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HealthInfo Canterbury

Self-care for depression

If you have depression, you may feel like lots of things are hard and out of your control. This is normal but making small changes in your life can help you manage depression.

Making change is a positive step and you'll need to stick it out before you start to feel better. Keep in mind that there isn't one solution, but rather a variety of techniques that'll make a difference.

Read below for some suggested small changes you may wish to try.

Keep moving

Being physically active in a way you enjoy can make you feel better. Regular exercise has been shown to be as effective as medication in treating mild to moderate depression. Starting to be more active can be daunting when you are suffering from depression. Start small and think about giving yourself a plan to stick to. Physical activity doesn't mean you have to join a gym. It can be as simple as taking a walk or being more active around your home, such as mowing the lawns or cleaning. As you start to feel better, you can gradually increase the time and intensity of your activity. You could talk to your GP about a Green Prescription to get more physically active.

Sleep well

Despite your best efforts, depression can make it hard to sleep well. It helps to get to bed at a reasonable hour and to minimise distractions. You can find more tips for sleeping well on HealthInfo.

You may need some medication to help you sleep in the short-term. Talk to your general practice team or psychiatrist about this.

Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs

It can be tempting to use alcohol or recreational drugs to help with symptoms of depression. In the long-term, alcohol and drugs will make your mood worse, or cause more problems to develop. Sometimes, it's hard to stop using alcohol or drugs without some professional help. If this is your situation, talk to your GP about drug and alcohol counselling, or contact the Alcohol Drug Helpline on 0800-787-797.

Eat well

Eating well helps your brain recover from depression. For a range of healthy eating resources and recipes, see this page.

Stay social

Staying connected to friends and family will help you recover from depression. Even a small amount of social contact daily is enough, until you are ready for more. See for more ideas about how to stay connected.

The Canterbury Mental Health Education and Resource Centre Trust (MHERC) provides information, education, and support within the Canterbury region to people with mental health and addiction issues. It can help you contact support groups in your area.

Learn to relax and reduce stress

Stress makes your body tense, which can make you feel tired. Here are some quick relaxation techniques you can try.

Mindfulness may also be helpful. It's a mental discipline which helps connect you to the here-and-now and regain control. The Smiling Mind app is an excellent free resource to get you started with mindfulness. The library can be a good place to start for relaxation tapes.

This document contains some more quick relaxation techniques.

Have some fun

Plan one fun thing every day. You may have to force yourself to do it and it may not feel very fun at the time, but that’s normal. Activities that you have enjoyed in the past are likely to bring some enjoyment again and simply choosing to get out and do something can make a difference. It can help to bring structure to your day. This list of healing activities for depression will give you some ideas about activities worth considering.

Treat yourself

Self-treatment can be effective for many people with depression.

Consider doing an online course about depression. These courses can help you understand your illness and motivate you with goals. These are useful for everyone – especially if you live in a rural area, or if transport is a problem.

Consider alternative therapies can help you decide if alternative therapies could be helpful.

Specific advice about St Johns Wort and Omega 3:

Get help with anxiety

Depression often goes hand in hand with anxiety symptoms. Understanding anxiety can help you manage it better.

  HealthInfo recommends the following pages

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by Psychiatrist Canterbury DHB. Last reviewed May 2019.

See also:

Reading in Mind book scheme

Page reference: 48362

Review key: HIDEP-48681