Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on February 04, 2022
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Have a Hotline Number on Hand

Depression can sometimes lead to thoughts of hurting yourself. If you find yourself in such a dark place, several organizations have people ready to help. For example, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has a national helpline. It’s available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year in English and Spanish at 800-662-HELP (800-662-4357). It’s free, and all calls are confidential. You can also text “TALK” to 741741.

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Reach Out to Family or Friends

Open lines of communication are crucial when you’re dealing with depression. People who care about you are a valuable support system, and cutting off those connections can make things worse. Talking with someone about what you’re going through can make managing it easier.

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Stay in Contact With Your Doctor

Your doctor is another vital connection, so it’s a good idea to put their number in your phone and keep it handy. They can give you a safe space to talk about how you’re feeling. They can also provide guidance and advice. If the medication you’re taking isn’t working for you, your doctor might change your dosage or recommend another drug.

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Seek a Spiritual Connection

Faith-based groups can be another safe place for you to talk with others about what you’re dealing with. Communities within places of worship can offer fellowship and support, even with things like meals, errands, or child care. Members of the congregation might also be available to visit you at home, where you may feel more comfortable talking with someone.

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Be Active

Doing something physical can boost your mood. An easy 30-minute walk can ease anxiety and make you feel better, especially if a friend or family member goes with you. Exercise releases “feel-good” chemicals in your brain called endorphins and can also help take your mind off negative thoughts.

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Steer Clear of Alcohol

Alcohol is a depressant. It can cause anxiety and make depression worse. And if you take medicine for depression, alcohol might affect how that treatment works.

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Eat Well

A healthy diet can help you feel better. Go for fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats. Cut down on red meat, high-fat dairy, processed foods, and choices that are high in sugar and salt.

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Get Good Sleep

The right amount of shut-eye is important. If you don’t get enough sleep or your schedule changes often, that can make symptoms of depression worse. Be consistent in your sleep habits, and create a sleep environment that’s dark, quiet, and cool. It you regularly have trouble falling sleep or staying asleep, talk with your doctor about things that might help.

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Listen to Music

Music can be a fun and creative tool to help with symptoms of depression. Listening to tunes that you enjoy affects activity in the part of your brain that’s involved in reward, motivation, and processing emotion. Researchers are exploring ways that music can help people with depression have a better quality of life and get better sleep.

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Try Relaxation Techniques

Meditation calms your mind and trains your brain to focus. You can use that to help steer yourself away from negative thoughts or feelings. Researchers have even found that meditation physically changes your brain in areas linked to depression. Activities like yoga and tai chi may help in a similar way.

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Keep a Journal

It may help to get a notebook and write down any negative thoughts you have often, like about yourself or your future. Once you see them in writing, it’s easier to question them. For example, you might ask: Is that really the way it is or just the way you see it? Is there any evidence to support your thoughts? Are those constructive thoughts or harmful ones?

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Leave the Past in the Past

Rumination (reliving a moment or an occurrence over and over) is common for people who are dealing with depression. It can hold you back and affect the way you try to solve problems and adapt to situations. If you catch yourself doing it, recognize it and try to think about something more constructive and positive.

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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: “Does Depression Increase the Risk for Suicide?”

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: “SAMHSA’s National Helpline -- 1-800-662-HELP (4357).”

Resources To Recover: “6 Tips For Managing Depression.” “Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD).”

American Psychiatric Association: “What Is Depression?”

National Alliance on Mental Illness: “How To Be Inclusive and Welcoming.”

Mayo Clinic: “Depression and Anxiety: Exercise Eases Symptoms,” “Sleep Tips: 6 Steps To Better Sleep.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Dual Diagnosis: Why Substance Abuse Worsens Your Mental Health.”

Harvard Health Publishing: “Diet and Depression,” “How Meditation Helps With Depression.”

University of Michigan Health: “Irregular Sleep Connected To Bad Moods and Depression, Study Shows.”

Frontiers In Psychology: “A Pilot Study Investigating the Effect of Music-Based Intervention on Depression and Anhedonia.”

American Family Physician: “Depression and Anxiety Disorders: Benefits of Exercise, Yoga, and Meditation.”

Anxiety & Depression Association of America: “Tips To Manage Depression.”

Frontiers in Human Neuroscience: “Rumination In Major Depressive Disorder Is Associated With Impaired Neural Activation During Conflict Monitoring.”