What are the best coping skills for depression?

James E. DelGenio LCPC

Distraction is the best coping skill for depression.

Socialization, Exercise, Hobbies, Chores

Socialization is an important coping skill. It is good to have fun. Have fun! People with mood disorders often become engrossed in the past, their illness, and problems. They tend to isolate and withdraw. That is just not healthy and is a common symptom of depression. You should have at least 3-4 social events each month.

Exercise (especially walking) is good for depression and anxiety and is a great distraction when one is experiencing symptoms. Research suggests that a brisk walk for 4o minutes (with your doctor’s approval) will lift your mood and reduce anxiety. Don’t wait to feel motivated. Lack of motivation is often a direct result of a mood disorder. If you wait to feel motivated, it may never happen. Walk or do cardio work at least 4 times per week. Pick your days and let the day of the week make the decision for you. This will help to avoid, “I don’t feel like it today; I’ll do it tomorrow.” Unfortunately, tomorrow never comes. Any physical activity is likely to be helpful.

Hobbies can also be an important coping skill. A hobby can serve as a distraction when you are feeling low or anxious. Go to a hobby shop and pick something. I have had a lot of people choose paint by number sets. It’s the perfect hobby. You can pick up a paint brush and distract yourself and put it down and walk away when you need to. I had one man become a very good artist after starting with just a paint by number set. So, go to the hobby shop and pick something!

Chores can also be a great distraction. Many people with depression are overwhelmed by the thought of cleaning their entire living space. Again, use the pick a day method and choose one or two chores per day. Do your chores and exercise on the days you have picked to do them. Try to have at least one social activity per week. Plan to have fun. Adding structure to your life addresses many common symptoms of a mood disorder but especially lack of motivation.

If these distraction techniques don’t work, you may need to consider medication such as an anti-depressant. Talk with your doctor soon.

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For those in the metropolitan Chicago area, I have offices in Millennium Park on Michigan Avenue, and near 22nd St and Wolf Road in Westchester. Call James E. DelGenio MS, LCPC, Senior Staff Therapist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University, 847-733-4300 Ext 638.

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Disclaimer: This material is meant to be used in conjunction with psychiatric treatment, medication, if necessary, and supportive therapy. Always share this material and your questions about this material with your doctor and therapist.

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