The 9 practical coping skills for depression

dealing with depression

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Depression can feel like a heavy weight that is impossible to shake off. With about 280 million people worldwide who have experienced depression, the demand for coping skills that can help ease the symptoms of this condition is high.

In this blog post, we outline the six coping skills and techniques that effectively lessen the impact of depressive symptoms and help you feel empowered throughout the week, even if you don’t always feel your best.

Note: The critical part of learning coping skills is to build a toolbox of different techniques to utilize when your symptoms spike. What works today may not always work the same another day. It may mean you need something different today, and that’s okay.

Learning to use these skills over time can help you find the confidence that you have many different skills under your belt and that you can try them until you find one that is helpful at any given time. Let’s jump into the first skill: Get organized.

1. Get organized

When you are feeling overwhelmed and depressed, one of the best things you can do is get organized. For example, you may need to declutter your living space, or you may need to create a daily schedule to help you stay on track. The key is to find and stick to something that works for you.

Here are some ways you can get organized:

  • Declutter your bedroom
  • Create a cleaning schedule
  • Start a budget
  • Make a grocery list for the meals of the week
  • Put important dates in your calendar
  • Create a brain dump and make a second list of when you will do the things on that list

When you have a plan and a routine, it can help reduce the anxiety and stress that comes with feeling like you are constantly juggling too many things or having to remember 100 things at the same time. 

Depression can often feel like life and the things that happen to you are out of your control. Getting organized can also help you feel more in control of your life, which can be a valuable coping skill during times of depression. If you think you can do something about how you feel, it is powerful and motivates you to take one small step today and another tomorrow. This is how progress is made when you are dealing with the heaviness of depression.

If you find it challenging to get started, plenty of resources are available to help you get organized. For example, websites, apps, and even professional organizers can help you create a system that works for you. Check out this Organized Interiors post with several apps to help you offload everything in your brain to organize your home life.

Feel free to ask for help if you need it. Getting organized is a process, and figuring out what works best for you might take some time. Once you find a system that works, it can be life-changing.

2. Set realistic goals for yourself

When you are dealing with depression, it can be challenging to envision a time when these feelings will be replaced with positive ones. Setting realistic goals for yourself can be a great way to start making progress.

When you are feeling down, setting achievable and manageable goals is crucial. This doesn’t mean that you should set the bar low. Your goals should be something that you can reasonably achieve in a given amount of time.

For example, if you struggle to get out of bed in the morning, your goal might be to shower and get dressed each day.

If you set your goal too big, you will likely become discouraged and give up. If you break down your goal into smaller steps, it will be much easier to accomplish. As you check items off your list, you will feel a sense of accomplishment and progress.

Reasons setting realistic goals can be helpful:

  • helps you feel more in control of your life
  • makes progress feel achievable and manageable
  • allows you to celebrate small accomplishments

Setting hi-low goals

One method to approach goal setting is with the hi-low method. This method benefits you if you struggle with consistency and tend to give up on goals once you feel you have “failed.” 

To utilize the hi-low method, pick a goal. Suppose your goal is to drink 80 oz of water per day. You may only get about 30 oz of water and drink soda a few times a day. 

Making it a goal to jump from some water and sugary drinks to 80 oz of water per day may be too drastic to commit to overnight. Especially if you struggle with depression, to expect 100% consistency every day may be setting yourself to feel like you failed at your goal. Here is where hi-low goals come into play. 

The hi-low goal for your water goal should be as follows:

Hi: 80 oz

Low: 40 oz or and no sugary drinks

This gives you a minimum and maximum to your goal, which shows a range in which you will consider your efforts a win for the day. This take on goal setting should ease the perfectionism around goal setting and set you up to succeed on your terms. Baby steps in the right direction are much better than a pass/fail grade. Any bit of progress should be celebrated.

Seeing progress and reaching your goals may take some time, depending on your chosen goals. Celebrate your successes, no matter their size, and it can keep you feeling motivated long enough to reach whatever it is you set out to achieve.

3. Connect with family and friends

Spending time with loved ones can help improve your mood and support you. If you feel isolated, tell your family and friends what you think. They can keep you company and relieve some of your heavy feelings.

If you don’t feel comfortable talking about your depression with family and friends, try spending time with them in a more casual setting. Grab dinner, have a game night, or watch a movie together. The key is to find ways to connect and spend time with those who make you feel good.

Reasons connecting with family and friends can be helpful:

  • improves your mood
  • makes you feel supported
  • can be done in a casual setting
  • can get big feelings off your shoulders
  • laughing can help  to lift feelings of depression

Reach out to your friends and family and see if you can get a plan to meet up soon to connect. 

4. Spend time in nature

One of the best coping skills for depression is to spend time outside in nature. Being in nature has been shown to improve mood and reduce stress.

If you live in a city, try to spend time in a park or nature reserve. If you live in a rural area, hike or walk in the woods. Any way you can get sunshine and fresh air is ideal. 

You can be active by riding a bike or going for a walk. If you would rather relax than break a sweat, you can still reap the benefits of nature by finding a park bench, laying out a blanket over the grass, or sitting on your porch. 

Make your time in nature something you look forward to. This experience is for you, so make it something you will enjoy and stick with.

5. Get more restful sleep

When you are struggling with depression, it is crucial to get enough sleep so your body has time to repair and restore you for the next day to come. Without enough sleep, your body could be under constant stress, affecting your work, personal life, or ability to accomplish daily tasks.

When you get a proper amount of sleep, it can help to improve your mood and increase your energy level. It can also help to reduce stress and anxiety. 

Here are some reasons you may have difficulty sleeping:

  • poor sleep hygiene
  • too much caffeine or alcohol before bed
  • working out too close to bedtime
  • too much screen time 2 hours before sleep
  • the room isn’t dark enough
  • your mind is racing with thoughts about the day or tomorrow
  • underlying medical condition

Adjust your sleep hygiene to see if that helps you get more restful sleep. Reduce screen time an hour or two before bed, make sure your room is entirely dark, keep the temperature more relaxed if possible, and sleep and wake up at the same time every day. Yes, this includes the weekends, too. 

A consistent sleep schedule affects your circadian rhythm, which is the physical, mental, and behavioral changes you experience over 24 hours. Get some evening sun and set your sleep schedule. Try it and see if that helps you get more restful sleep.

It can be incredibly frustrating and exhausting if you are having trouble sleeping for long periods. Talk with your doctor about your sleep to see if there is something they can do to help.

dealing with depression

6. Take breaks to relax during the day

Taking breaks during the day to relax can be a helpful coping skill for depression. When you feel overwhelmed, take a few minutes to relax and rejuvenate. Even a tiny break can make a significant difference in your day.

Reasons taking breaks can be helpful:

  • improves mood and energy
  • reduces stress and anxiety while resetting your stress tolerance
  • can be done in a variety of ways that fit what feels good best for you

There are a few different ways you can take breaks during the day:

  • take a walk
  • go for a run
  • read a book
  • listen to music
  • have a snack
  • take a hot shower or bath
  • practice a set of deep breaths 

Find what works for you, and take breaks throughout the day to gain the benefits of this practice.

Need help implementing coping skills for depression?

Each of these coping skills for depression can help you manage and possibly lower the severity of your depressive symptoms. Remember that it’s essential to find what works for you and practice it until it becomes second nature. This helps it be a solid part of your symptom management toolbox, which you can use to find some relief at any time.

Do you need more help figuring out why you feel the way you think? Perhaps you have experienced hard times, issues with family, or a significant life change that has sparked feelings of depression. Connecting with a Makin Wellness licensed therapist can help you identify the root causes of your symptoms and set you up with a personalized plan to reduce your symptoms through therapy.

If you are ready to make a change and start managing your depression, schedule an appointment or call us at (833)-274-heal to get set up with one of our empathetic and caring therapists. We are here to help you feel supported and heard. Start the road to relief with a simple call.

8. Take breaks to relax during the day

Taking breaks during the day to relax can be a helpful coping skill for depression. When you are feeling overwhelmed, take a few minutes to yourself to relax and rejuvenate.

It can also help to reduce stress and anxiety. There are a few different ways you can take breaks during the day. For example, you could take a walk or go for a run. You could spend time reading or listening to music. Take a hot bath or shower. Practice deep breathing or meditation. Or eat healthy snacks and drink plenty of water.

Find what works for you, and make sure to take breaks throughout the day as you incorporate these coping skills for depression.

Reasons Taking Breaks is Helpful:

  • improves mood and energy level
  • reduces stress and anxiety
  • can be done in a variety of ways

Need help implementing coping skills for depression?

Each of these coping skills for depression can help you manage your symptoms. Just remember, it’s important to find what works for you and stick with it. If you ever feel like you are struggling, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. There are people who care and want to see you get better. Remember, you are not alone.

If you need someone to talk to about implementing coping skills for depression, our Makin Wellness Counselors are here to help. Just schedule an appointment or give us a call to get the help you need to start living your life beyond your depression symptoms.

More resources:

Picture of Sara Makin MSEd, LPC, NCC

Sara Makin MSEd, LPC, NCC

All articles are written in conjunction with the Makin Wellness research team. The content on this page is not a replacement for professional diagnosis, treatment, or informed advice. It is important to consult with a qualified mental health professional before making any decisions or taking action. Please refer to our terms of use for further details.

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