Depression - What self-care and management skills can I try?
What self-care and management skills can I try?
You can learn to manage your symptoms by looking after yourself. Self-care is how you take care of your diet, exercise, daily routine, relationships and how you are feeling. You will learn how to notice when you are becoming unwell and know what your triggers are.
Our diet affects our physical health. Depending on what you eat you could develop problems like obesity, heart disease and diabetes. In the same way, the things we eat may affect our moods and mental health.
Some people deal with their depression by eating high-fat and high-sugar foods. Also, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can make you crave sugary carbohydrates like cakes and biscuits.
Some ways to manage your diet include:
- eating three times a day,
- not skipping meals,
- drinking at least 1 litre of water a day,
- not having too much caffeine like tea, coffee and chocolate,
- eating fruit, vegetables and wholegrains,
- sticking to the healthy alcohol units, that is 14 units a week for men and women.
If you have depression, these changes may not have an instant impact on your mood. However, they can be important for long-term recovery.
Exercising regularly can help your mood. Find something you enjoy so you keep it up. You need to be out of breath but not so much that you can’t talk while you are doing it. Exercise can help if you have problems sleeping. Getting proper sleep is important for your mental health.
How much you can do depends on your age, physical health and fitness. Slowly increase the amount you exercise - doing too much too early may make you lose motivation.
There are programmes like the NHS’s Couch to 5KM where they gradually help you go from doing no exercise to walking or jogging for 5 kilometres. Some other options are listed below.
- Going for a walk: Get yourself a pedometer or an app that counts your steps. Slowly challenge yourself to walk more steps and reach a goal.
- Cycling: Make sure you wear a helmet and high visibility vests or chest strap. Stick to quiet roads if you aren’t confident on a bike.
- Gardening: There may be a local NHS or charitable gardening scheme in your area. Ask your GP, volunteering services or social services. You can check on The Conversation Volunteers website to see if there are any projects in your area. Their details are in Useful Contacts at the end of this section.
- Playing a sport
- Gym: As well as indoor gyms, there are free ‘green gyms’ all across the country. You may be able to get direct payments for gym membership or reduced rates if you are not working.
- Housework: Doing housework in an active way can be good exercise.
Mental health medication can cause problems with weight. Try to keep your BMI between 18.5 and 25. You can check your BMI on www.nhs.uk/Tools/Pages/Healthyweightcalculator.aspx.
There are different tools you can use such as the NHS 12 week weight loss programme. While you may not want to lose weight, it can be helpful to use it as a diary. You can find it here: www.nhs.uk/Tools/Documents/WEIGHT-LOSS-PACK/all-weeks.pdf
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