Empower yourself

Depression can often leave people feeling out of control or pessimistic about the future. The following strategies can help you gain a greater sense of control over the decisions and actions that impact your health.

Take an active role in your treatment.

Because each individual’s experience with depression is different, it’s important to become an expert on your illness. As an active participant in your own healthcare, you can help identify the best course to feeling and functioning better.

Learn to speak up and ask for what you need.  

State your opinions and needs clearly. Remember that you have the right to ask for what you need at home, on the job, and from your healthcare team. It is normal to struggle and to sometimes need help from others.

Build resilience.

Resilience can be described as the ability to cope and bounce back from difficult experiences or sources of stress. You can develop more resilience over time by changing the way you view adversity. Some ways to build resilience include:

  • Use past experience to your advantage.Use skills and strategies that worked for you in the past.
  • Set goals for yourself.Do something each day that gives you a sense of purpose and achievement.
  • Understand that change happens.Accepting or anticipating change will help you take on new challenges with greater ease by shifting your focus to circumstances that are under your control.
  • Have confidence in yourself.Trust your instincts and your ability to problem solve.
  • Keep things in perspective.Rather than blowing stressful situations out of proportion or worrying about things that may never happen, resilience requires that we see the bigger picture and remain optimistic about the future.  
  • Take care of yourself.Doing activities you enjoy, taking time to relax, and maintaining healthy habits helps you stay mentally and physically prepared to handle situations that require resilience.

Set realistic expectations.

Your treatment plan and self-care strategies will help you manage your symptoms, but over time you will likely be tested by situations that can get in the way of your recovery.  Setting realistic expectations about yourself and others, learning to anticipate situations, and knowing how to react are all skills that will help.

What can you expect?  

  • Expect that your recovery will take time.  Along the way, you can expect to run short of patience, such as at the start of treatment while waiting for medication to have an impact.  Similarly, it can take a significant investment of time for psychotherapy to make a difference.  And throughout treatment, there may be periods when you do not feel you are making progress. At these times, you may be tempted to stop treatment. Instead, realize that no one overcomes depression in a day. Think long-term and recognize that difficult patches are part of recovery.   
  • Expect to have setbacks. Depression is a chronic, recurring illness.  Living with depression means anticipating both periods of relief and relapses.  Staying focused and optimistic, continuing to work with your healthcare providers to monitor your treatment plan, and maintaining healthy self-care habits are keys to handling the ups and downs of depression.
  • Expect to adjust your treatment plan along the way.  A high percentage of patients have to modify their treatment plan at some point. Medication dosages may need to be adjusted up or down, and in many cases, different medications may need to be added or substituted. In addition, different types of psychotherapy or self-care strategies may need to be used over time. This is not an indication that treatment is not working. It shows that you and your healthcare provider are working together to monitor the effectiveness of your plan and make sure your recovery continues to progress. There is no one-size fits all approach, and it takes time to find the exact combination of treatments that will work for you.
  • Expect to encounter people who do not understand.  One of the greatest challenges in overcoming depression is dealing with people whose opinions about depressive illnesses are inaccurate or discriminatory. Remember that stigma surrounding depression is from a lack of education. Depending upon the situation, you may determine that the best strategy is to ignore a comment made, or to avoid future encounters with an individual and continue to focus your energy on the positive steps you are taking to recover. In other instances, you may choose to respond to ignorance with information. Feel free to refer others to the information provided on this website. When it comes to deciding whether or not to educate others about depression, or to share your own story, the choice is entirely yours. 
  • Expect to be part of the solution. Your providers cannot help you without your full participation in treatment. Even if you are skeptical of treatment, give it your best effort.