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Page reviewed by Dr Leon Rozewicz (MBBS, FRCPsych, MRCGP, MRCPsych), Consultant Psychiatrist and Medical Director of Priory Hospital North London in October 2021.

For many people, dealing with depression is a daily reality. Affecting all aspects of your professional, social and personal life, depression can have a debilitating impact on how you function on a day-to-day basis.

Thankfully, there are some proven things you can do to overcome the symptoms of depression and continue to live a healthy, productive life. With that in mind, we have outlined some of the most effective self-help tips, strategies and mechanisms for coping with depression.  

Self-help Tips for Coping with Depression

Eight tips for coping with depression

Be Aware of Your Feelings

Feeling depressed is an uncomfortable feeling, and often we tend to push negative emotions away. We understand how difficult these feelings are to cope with, but understanding your emotions can be a big help when coping with depression.

Take the time to recognise and think about your feelings, as they might help you to understand the source of what is making you feel depressed. Depression is often linked to events in the past, and sometimes there can be no explanation at all. Either way, becoming aware of these things is part of coping with depression.

Once you have a better understanding of why you feel depressed, you can take steps towards rectifying the issue and improving your overall wellbeing.

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Create a Support Network

When you feel depressed, you may have a tendency to hide away and bottle up your feelings. However, the best approach is to build a support network of friends, relatives or even dedicated support groups, who can help you address how you are feeling.

We recognise that talking to someone about your depression can be difficult for you. Whoever it is, it’s better if it is someone who is able to listen and empathise with you about how you’re feeling. Dedicated support groups for depression can be a great way to find like-minded people to share your experiences with, either in person or remotely. Look online to find what depression support groups are out there for you.

Stay Connected to the Outside World

Socially, you might also be tempted to shut yourself away, saying “no” when friends or family ask if you want to meet up with them. This is reaction is completely normal, but being present at social events, and spending time with other people, will help to reduce your symptoms of depression and help keep them at bay in the future.

Social media and video calls are a convenient way to do this, but if you’re able to then a face-to-face meeting will have the most positive effect. You could try taking small steps with the goal of a meeting in a public location being the end goal. Whatever you try, make sure you only commit to what feels comfortable for you.

Look After Your Physical Health

Exercise has long been known to be a great way to fight depression. If you feel well enough, head out and get some fresh air outside – even if it’s just a brief stroll in the park. Again, you should only do what feels right. If you need to build up to this by starting off slowly (perhaps with a walk around your garden first), then do what’s right for your recovery.

What activity is good for depression?

  • Walking or running
  • Swimming
  • Aerobic-heavy sports like tennis or squash
  • Mindful activities like yoga or meditation
  • Gym classes

Another significant factor in managing depression is good quality sleep. Research shows that 80% of people with clinical depression struggle with disturbed sleep. Small things like turning off electronic devices and ditching late-night caffeinated drinks and stodgy foods may well lead to you enjoying a better night’s sleep. With better sleep, you might also find your mood improving in the day.

The evidence shows that exercise can be a way to manage symptoms of depression, thanks to the endorphins, dopamine and serotonin that are released during exercise that make us feel better. If you feel well enough to do so, introduce exercise into your daily routine.

Review Your Diet

If your response to your depression has been to overeat or comfort eat, try not to overdo it. Alcohol and recreational drugs are often used to cope with negative emotions, including feeling depressed. You’re not alone in having this response to the emotions you’re feeling, but excessive alcohol or drugs can make depression worse. You could try and introduce some of these simple tips to cutting down on alcohol

Elsewhere, be sure to speak to your GP; they will be able to tell you what nutrients and vitamins you’re in need of.

Challenge Negative Thinking

Feelings of pessimism and hopelessness are common symptoms of depression. Defined as ‘cognitive distortions’, these are thoughts that are irrational or unrealistic – but they can be overcome if you challenge them in the right way.

If you find yourself thinking in these terms, ask yourself some challenging questions like:

  • Is there an alternative explanation to this?
  • What evidence is there that what I think is the whole truth?
  • If a loved one thought this about themselves, what would I think? What would I say to them?

Examining your thought process is a great way to develop more balance in how you think about situations unfolding around you.

Do Things You Enjoy

In the long-term, you’re going to need a whole toolbox of things you can rely on to calm yourself down. Ultimately you just need to do things that you know you enjoy. Some of these things, like playing sports or seeing friends, have already been mentioned. Here are just a few more ideas that will give you a wealth of options next time you need to deal with depression:

  • Creative pursuits like playing music or creating art
  • Petting a dog
  • Watching your favourite film
  • Reading a book
  • Listening to music

Find a Way to Help Others in Need

Receiving support is one of the most valuable ways to deal with depression, and getting your own mental health right should obviously be a priority. However, evidence shows that supporting others might be another great way to boost your mood. The Journal of Happiness Studies found that those who volunteer receive a boost to their mental health and greater satisfaction in their lives.

Think about ways you can give back to your local community, either through charity work or helping someone else out who you know is in need. It might bring you as many benefits as those you are helping out.

When to get Help for Depression

If you’ve tried all of the above and your depression symptoms are persisting or getting more severe, then it might be right to consider seeking professional help. Depression is a treatable condition, and seeking specialist support is not a sign of weakness. These self-help tips will likely play some part in your recovery and help you to prevent symptoms returning once your treatment is complete.

Priory offers outpatient, inpatient and day care treatment for depression, as well as online therapy via Priory Connect. We will work closely with you to decide on the right direction for your recovery. Use the details below to get in touch with a mental health professional today and being your journey to beating depression.

Get the Best Mental Health Support

For details of how Priory can provide you with assistance regarding mental health and wellbeing, please call 0800 840 3219 or make an enquiry. For professionals looking to make a referral, please click here.

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