Women and Depression: Ways to Feel Better
Reach out for social support:
Getting support from people who care about you plays an essential role in overcoming depression
Ask for the help and support you need and share what you’re going through with the people you love and trust. You may have neglected your most important relationships, but they can get you through this rough time.
How to reach out for support:
Look for support from people who make you feel safe and cared for. The person you talk to doesn’t have to be able to fix you; they just need to be a good listener—someone who’ll listen attentively and compassionately without judging you.
Make facetime a priority. Phone calls, social media, and texting are great ways to stay in touch, but they don’t replace in-person quality time. The simple act of talking to someone face to face about how you feel can play a big role in relieving depression and keeping it away.
Try to keep up with social activities even if you don’t feel like it. Often when you’re depressed it feels more comfortable to retreat into your shell- but being around other people will make you feel less depressed.
Find ways to support others. It’s nice to receive support, but research shows you get an even bigger mood boost from providing support yourself. So, find ways to help others: volunteer, or help a friend.
Join a support group for depression. Being with others dealing with depression can go a long way in reducing your sense of isolation.
Support your health
In order to overcome depression, you must do things that relax and energize you. This includes following a healthy lifestyle, learning how to better manage stress, setting boundaries on what you’re able to do, and scheduling fun activities into your day.
Aim for eight hours of sleep. Depression often involves sleep problems, whether you’re sleeping too little or too much, your mood suffers.
Keep stress in check. Not only does stress prolong and worsen depression, but it can also trigger it. Figure out all the things in your life that stress you out, such as work overload, money problems, or unsupportive relationships, and find ways to manage the stress so you feel more in control.
Practice relaxation techniques. A daily relaxation practice can help relieve symptoms of depression, reduce stress, and boost feelings of well-being. Try yoga, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or meditation.
Do things you enjoy (or used to). While you can’t force yourself to have fun or experience pleasure, you can push yourself to do things, even when you don’t feel like it. Pick up a former hobby or a sport you used to like. Express yourself creatively through music, art, or writing. Go out with friends. Take a day trip to, the park, the beach, or the ballpark.
Come up with a list of things that you can do for a quick mood boost. The more “tools” for coping with depression, the better. Try and implement a few of these ideas each day, even if you’re feeling well.
- Spend some time in nature.
- List what you like about yourself.
- Read a good book.
- Watch a funny movie or TV show.
- Take a long, hot bath.
- Take care of a few small tasks.
- Play with a pet.
- Talk to friends or family face-to-face.
- Listen to music.
Get up and get moving
When you’re depressed, just getting out of bed can seem overwhelming, let alone working out! But exercise is a powerful depression fighter—and one of the most important tools for depression recovery.
Studies show that regular exercise can be as effective as antidepressant medication at increasing energy levels and decreasing feelings of fatigue. A 30-minute walk each day will give you a much-needed boost. And if you can’t manage 30 minutes, three 10-minute bursts of movement throughout the day are just as effective.
Your fatigue will improve if you stick with it. Starting to exercise can be difficult when you’re depressed and feeling exhausted. But research shows that your energy levels will improve if you keep with it. Exercise will help you to feel energized and less fatigued.
Find exercises that are continuous and rhythmic. The most benefits for depression come from rhythmic exercise—such as walking, weight training, swimming, martial arts, or dancing—where you move both your arms and legs.
Add a mindfulness element, especially if your depression is rooted in unresolved trauma or fed by obsessive, negative thoughts.
Eat a healthy, depression-fighting diet
What you eat has a direct impact on the way you feel. Some women find dietary modifications, nutritional supplements and herbal remedies can help aid in the relief of depression symptoms. These include:
Cutting back on salt, unhealthy fats, caffeine, sugar/refined carbs, and alcohol.
Not skipping meals. Going too long between meals can make you feel irritable and tired, so aim to eat something at least every three to four hours.
Boosting your B vitamins. Deficiencies in B vitamins such as folic acid and B-12 can trigger depression. To increase your intake, eat more citrus fruit, leafy greens, beans, chicken, and eggs. Vitamin B-6 along with calcium, magnesium, Vitamin E, and tryptophan have all been shown to benefit women suffering from PMDD.
Eating foods with Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids play an essential role in stabilizing mood. The best sources are fatty fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and tuna, or vegetarian options such as seaweed, flaxseed, and walnuts.
Making sure you’re getting enough iron. Low iron levels can produce common depression symptoms like irritability, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating. Iron rich foods to add to your diet include red meat, beans, leafy greens and dried fruit.
Get a daily dose of sunlight
Sunlight can help boost serotonin levels and improve your mood. Aim for at least 15 minutes of sunlight a day.
Take a walk on your lunch break, have your coffee outside, enjoy an al fresco meal, people-watch on a park bench, or spend time gardening.
- Increase the amount of natural light in your home and workplace by opening blinds and drapes and sitting near windows.
- If you live somewhere with little winter sunshine, try using a light therapy box.
Challenge negative thinking
Depression puts a negative spin on everything, including the way you see yourself and your expectations for the future. When these types of thoughts overwhelm you, it’s important to remember that this is a symptom of your depression and these irrational, pessimistic attitudes—known as cognitive distortions—aren’t realistic.
Women also tend to ruminate when we’re depressed, perhaps spending hours trying to figure out why we’re feeling this way. However, rumination can maintain depression or even make it worse.
Once you identify the destructive thought patterns that contribute to your depression, you can start to challenge them with questions such as:
- “What’s the evidence that this thought is true? Not true?”
- “What would I tell a friend who had this thought?”
- “Is there another way of looking at the situation or an alternate explanation?”
- “How might I look at this situation if I didn’t have depression?”
Get professional help if needed
If you don’t benefit sufficiently from behavioral tools, seek help from a mental health professional.
Therapy. Talk therapy is an extremely effective treatment for depression. It can provide you with the skills and insight to relieve depression symptoms and help prevent depression from coming back. One of the most important things to consider when choosing a therapist is your connection with this person. The right therapist will be a caring and supportive partner in your depression treatment and recovery.
Medication. Antidepressant medication may help relieve some symptoms of depression in women, but it won’t cure the root cause of depression.
If you feel you could benefit from further support and counseling consider finding a qualified therapist you trust who can help you manage your mental health.
Carol Van Kampen, LMSW
Carol Van Kampen, LMSW is an individual private practice psychotherapist who specializes in anxiety, depression, grief, and trauma treatment at Marsh Psychology Group. Carol is EMDR trained. Contact her at marshpsychologygroup.com