When I finally admitted my need for help, that's when the fog of depression began to lift.
This process was slow—grueling, at times—but little by little, I started to see what my life could be like on the other side. I didn't have to let depression define me…even on the days when its grip held fast.
If you missed Part 1 of my depression story and how it all started, you can get caught up HERE.
Over the years, I have learned many practical ways to fight my depression, anxiety, and OCD symptoms. But before I dive into all the different things I integrate into my own treatment plan, I can't neglect the most important part of my healing process.
It Made All the Difference
You don't often hear me talk about God, and that's not because I'm embarrassed or want to hide the fact that I'm a Christian. You probably have observed occasional snippets here and there…like when I mentioned how I make Bible time a part of my morning routine.
But just because my faith isn't the main message of this blog doesn't negate the fact that Jesus IS my hope.
He is ultimately the reason why I kept on living. It wasn't the weekly therapy sessions or my family rallying around me, or even a helpful app, although all those things contributed to the healing process and are still valid ways to fight depression.
But what really kept me from giving up was going to God in prayer, listening to Him reassure me of my value through his Word, and understanding that He had a purpose—even in my depression.
So with God leading the front lines of this daily battle, I developed a supporting army of practical action steps (which I'll share with you below) to keep depression from taking over my life.
Steps I still practice today.
5 Practical Ways to Fight Depression
Important: If you also struggle with depression, you don't have to wait until you “feel good” to try any of these suggestions. Know that it's usually the exact opposite: taking the next forward step despite the way you feel unlocks an inner strength you didn't even realize you had.
1. Get outside help
I was the last person who wanted to go to therapy. I envisioned the typical movie scene—lying on a plushy couch that someone tried too hard to make cozy while constantly being asked,
“And how do you feel about that?”
It wasn't until I was willing to look past that shameful feeling of needing a psychologist that I truly benefited from one.
And my primary doctor found someone who I can honestly say changed my life.
She is the perfect mix of someone who genuinely cares, but doesn't coddle. She pushed me to answer the tough questions, gave me assignments to try each week, and helped me train my brain to beat the influence of depression as much as humanly possible.
If you've shied away from any form of counseling before, allow me to give you this snippet of hope from a girl who wanted to avoid this option like a childhood piano recital.
Therapists can see things that you don't. Simply talking to someone who understands and can put into words feelings you weren't able to communicate yourself is extremely validating.
Therapy doesn't make you any less of a person.
It makes you feel understood.
2. Know your triggers—and how to combat them
Depression and anxiety will sometimes come and go with no rhyme or reason, but eventually, I began to observe specific patterns from outside sources that also sparked an onset of symptoms.
- Physical and mental clutter
- Late nights and little sleep
- Getting out of a routine
- Lack of sunshine
- Not taking enough frequent breaks
- Eating unhealthy foods
- Spending an unnecessary amount of time scrolling through social media (which leads to an unhealthy comparison of my life to others).
So if I can prevent these triggers in the first place, it gives me the best chance of avoiding days and weeks of depression…simply by getting ahead of the problem.
Joseph and I also made a huge life change a few years ago—a move from Upstate NY to Florida—so fewer cloudy days would become less of a trigger. Just a change in climate made a significant difference in the number of good days versus bad.
Whenever you face a bout of depression or anxiety, I strongly encourage you to think about what triggered it in the first place. Sometimes, it might not be anything specific and you need to practice a whole lot of self-care to recover (which I'll talk about next!).
But other times, the solution is within your control. And that's a very empowering place to be.
3. Practice regular self-care
To others, self-care sounds like a completely selfish and unnecessary luxury (I mean, who has the time…really?).
But for you and me, it's absolutely essential and needs to be a non-negotiable part of your regular routine.
If you ignore the way you feel and continue to press forward without filling yourself up first, then your best self can't show up for anyone and you'll spiral down the black hole of depression again and again.
For me, adequate rest and self-care has proven to be integral to lifting my mood and giving me a positive outlook and appreciation for life. I have more energy. My to-do list seems more achievable. My confidence and self-esteem tanks are filled up so I'm ready to pour into myself and others.
So no matter how many eye-rolls you get for saying no to a commitment in lieu of rest and relaxation, remember: self-care is worth the time investment!
Here are some practical ways to work self-care into your life on a regular basis:
- Download the Headspace App. This meditation app isn't as woo-woo as you might think. It simply helps you slow down and focus on your breathing for 3, 5, or 10 minutes (however much time you have available). I always feel so refreshed after a short session.
- Cultivate a creative hobby. Whether it's drawing, knitting, card-making, or coloring, flip on the creative part of your brain so you can step away from the analytical part for a while and relax. Here are 11 Creative Hobbies to Try When You are Totally Stressed.
- Practice small kindnesses to yourself. Diffuse essential oils, light a candle, give yourself a manicure or spend the $25 to have someone else pamper you instead. You'll find 19 more self-care ideas that will easily fit into your busy schedule HERE.
- Get active. When I was going through a particularly hard time, I joined a gym. The physical activity and accountability of group classes was exactly what I needed to jumpstart a healthier mindset. Even just a walk outside can do wonders for your mood.
Instead of trying to inch forward with a battery life that has you racing toward the nearest electrical outlet for a tiny bit of juice to keep going, keep a finger on the pulse of how you feel and give yourself permission to get back to 100% by whatever means necessary.
4. Don't Shy Away From Medicine
Growing up in the conservative Christian culture, I'm well aware of the leaders who think taking medication is a “way out” from trusting God with a problem that needs to be fixed by Christ and Christ alone.
They look down on this way to fight depression.
But when there's something physically wrong inside your body (in this case, a chemical imbalance in the brain), you treat it. I don't hear these same leaders fighting against the use of epidurals for labor pain management, chemotherapy for cancer, or a cast to heal a broken bone!
The thing is—when you are mentally incapacitated by depression, anti-depressants don't change who you are as a person, they help you feel normal.
Talk with your doctor and try different medications to see if there is one that's perfect for you, or a mix of a couple different ones. And if you ever want to get off of medication, that's your right to do so. But don't feel like any less of a person because you use medication as part of your healing process.
5. Open up to friends
I went years before sharing my story with even one of my closest friends. Years! That's how ashamed I was of my depression, anxiety, and OCD. But the more I've “named my shame” (as Brene Brown calls it), I've felt more empowered than ever before.
Just this past weekend, I attended a conference and unknowingly sat down next to an author whose 19-year old daughter was just diagnosed with depression and OCD. I could have clammed up and just listened, but instead, I was able to give a unique perspective from someone who had been there and still struggles on a daily basis.
And now that I'm telling you, my blog readers, I have nothing else to hide.
I'm not saying you need to announce what you struggle with to the world right away (it's taken me 17 years to get to this point!), but open up to a couple of close, genuine friends so you don't have to fight this battle alone.
There is strength in numbers when you allow yourself to be even just a tiny bit vulnerable.
It DOES Get Better
Here's the truth: No matter how many good days I have or different pills I take, I'll never be “cured” of depression.
Some days, I barely function. Other days, my OCD plays mind tricks on me again. I still have irrational fears and thoughts that make me cancel meetings and skip events because I can't bring myself to act like I'm perfectly okay when nothing could be further from the truth.
But those days (thankfully!) are fewer and farther between. Now that I know practical ways to fight depression, I can do something about it.
The road to recovery might sometimes feel like you're at a complete standstill, but eventually, the lies inside your head that whisper “you are not enough” will fade away as the voice of truth grows louder.
Because, my friend, you ARE enough.
Once you get to know your depression a little better, what triggers it, and how to move forward, you won't just exist…you'll thrive. You'll understand how to manage your struggles in a different way because you have clarity over what you need to do to overcome them.
And you'll quickly realize that yes, even with depression, it's possible to be on the winning side.
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