Whatever the causes of your depression, the following tips can help you overcome your symptoms, change how you feel, and regain your sense of hope and enthusiasm.
Overcoming teen depression tip 1: Talk to an adult you trust
Depression is not your fault, and you didn’t do anything to cause it. However, you do have some control over feeling better. The first step is to ask for help.
Talking to someone about depression
It may seem like there’s no way your parents will be able to help, especially if they are always nagging you or getting angry about your behavior. The truth is, parents hate to see their kids hurting. They may feel frustrated because they don’t understand what is going on with you or know how to help.
-If your parents are abusive in any way, or if they have problems of their own that makes it difficult for them to take care of you, find another adult you trust (such as a relative, teacher, counselor, or coach). This person can either help you approach your parents, or direct you toward the support you need.
-If you truly don’t have anyone you can talk to, there are many hotlines, services, and support groups that can help.
-No matter what, talk to someone, especially if you are having any thoughts of harming yourself or others. Asking for help is the bravest thing you can do, and the first step on your way to feeling better.
The importance of accepting and sharing your feelings
It can be hard to open up about how you’re feeling—especially when you’re feeling depressed, ashamed, or worthless. It’s important to remember that many people struggle with feelings like these at one time or another. They don’t mean you’re weak, fundamentally flawed, or no good. Accepting your feelings and opening up about them with someone you trust will help you feel less alone.
Even though it may not feel like it at the moment, people do love and care about you. If you can muster the courage to talk about your depression, it can—and will—be resolved. Some people think that talking about sad feelings will make them worse, but the opposite is almost always true. It is very helpful to share your worries with someone who will listen and care about what you say. They don’t need to be able to “fix” you; they just need to be good listeners.
Tip 2: Try not to isolate yourself—it makes depression worse
Depression causes many of us to withdraw into our shells. You may not feel like seeing anybody or doing anything and some days just getting out of bed in the morning can be difficult. But isolating yourself only makes depression worse. So even if it’s the last thing you want to do, try to force yourself to stay social. As you get out into the world and connect with others, you’ll likely find yourself starting to feel better.
Spend time face-to-face with friends who make you feel good—especially those who are active, upbeat, and understanding. Avoid hanging out with those who abuse drugs or alcohol, get you into trouble, or make you feel judged or insecure.
Get involved in activities you enjoy (or used to). Getting involved in extracurricular activities seem like a daunting prospect when you’re depressed, but you’ll feel better if you do. Choose something you’ve enjoyed in the past, whether it be a sport, an art, dance or music class, or an after-school club. You might not feel motivated at first, but as you start to participate again, your mood and enthusiasm will begin to lift.
Volunteer. Doing things for others is a powerful antidepressant and happiness booster. Volunteering for a cause you believe in can help you feel reconnected to others and the world, and give you the satisfaction of knowing you’re making a difference.
Cut back on your social media use. While it may seem that losing yourself online will temporarily ease depression symptoms, it can actually make you feel even worse. Comparing yourself unfavorably with your peers on social media, for example, only promotes feelings of depression and isolation. Remember: people always exaggerate the positive aspects of their lives online, brushing over the doubts and disappointments that we all experience. And even if you’re just interacting with friends online, it’s no replacement for in-person contact. Eye-to-eye contact, a hug, or even a simple touch on the arm from a friend can make all the difference to how you’re feeling.
Tip 3: Adopt healthy habits
Making healthy lifestyle choices can do wonders for your mood. Things like eating right, getting regular exercise, and getting enough sleep have been shown to make a huge difference when it comes to depression.
Get moving! Ever heard of a “runner’s high”? You actually get a rush of endorphins from exercising, which makes you feel instantly happier. Physical activity can be as effective as medications or therapy for depression, so get involved in sports, ride your bike, or take a dance class. Any activity helps! If you’re not feeling up to much, start with a short daily walk, and build from there.
Be smart about what you eat. An unhealthy diet can make you feel sluggish and tired, which worsens depression symptoms. Junk food, refined carbs, and sugary snacks are the worst culprits! They may give you a quick boost, but they’ll leave you feeling worse in the long run. Make sure you’re feeding your mind with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Talk to your parents, doctor, or school nurse about how to ensure your diet is adequately nutritious.
Avoid alcohol and drugs. You may be tempted to drink or use drugs in an effort to escape from your feelings and get a “mood boost,” even if just for a short time. However, as well as causing depression in the first place, substance use will only make depression worse in the long run. Alcohol and drug use can also increase suicidal feelings. If you’re addicted to alcohol or drugs, seek help. You will need special treatment for your substance problem on top of whatever treatment you’re receiving for your depression.
Aim for eight hours of sleep each night. Feeling depressed as a teenager typically disrupts your sleep. Whether you’re sleeping too little or too much, your mood will suffer. But you can get on a better sleep schedule by adopting healthy sleep habits.
Tip 4: Manage stress and anxiety
For many teens, stress and anxiety can go hand-in-hand with depression. Unrelenting stress, doubts, or fears can sap your emotional energy, affect your physical health, send your anxiety levels soaring, and trigger or exacerbate depression.
If you’re suffering from an anxiety disorder, it can manifest itself in a variety of ways. Perhaps you endure intense anxiety attacks that strike without warning, get panicky at the thought of speaking in class, experience uncontrollable, intrusive thoughts, or live in a constant state of worry. Since anxiety makes depression worse (and vice versa), it’s important to get help for both conditions.