Depression Survival Guide

FEB. 10, 2016

By Larry Godwin

Although I am not a health ­care professional, I’ve seen depression from the inside. My expertise is rooted in the trials and errors of personal experience. Every person is different and therefore not all of these suggestions will work for you, just as they haven't all worked for me. My hope is that through this list you can gain insight into at least one strategy that helps assuage your depression.

Recognize that Depression Is Not a Sign of Weakness

It’s not just sadness. Unfortunately, a lot of people still don’t understand that. Stigma still exisits that prevents people from getting help, but know that you are not alone. Millions, including everyday people and celebrities, have talked about their struggles with depression, received help and are in recovery.

Don’t Be Afraid to Get Help From a Professional

Make an appointment, whether it’s with your family physician, a licensed mental health professional or a psychiatrist. It’s important to find someone that you feel comfortable with. If you can’t afford the cost for a private visit, SAMHSA provides a treatment locator or you can call your local county health services department or mental health center for assistance. Health­care providers draw from their areas of expertise and personal experiences. That means if one doesn’t work for you, there’s another out there who might be a better fit. Here are some more tips for finding a mental health professional.

Be a Part of Forming Your Treatment Team

Being a team is important. Being included in decisions about what works for you can make sure you help decide what’s important for you in recovery. Members of your treatment team can include your therapist, psychiatrist, or other health care provider, a trusted family member or friend, and a support group.

Don’t Struggle in Silence

Confide in those you trust, whether it’s your spouse or partner, a relative, a close friend, or your healthcare providers. You can also join a support group, either a face-to-face one in your community or online. Warmlines are also an option. They are free, peer-run support lines that provide the opportunity to speak to a peer. At the same time, be selective in how much you disclose about your illness when a casual friend or acquaintance asks how you are.

Be Patient

Although some treatments can bring results within a few days, many take weeks to make a difference. Follow your physician’s directions—don’t exceed what he or she recommends, and look for gradual improvement rather than huge changes overnight.

Keep a List of Things That Make You Smile and Laugh

In other words, create a rainy day fund for your mental health. Depression can come in cycles so having things that you can call on quickly that you know will help pull you up can be important. These might include a friend you can call, a compilation of funny cat videos, pictures from a fun vacation, a playlist of your favorite songs or an inspirational quote.

If Traditional Treatments Don’t Work, Explore Other Options

If common services and supports like therapy and prescription medications and supplements don’t seem to work, there are other types of treatment you can try. For example, repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), which stimulates nerve cells in the brain to improve symptoms of depression, meditation, and complementary health approaches like yoga, acupressure and acupuncture.

Engage All of Your Senses

 Being aware of your surroundings and your body can help ground you and connect you to the moment. This awareness is a practice known as mindfulness. Becoming mindful takes lots of practice (and often training), but there are small things you can do on your own. For example, try to pay attention to the soft rug under your feet or the scented candle in your room. Also, you may find eating flavorful foods like chocolate can help.

Do Things That You Find Relaxing or Fun

Color, listen to uplifting music, garden, pet a furry friend and spend time doing whatever it is that makes you feel at peace. Take a vacation or staycation if you can. Doing what you love can have lasting effects after you finish.

Get Outside

Spending time outside improves your mood, reduces stress and anxiety, gives you energy and improves focus. Find the time to soak up some rays and get your daily dose of Vitamin D.

Explore Your Thoughts and Feelings in a Private Place

Journaling isn’t a new idea, it’s hard to get started and you may find it tedious—but it can make a difference! Just writing down your thoughts can bring validation and relief. Let any anger or frustrations that you have out on paper instead of bottling them up.

Make plans to look forward to

Fill your agenda every day. Idle time can cause you to dwell on negative thoughts, so instead keep yourself occupied. Take up a new hobby, enroll in an interesting class or volunteer to help others. Try to establish daily routines and stick to them, for they can provide structure and stability, providing mileposts to carry you through the day.


It’s been said before, but exercising releases feel-good endorphins into your brain and can lift your mood. Take long walks, jog, play tennis, join a fitness club or find another form of exercise that you enjoy. Make an exercise routine and stick to it. Start small. If you haven’t exercised in a while—or have never really gotten into it—that’s OK! Set a small goal to start out with—just 10-15 minutes a few times a week. Once you get used to the routine, keeping it going will get easier.

Surround Yourself with Positive People

A positive attitude can be infectious, so stick around the people that make you happy and avoid those who don’t. Negativity breeds more negativity and it’s hard to stop the cycle. Try to stop the cycle from starting!

Be Compassionate Towards Yourself

Forgive yourself for your blunders and for angry remarks you may have made. Realize you’re doing the best you can, but don’t become complacent. Resolve to do better in the future. Keeping your inner dialogue positive isn’t easy, but positive thinking can go a long way toward increasing your resilience.


APR, 13, 2017 08:34:46 AM
Gr8 m8

MAR, 08, 2016 01:29:21 PM
saida aitbouali
I really like the way of sharing you life experience with depression disorder ,so people who are suffering such diseases wouldn't think that they are alone .I ensure that being busy ,and having sense of achievement skills will surely improve and diminish the symptoms .Thank you so much

MAR, 02, 2016 12:21:03 AM
I have dealt with bi polar depression and other mental illnesses and I was a wreck for years and years. Through studying and learning I found the coalition between oxidative stress and these issues. I have lowered my oxidative stress at a cellular level and I want to share that I am loving everyday and enjoying life finally. Has anyone tried this?

FEB, 29, 2016 06:47:41 PM
Great ideas. I have tried most of them to help with my depression and anxiety. Times I am good, and times I am down, but I am learning day by day to not rush myself. I try to do something different just in case what I did before don't work this time.

FEB, 26, 2016 03:41:27 PM
Barbara Calloway
Great tips to assist in managing your Depression !

FEB, 26, 2016 03:34:18 PM
Robert Hammel R. Psych.
Great pragmatic stuff --- thank you. I really believe that "behavioural activation" and just begiinng to engage with daily life is often the first step to recovery.

FEB, 26, 2016 02:55:14 PM
I would like to open the discussion to include those who are caring for the developmentally/intellectually disabled who, in their 20s or 30s, also develop behavioral/mental illness. I never knew this could happen. Frightening to watch a practically non-verbal adult with functoning age of a preschooler develop depression, OCD and panic/anxiety attacks.

FEB, 26, 2016 06:45:12 AM
Thank you

FEB, 25, 2016 07:47:19 PM
I struggled with depression for nearly two yrs. I tried all of the suggestions,plus. The only help came from anti-depressants and keeping constantly busy so I had no time to think of myself, and a lot of physical exercise.

FEB, 25, 2016 07:28:20 PM
Vincent Caimano
This is a great summary of treatment and self-help options. Another effective tool is peer support. Check out our live video support groups at where you can choose from three different types of depression groups led by individuals who have lived experience.

FEB, 25, 2016 07:17:31 PM
Cheryl Conroy
If my insurance covered it or I could get through to the supposedly SJ Behavior Resources would stop sendindg me in circles with phone numbers I would have Counceling but I cannot get through to the help I need

FEB, 18, 2016 07:08:20 PM
Brenda Carpenter, RN, CM
Thank you for the "heart share" I will pass it fwd to my many Mental Health Clients facing similar issues and look for the ray of hope.

FEB, 12, 2016 06:29:35 AM
Richard K Potter
Great to see this. I also have 'lived experience' and I am trying to make the world a better place for people who suffer with depression and anxiety. Please do spread - it's a free art activity resource site for people who can really benefit and feel some empowerment from being creative. Thank you. Richard x

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