In this resource, we explore two simple, practical strategies to help manage symptoms of depression and feel better.
If you are feeling depressed, you’re not alone. Feeling depressed is common, and most people feel sad or down from time to time. Thankfully, it is possible to cope, control negative thoughts and feel more hopeful.
Challenge negative thinking
Negative thinking is a characteristic of feeling depressed. When negative thoughts and feelings consume you, it’s easy to feel like you’re a failure, that you’ll always be alone, that nobody cares about you, that people think poorly of you. You may believe that everything is hopeless and there’s nothing that you can do about it.
Ultimately, these feelings are untrue – they’re a manifestation of depression symptoms. Feelings such as hopelessness and being negative and critical about yourself are common symptoms of depression.
Negative thoughts can be overwhelming and make it impossible for you to feel a sense of normality. These thoughts can drag you down and make you feel bad. But you can control these thoughts and feelings by challenging them.
To challenge negative thinking, you should aim to identify the negative thought then replace it with a rational, balanced belief.
Different types of negative thoughts require different challenges. If you’re aiming for perfection in everything you do, you may feel you’re a failure if you can’t do everything flawlessly. But is this fear true? What’s the evidence that it is true? Question your thoughts with logic.
Similarly, if you notice that you are only focusing on the negative events instead of the positive ones (the one bad thing that happened out of the ten good things), you may be able to challenge your thinking. Consider whether there is a different way of analysing the situation.
Challenging your negative thoughts takes time, and you will need to persevere. It may help to have a go-to list of questions to ask yourself when you’re feeling negative – to help keep your spirits up.
In time, you can get used to thinking differently and cope better with the negative thoughts associated with feeling depressed.
Negative thinking can be mild to more serious. If you experience ongoing negative thoughts that are impacting your day-to-day life or your thoughts become suicidal, it’s important to see your GP as soon as possible. If it is an emergency, please call 000.
Connect with others
You may not feel like spending time with anyone else when you’re feeling down or negative. It’s normal to retreat inside and avoid spending time with others when you’re depressed, but connection plays a vital role in managing depression symptoms.
There are many ways to connect with others and they don’t all involve face-to-face communication. Some ideas include:
- Chatting online – finding online support groups or groups with people who have shared interests
- Video calls – connecting with friends and family through video calls
- Social activities – exercise, walking, playing a team sport, coffee dates, movies, clubs
- Help other people – volunteering makes you feel good and gives you a sense of purpose.
Connect with people who bring out the best in you and avoid those who make you feel worse. Find people who understand that sometimes you may not want to talk about your feelings or talk at all, but they know you appreciate their company.
Even if you don’t want to see people, spending time with someone can make a difference in relieving your depressed feelings. Being around others can make you feel happier and less depressed.
Other tips for coping when feeling depressed
In addition to challenging negative thinking and connecting with others, the following strategies can help you cope with feeling down or depressed:
- Do more of what you love – do fun activities that make you feel energised, alive, relaxed and happy
- Focus on living a healthy lifestyle – eat fresh, healthy foods and reduce processed foods
- Get enough sleep – most adults need around eight hours each night; NSW Health has some tips on good sleep hygiene
- Maintain your stress levels – keeping your stress in check helps you to feel more relaxed, which will boost your mood and help you cope with depression symptoms. One way to relax is to try breathing and relaxation exercises
- Practice self-care – read, have a bath, go to the movies, get a massage, treat yourself.
Where to get help if you’re depressed
If you have been coping with depression or feeling depressed for a while, it’s time to see a health professional. If you have depression, it’s more than feeling occasionally sad or down. Depression is an intense feeling of sadness or hopelessness that can last for weeks or even years. If your depression is long-lasting and impacting your life, make an appointment with your GP and ask about a referral to a psychologist.
 Black Dog Institute https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/resources-support/depression/signs/
 Health Direct https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/self-talk
 Health Direct https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/depression
You can also call Mind Health on 1300 029 131 to speak to a counsellor.
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, and seeking help ensures your depressed feelings don’t get worse over time. Remember that it is possible to cope with depression and live a healthy, happy life.
If it is an emergency, call 000.
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