expressed by the members. Almost without exception there was a view that the treatment of depression had to be more than simply sitting back and waiting for the pills to work. Of course the members of a support group are self-selecting, in the sense they are already motivated to take action. Most of the members had experienced two or more major depressive episodes and were doing their utmost to ward of another episode, or at least ensure its effects were less intense.
Looking back at my notes I see I made an entry about how, even during some of the darkest moments, an event or a stimulation of senses could lift mood. One person said it was like a brief moment of sunshine that appears between black and stormy clouds. I'd scrawled a few notes. ‘the smell of baking bread', ‘a child giggling', ‘a forgotten pressed flower rediscovered', ‘a full night of refreshing sleep'. Such moments could hardly be thought of as self-management strategies, and most were only fleeting. What was interesting for me was the fact that people could remember these moments, even after weeks or months of depression.
We talked about how such moments might be incorporated into a self-management strategy. It was clear that every person had their own views and these didn't necessarily work for everyone. From my perspective there were, and still remain, a few universal strategies to help manage the symptoms of depression. These include:
- - Staying in contact with your family doctor, psychiatrist, psychologist or other professionals involved in your treatment or aftercare.
- - Restoring or developing activity levels during the day.
- - Establishing routines for sleep.
- - Maintaining a well-rounded diet and stopping junk foods and sugary drinks.
- - Controlling or stopping alcohol intake, smoking or the use of drugs.
- - Understanding and recognizing negative thinking as a symptom of depression and a sign that you may need professional help.
This last point (professional help) is important. It's too easy to dismiss the help of others as pointless or of little value when depression hits. If thoughts of suicide start to creep in then you absolutely must seek help and promptly.
Depression is debilitating and one of the worst aspects is the point when people emerge from the black hole to find bills haven't been paid, important appointments or anniversaries have been missed and so on. For this reason an effective self-management strategy could be to prepare for this by enlisting the help of friends or relatives who will advocate on your behalf. These same people may help you to identify when you should seek help and take over some of the activities you might normally undertake until you recover.
But these are just generalizations. I'm interested to know whether you think in these self-management terms and if so what works for you?