“People often think that if someone suffers from anxiety or depression that they may be weak. In fact, they’re a lot stronger than people think.”
We all feel sad or down from time to time; it's a normal response to life events, and part of what makes us human. Depression is constant and persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness. These feelings can make you lose interest in the important things in your life. They can also make activities that you used to enjoy seem like too much effort. You may become irritable, and spend less time with friends and family.
By spending less time doing the things that bring purpose and fun to your life, your depression can lead to other problems. You may find yourself relying on alcohol or drugs to help manage your moods. This in turn can increase your depressive symptoms and make positive action seem more difficult.
There are different types of depressive disorders. While they all affect your physical and mental health, they differ by how long you remain affected, when they occur, and possible causes – which can vary greatly from person to person.
You can help tackle your symptoms by re-engaging with the meaningful things in your life. Finding out more about depression, and the actions you can take to manage it, is a positive step in your recovery.
Taking action for change
Exercise is an effective treatment
Daily exercise can be highly effective in reducing the symptoms of depression – and as little as 30 minutes a day can boost your mood. Depression may make you feel like you are tired and need to rest, but resting is not usually helpful. Exercise will stimulate your brain and body and help reduce your depressive symptoms. Exercise can also have a protective effect – active people are less likely to become depressed. (Source)
Activity scheduling is a helpful practice
Doing positive activities every day is a key factor in dealing with the symptoms of depression. This is where activity scheduling can help. By planning meaningful activities for the week in a structured and thoughtful way, you can rebuild your engagement with the things that you enjoy and give you a sense of achievement. (Source)
Eating well can reduce depressive symptoms
When you’re depressed, you can lose the motivation to eat. However, a good diet is very important. In a recent study, people who ate a well-balanced diet had much fewer depressive symptoms compared to those whose eating habits involved eating too much or too little, along with consuming lots of sweet and non-nutritional foods. (Source)
Social support helps with recovery
Research points to the positive role that family, friends, and other people who provide emotional support have on recovery from depression. Maintaining and building your social connections will reduce your isolation and keep you connected to other people and enjoyable activities. Talking with other people can also help you find better solutions. (Source)
Psychological treatments are effective
There are a number of psychological treatments that can be useful in helping you change your thinking patterns and develop coping skills. More and more people are experiencing positive outcomes after using online psychological treatments in managing their symptoms of depression, stress, and anxiety. However, everyone responds differently to different therapies; it’s important to find the treatment that’s right for you. (Source)
Helping someone with depression
A person with a depressive disorder will become increasingly inactive and socially withdrawn. One of the most useful things you can do is support them in rebuilding their engagement with the things that they enjoy and find satisfying. Help them to develop a realistic activity schedule, and encourage them to stick to it.
Rebuilding engagement is likely to be a gradual process, and will require your patience and understanding. Try not to blame them for their inactivity and understand that you may need to do more at this time to maintain the relationship.
It is important find out what you can about depression and its treatment from the websites recommended below, and be sure to look after yourself as well. Find out more about caring for someone with a mental health condition on the support for carers page.
A year after my father died, I still felt really bad and wasn't functioning well. Twelve months down the track, things should have been improving, but they still felt the same. I had a very strong sense that that was not normal, or that at least I should have been feeling a bit better. I had gone beyond mourning and I realised I needed help.
At uni I was falling apart and continually trying to hide it. I was able to do that for a while, but couldn’t keep up the pretence with my family and friends. You can only put up an act for so long. Eventually I just fell in a heap when the depression hit me like a train. That's when I first saw a psychiatrist.
Medication has meant I can explain things a bit better to the counsellors. So it's a combination of medication, growing up, and finally realising what I actually have and being able to articulate what I want.
Something that helped me a lot was talking to one of my dad’s friends who has suffered depression all his life. His symptoms were exactly the same as mine. He was the one who told me not to fight the depression, and just to ride it out.
You might find online and phone-based mental health resources helpful. Some suggestions are below. You can find more with our Search tool (opens in a new tab).