Coping with Depression

By Kenneth J. Hopkins, PsyD, Associate Dean of Students (Retired) October 05, 2015

Mental Health Tips from William James College Faculty: Coping with Depression by Kenneth J. Hopkins, PsyD, Associate Dean of Students (Retired).

Sadness is a part of every life. We all have losses or disappointments that make us sad, and coping with them is a normal part of the human condition. Depression however, is a clinical condition that differs from sadness in that it interferes significantly with our everyday functioning. It affects our mood, thinking, physical functioning, and relationships. Depression involves a persistently sad mood or loss of pleasure/interest in nearly all activities for at least two weeks (in children and adolescents the mood can be irritable). Among its other features can be weight loss or weight gain, difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much, psychomotor agitation or retardation, fatigue and loss of energy, feelings of worthlessness or excessive/inappropriate guilt, diminished ability to concentrate or indecisiveness, and recurrent thoughts of death and/or suicidal ideation or planning.

When people are depressed it is helpful for them to have support and be able to monitor their thinking on how they are making meaning of themselves and events in their lives. However, the very nature of depression makes it difficult for people to do what helps them most. Losing energy and hope can make it very hard for us to recognize and do what might make us feel better. 

Depression also changes the way a person thinks, and it is common for depressed persons to have overly pessimistic thoughts about themselves, others, events, and the future. 

Tips for Coping with Depression

  • Reward yourself for small accomplishments such as taking a walk around the block or calling a friend. 
  • Try not to “beat up” on yourself. Nobody is perfect. 
  • Be careful of all or none thinking and overgeneralizations. For example, be careful of labeling everything about yourself as “bad” or filtering out good things that are happening and seeing everything as hopeless and unchangeable forever. 
  • Seek out support, despite the feeling of wanting to withdraw. Reach out to friends and family, letting them in on what you are going through. 
  • Keep up social activities. Volunteer for a cause. 
  • Try to sleep, get out in the sunlight, exercise (short periods and repeat). 
  • Use relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, and breathing. 
  • Eat healthy and don’t self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. 
  • Seek professional help from a counselor/therapist, clergy and/or your doctor. 

Finally, if you hear in your thoughts old voices of past critical or punishing relationships, check out the reality of how your current friends see you. Think how you would judge someone else in the same situation and be as kind to yourself as you would be to another.