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Lifestyle Tips for Treatment-Resistant Depression

How you live can help support expert medical care.
WebMD Feature

If you have treatment-resistant depression, getting expert medical and psychological treatment is crucial. But recovery isn't only about dutifully taking your medicine and seeing your therapist. There is actually a lot that you can do on your own to support your treatment.

"Because some treatments have already failed you, you want to do everything you can to improve your chances of success," says Ian A. Cook, MD, director of the Depression Research Program at the University of California, Los Angeles. "That includes paying more attention to your lifestyle -- your stress levels, your sleep, your exercise, and your diet." Making some changes -- when combined with treatment -- can have a big impact on your health, Cook tells WebMD.

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While treatment-resistant depression can make you feel powerless, you're not. Taking an active role in your treatment can make a difference. Here are some suggestions for what you can do.

Treatment-Resistant Depression: Taking Control of Your Life

Get on a schedule. When you have treatment-resistant depression -- especially if you're not working or in school -- the hours and days can blend together. That lack of structure in your life, that chaos, can make it very hard to recover.

"If your life has no form to it, if you wake up in the morning with no idea of what to do with yourself, you're going to be miserable," says Dean F. MacKinnon, MD, associate professor of psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. "Actually, that can make anyone miserable, whether they're clinically depressed or not."

One of the first things you should try to do is impose some order on your day. You don't need to schedule every minute, but come up with the basics. Set a time for waking up, going to bed, and eating meals. Then start to set times for other activities -- like exercising or seeing friends.

Set goals. This goes along with establishing a schedule for treatment-resistant depression. "I think in order to feel happy with your life," says MacKinnon, "you need to feel like you've accomplished something in a day."

So set some modest goals for your day and for your week, and make sure that they're things that you can realistically accomplish. Break big tasks into smaller ones, so that you can chip away at them gradually.

Get involved.  Some people with treatment-resistant depression need to take time off from work or school because they can't keep up with the responsibilities. The problem is that having nothing to do can be a very bad thing for people with depression.

So even if you're taking time off, find new ways to occupy yourself and stay involved.  Consider working a part-time job that's not so demanding. Or think about volunteering. You could find that helping others could give you a new sense of purpose, says MacKinnon.

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