Thrive with Depression

If you think you may have depression, talk to a trusted adult. If you have been diagnosed with depression, the first step is to seek treatment from a professional. However, there are other measures you can take on your own to reduce the impact of depression symptoms in addition to therapy.

Many of these same steps can help you to improve your ability to manage everyday life stressors and reduce factors that may be putting you at risk for future mental health struggles. Check out our Managing Your Depression handout.


It may seem impossible to workout while battling depression, but finding the will may be just what is needed. Studies have indicated that exercise may be just as effective as some medications. However, only you know your body and what is ultimately best.

Harvard Medical School has a few tips to get started.
Here are some additional ways to find motivation.


Eating healthy is something we can all work on improving, but having depression makes it even more important. A healthy diet can have big impacts on our mental health. The increasing availability of quick, healthy foods is making it easier to eat better – something that should come as a welcome change for those living with mental health challenges. 

Harvard Medical School has advice on what you should try to eat.
WebMD has some tips to get started.


If you are depressed, you may feel like sleep is the first or last thing you need to worry about depending on your symptoms. But “sleep” is about more than just doing it – it is about setting good sleep patterns that involve a reasonable bed time, 8-10 hours of sleep per night, and getting up and moving when your alarm rings.

Start with creating a sleep environment that is cool, dark, quiet and relaxing – think about using window shades, ear plugs, comfortable bedding or a fan. In the hours before bed, pass on doing homework, talking to friends, checking social media or consuming foods that are heavy or spicy or drinks that contain caffeine or sugar. In addition, staying off of electronic devices like cell phones, TV, tablets and computers an hour before sleep is a good idea.

NAMI has some recommendations to get started.
Healthline has compiled a list of the best apps for Insomnia.

Other health issues

Taking care of health problems can make a big difference in how we feel emotionally. Research even indicates that many untreated conditions share strong correlations with depression, especially inflammatory diseases. Remedying your aches, pains, allergies and other ailments may be just what you need for your mood to improve.

Avoid harmful substances

Individuals experiencing depression may find anyway to feel better, but It is important to realize that there are both healthy and unhealthy ways to cope with stress. Negative coping skills include activities that can feel good in the moment, but leave people feeling worse later on and potentially be dangerous. Negative coping includes things like taking drugs, drinking alcohol or engaging in high risk behavior like reckless driving or cutting.

Be mindful

Mindfulness is the practice of being present in the moment. When we get overwhelmed it is usually because our minds start to think about past setbacks or worry about future challenges – this kind of thinking can lead to feelings of stress and even depression. If we live in the present moment we can begin to free ourselves of those negative thoughts and feelings and be more effective in what we are trying to do at any given moment – whether it is being more present with our friends or family, school work or hobbies.

Check out the Erika’s Lighthouse Mindfulness Activity. has a list of free mindfulness apps.

Practice S.T.O.P.

Before school, during lunch, on your commute home, in the shower or before bed think to yourself, S.T.O.P.  
S – Stop what you are doing for a minute.
T – Take a breath. Breathe normally and naturally and follow your breath coming in and out of your nose.
O – Observe your thoughts. When a thought arises, acknowledge it, sit with it and accept it. Notice any emotions that are present and name them. Research indicates just naming your emotions can have a calming effect. Then focus on your body. Any physical sensations like a racing heart, tense muscles or pain? Identify it.
P – Proceed with something that will support you in the moment. Whether that is talking to a friend or just stretching your shoulders.

Do what you love

It sounds easy enough, but one of the symptoms of depression is no longer doing the things you loved. Try getting back to that by picking up an old sport, volunteering, painting, watching your favorite movie, reading your favorite book or anything else that can enrich our lives. Rekindling a hobby and your spirit could improve your outlook and mental health.

For more information

For more information on depression, check out our Parent Handbook on Childhood and Teen Depression. Also, don’t forget to take a look at the rest of the Teen Depression Toolbox – access more information on depression, treatment options and how to help someone with depression.

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