If you are suffering from depression, you may be lacking in energy and motivation, or you may be finding it difficult to concentrate. If you are going to read only one thing, then I think this should be it.

There are a number of simple things that anyone can do to fight off depression. You may already be doing some of these things, and you certainly do not need to do them all. Just do those that you feel most comfortable with, or that are easiest for you.

1. Spend time with sympathetic friends and relatives, and talk to them about your feelings. Talking to others about our feelings helps us to understand them better; to put them into their proper perspective; and to obtain much needed advice, support, and warmth. Tell your friends and relatives that you need their help, and don’t feel bad about accepting it. If you don't feel comfortable speaking to friends and relatives, or are unable to do so, you can phone a helpline instead.

2. Don’t take on more than you can manage: break down large tasks into smaller ones, and set yourself realistic deadlines for completing them. Try to reduce the amount of stress that you are under. Don’t feel guilty about ‘doing nothing’: you are merely giving yourself the time and space that you need, and that is an essential part of getting better. Think of it as taking a step back to jump further.

3. Spend more time doing the things that you normally enjoy doing: read your favourite childhood book, go to the shops or to the cinema, cook a meal, spend time with friends—anything that gets you out of yourself and takes your mind off your negative thoughts is likely to make you feel better.

4. Get out of the house, even if only to buy a pint of milk or to take a walk in the park. Bright daylight, fresh air, the sights and sounds of nature, and the hustle bustle of everyday life can all be very helpful. If you can, try to take some mild exercise, such as 20 minutes of brisk walking.

5. Get a lot of sleep. Even a single good night’s sleep can have a significant effect on your mood. 

6. Fight off negative thoughts—perhaps the most important thing of all. Make a list of all the positive things about yourself and your situation (you may need help with this), keep it on your person, and make sure to read it several times a day. However bad you may be feeling, remember that you have not always felt this way, and that you will not always feel this way. Have realistic expectations for yourself: improvements in mood are likely to be gradual rather than sudden, and there are going to be both good days and bad days. Avoid making important decisions such as leaving your job, getting divorced, or spending a large amount of money while in the throes of depression, as thinking errors can lead you to make dramatically wrong decisions.

7. Make an appointment with your family doctor, psychiatrist, or key worker, and enlist their advice and support. Ask for some counselling and take it from there.

8. Agree upon whom to call for advice and support should you feel overwhelmed by negative or suicidal thoughts. This may be a relative or a friend, your key worker, or a helpline. Carry the appropriate telephone numbers on your person at all times, for example, in your handbag or wallet.

Neel Burton is author of Growing from Depression: A Self-Help Guide

NOTE: I am giving out the Growing from Depression ebook for free from 12 to 16 September (Pacific time). Available from Amazon.

Find Neel on Twitter and Facebook 

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