If you have a mental illness like depression, it can be difficult to express how you feel to those who have never been in your shoes. Helping loved ones understand what you’re experiencing is challenging sometimes, but a simple tool like a depression chart may be able to help. There are a few different types, and finding one that works for you can have several benefits.
How A Depression Chart Can Be Useful
If you are experiencing depression, accurately expressing how it makes you feel can be useful. It may help friends and family understand what you are going through and be able to better support you. However, adequately explaining the effects of depression to someone who has never personally felt them can be difficult. It is also typically a nonlinear condition, meaning that a person may have better or worse days but not be able to predict when or why they will occur. A depression chart can help a person talk about their experience in a simplified, easy-to-understand format, even if it changes from day to day.
Another benefit of a tool like this is personal for the individual with depression. It can function as a tracking mechanism so you can monitor how you feel over time. Once you have enough details, you may be able to pick out factors that triggered you or made you feel better on certain days so you can use that knowledge to help yourself going forward.
Finally, tracking may help you get more specific, helpful treatment.
Types Of Depression Charts
People may experience depression in different ways, or have different needs when it comes to communicating or tracking their symptoms. Choosing the type of depression chart that works best for you is key. One type is similar to charts that some doctors use to help patients express their level of physical pain. These may look like a series of increasingly pained faces accompanied by a short description of each stage. In a physical pain chart, they might range from a smiling face with the caption, “No pain at all” to an upset face with a caption that says, “So painful that I can’t focus on anything else.” In a depression chart, the range might be from “I’m not feeling great today: unmotivated and detached” to “I can’t get out of bed; I feel numb” with two or three levels in between. This type is the most useful for letting loved ones know how you are doing on a given day and what you may or may not need or be up for.
Another type of depression chart takes the form of a graph that you fill in each day. You can plot your mood on it daily and make notes at the bottom. That way, you can see what your progression is over time and which factors may contribute to better or worse days. For example, you could track your moods after starting therapy or a new exercise regimen to see if either of those things is helping you feel better over time. Or, you could take note of your mood on the days when you ate a healthy meal, wrote in your journal, or slept well versus the days you didn’t to see whether any of these actions tend to make a difference.
Depression Charts And Getting Support
Significant scientific evidence supports the link between social support and mental health. A 2019 study, for example, suggests that university students who have strong social support networks also have better levels of psychological well-being, fewer depressive symptoms, and better quality of life. Using a depression chart may help you strengthen existing relationships by letting your loved ones understand how to support you. Using a tracking-style depression chart may also help you monitor the potential impacts of positive social interactions if you’re looking to build more or closer connections.
Another form of support that can be helpful for those experiencing depression is an ongoing relationship with a trained therapist. A robust body of research supports that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in particular can be an effective treatment for depression. A therapist can not only act as a listening ear for when you want to tell your feelings, but they can also help you learn to notice and adjust distorted patterns of thinking that may be contributing to symptoms. Talking about your depression chart or tracker with your mental health professional may help them get a better idea of how depression impacts you and treat you accordingly.
For individuals who are experiencing depression, going to a physical office to get the support of a therapist can seem daunting or even impossible on some days. It is one reason why virtual therapy has become an increasingly popular option for those seeking mental health care. Research suggests that online therapy can be an effective treatment for conditions like depression and anxiety. With a platform like BetterHelp, you can get matched with a therapist who you can meet with via phone or video call from the comfort of your own home.
A depression chart can be a useful tool for those experiencing this mental illness. It can help you express how you are feeling to friends and family, track your progress over time, and give your therapist more information so they can provide you with the right type of treatment for you.
Do coping mechanisms work for depression?
Several coping mechanisms can reduce the impact of depression symptoms. However, basic coping strategies alone may not be enough to resolve depression completely. Depression can also significantly reduce motivation, which may make it harder to apply coping strategies appropriately. It also raises the risk of using unhealthy coping strategies, like substance abuse.
One of the best ways to start managing depression is by reaching out to a qualified mental health professional. Not only can counseling teach you coping mechanisms that are known to be effective, but it can also help address the complex facets of depression that are difficult to manage alone. While it is true that depression can be managed with coping strategies, it is likely much more effective to apply those coping strategies under the guidance of a trained professional.
What are some coping strategies to help people who suffer from depression?
While many coping strategies can help alleviate depression’s adverse effects, those strategies will likely be significantly more effective if applied with the help of a qualified mental health professional. A therapist or other professional can help uncover the root cause of depression and help their client avoid pitfalls associated with depression recovery. They can also use evidence-based clinical techniques to help make the recovery process more manageable.
While recovering from depression is likely best done with the help of a therapist, there are non-clinical coping strategies known to be effective that can be done by most adults independently. One common strategy involves leveraging the beneficial effects of nature; evidence suggests that spending time in natural environments can significantly boost happiness and well-being.
Regular physical activity is also associated with a substantial reduction in depression symptoms. It may be worthwhile to combine exercise and nature by taking a walk down a wooded trail or through a local park. You can further enhance the beneficial effects of nature and exercise by including others in your activity. Positive social contact is associated with reduced depression and increased well-being, and a nature walk with friends might be one of the best coping strategies for depression.
What are the two best coping mechanisms to mitigate depression?
Everyone will find coping mechanisms that work best for them, but there are a few techniques that tend to work well for most people. Two of those techniques, exercise and practicing gratitude, have substantial evidence supporting their effectiveness.
Regular physical activity is associated with a significant reduction in depression symptoms. In some cases, regular exercise can have a greater positive effect than antidepressant medication. The exercise doesn’t need to be intense or strenuous; as little as 90 minutes of moderate physical activity (like a brisk walk) is enough to show benefit.
While exercise is a physical intervention that supports whole-body wellness, practicing gratitude is a cognitive activity that only requires intentional thought. Evidence indicates that taking time to recognize positive things consciously can reduce depression symptoms and improve overall well-being. It may be helpful to start a gratitude journal, a place where a person can write down positive things they are grateful for or happy about. When negativity becomes overwhelming, it is often helpful to be able to look at past positive events to bolster optimism.
What is a good coping mechanism for mental and emotional health?
One of the best ways to support good mental and emotional health is to establish healthy self-care routines. There are many ways to engage in self-care that support overall well-being, but at a bare minimum, self-care comes down to getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and getting adequate physical activity.
Diet, sleep, and exercise form a foundation that helps a person develop more advanced self-care skills. High-level self-care skills include things like learning relaxation strategies like progressive muscle relaxation, practicing gratitude, and engaging in mindfulness to recognize negative or unhealthy thoughts as they occur. There are many ways to approach self-care, and everyone has a strategy that works for them. However, every comprehensive self-care plan should start with the basics: diet, sleep, and exercise.
Why are coping mechanisms important for your mental and physical health?
Coping mechanisms are important because they allow individuals to adjust to new circumstances and manage uncertainties. It is not possible to predict the outcome of every situation in life. Coping mechanisms allow humans to be flexible and recover from adverse outcomes. Another way to think of “coping” might be to think of it as synonymous with “adjustment.” Coping is a change process that takes time to complete, and coping mechanisms facilitate the adjustment process.
What is a good strategy for managing stress and coping with anxiety?
It is often helpful to have the opportunity to learn quick, effective strategies for reducing stress when trying to manage long-term anxiety. One relaxation technique, progressive muscle relaxation (PMR), is widely used and has been shown to be highly effective. PMR relies on tensing and relaxing different muscle groups in succession, which signals the body to begin calming down. As physical sensations of anxiety reduce, the cognitive load also reduces, making anxiety easier to manage.
PMR requires a quiet space and a few minutes to complete the PMR cycles. An even simpler relaxation technique, diaphragmatic breathing, is arguably the most straightforward relaxation technique available. Diaphragmatic breathing, or “belly breathing,” simply requires taking long, deep breaths and focusing on moving air with the diaphragm. It is highly effective at reducing stress, especially feelings that come on suddenly or in environments where a person cannot exit the situation quickly.
What coping mechanisms help reduce stress?
One of the best ways to reduce overall stress is to establish healthy self-care routines. Evidence suggests that stress and feelings of anxiety can increase substantially when self-care is neglected. A lack of self-care also likely lowers resiliency, making it harder to deal with change and handle adverse circumstances. Although there are many approaches to self-care, evidence indicates that three areas are especially important:
- Physical Activity. Regular exercise is strongly correlated with improved overall well-being. Getting at least 90 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week is likely one of the most effective stress-reduction strategies.
- Adequate Sleep. Too little sleep or a constantly shifting sleep routine can make stress much harder to manage. Try to get 7 - 8 hours each night, and try to go to bed at the same time each night if possible.
- Healthy Diet. Eating healthy foods like fruits, veggies, and protein-rich foods is associated with improved mental and physical health. Limiting alcohol consumption and abstaining from other drugs is also advised.
What is the defense mechanism most commonly used in depression?
One of the most commonly used defense mechanisms by depressed people is denial. Denial is a defensive mechanism wherein a person does not acknowledge certain aspects of their circumstances. They may deny that they are depressed, that others do not feel the same way, or that they need help. They may also cherry-pick details to justify their beliefs, and they may struggle to acknowledge that they are struggling with feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or helplessness. For example, parents may struggle to acknowledge the impact their feelings have on their children.
How can emotional stress cause depression?
Stress is linked to both anxiety and depression, but depression seems to be mediated more significantly by inescapable stress. Inescapable stress refers to stressful feelings or external stressors that cannot be changed or avoided. Researchers theorize that memories associated with inescapable stress carry significant emotional weight. The disproportionate negativity of the stress leads to automatic negative appraisals and may be a factor that contributes to the hopelessness and helplessness common among those with depression.
How can you improve coping with changes in a relationship?
In any situation, coping with changes often comes down to finding acceptance. One of the best ways to improve mental health and overall well-being is to focus on accepting things that cannot be changed. It is impossible to control everything in life, and everyone must eventually deal with adverse circumstances beyond their control. Healthy self-care routines, like getting enough exercise, eating a healthy diet, and getting adequate sleep, can significantly improve a person’s ability to cope with change. If coping with change proves to be excessively difficult, seeing a therapist for a course of acceptance and commitment therapy might prove to be a viable solution.
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