There are numerous types of antidepressants, and generally, they can relieve symptoms in a few weeks or months to provide additional support while you work with a therapist to incorporate other strategies.
3. Pay attention to how you’re sleeping.
“Taking care of your basic needs is so important,” Dr. Annunziato tells SELF. “Making sure you’re getting sufficient sleep is so important, but I know that’s much easier said than done.”
The relationship between sleep and depression is complex, but it’s clear that the two are connected. Studies show that about 75% of people with depression have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep4. About 15% of people with depression have hypersomnia, meaning they feel overly tired even with adequate sleep. Both situations can make you drained and irritable (and understandably, you might be more inclined to be alone when you feel like this).
In either situation, experts recommend adopting the typical habits that promote healthy sleep, like maintaining a consistent bedtime schedule as best as you can, keeping your bedroom dark to promote melatonin release, and getting sunlight when you wake up to help slow melatonin production5.
Even under the best conditions, you may not sleep if you’re ruminating or having negative self-thoughts. Or you might want to sleep to escape some of those feelings. This can be a really difficult cycle to break on your own, which is where therapy can be helpful. If you’re not in therapy, journaling may help you identify some of the negative thoughts common with depression, Dr. Annunziato says. Once you’re aware of these, then you can look for alternative ways of thinking, she says. For example, if it’s 3 a.m. and you’re beating yourself up over a mistake you made at work and have a hard time accepting that these things can happen, Dr. Annunziato recommends asking yourself, What would I say to a friend that thinks this about themselves? It can feel much easier to tell a friend that no one is perfect than it can be to accept that for yourself.
Sometimes getting good sleep feels outside of your control, no matter what you do. If you’re struggling to regulate your sleep alone, you can ask your doctor about medications that can either help you sleep or make you feel less exhausted if you think you sleep too much.
4. Be intentional with your alone time.
Some people may feel better after socializing, while others may be drained after the experience, according to Jessica Stern6, Ph.D., clinical psychologist at NYU. “If you’re depressed, you might feel very exhausted. Having alone time can give you time to recharge,” Dr. Stern tells SELF. Checking in with yourself about the reason you want to be alone—and how you want to feel afterward—can help you be more intentional. Do you think spending the weekend by yourself will help refill your cup? If so, decide how to use your time so you feel energized for the following week, Dr. Stern says. For some people, that might be going for a walk, meditating, and having a quiet dinner at home.
Dr. Stern recommends balancing that alone time by engaging in social interaction afterward in a way that feels feasible for you. Your level of engagement can be seemingly small, such as having a phone call, and it’s best to pick someone you have the healthiest relationship with, Dr. Stern explains. “You can become dependent on that alone time or start to feel out of practice with socializing,” Dr. Stern says.
This can be difficult to do on your own if you’re really depressed, and working with a therapist can help you understand how to take intentional alone time. Or, if you’re isolating for other reasons, talking to a therapist can help you manage that too.
5. View social interaction as a spectrum.
Try not to force yourself into social outings that don’t feel good to you just because you want to re-engage, Dr. Stern says. Maybe you really want to see a friend, but showering, getting dressed, and traveling to a restaurant require too much effort. You might consider asking your friend if they’re cool with a takeout night at your place instead. Or maybe you do a daily check-in with a friend to talk about your day. “Give yourself small pieces of interaction that feel more manageable so that you’re not doing none of it,” Dr. Stern says.
6. Find your preferred method of communication.
Have you ever received a text and thought, I’ll respond when I feel up to it? And then you just never actually responded? It happens. But if you consistently have a hard time responding to texts, then maybe it’s not the best form of communication for you. “Texting is something that I struggle with, but phone calls feel a lot easier for me,” Dr. Johnson says. Some people say that writing an email is easier because it feels less urgent than a text, Dr. Johnson explains. Or maybe messaging your friend on Instagram feels easier because you can send funny posts that may trigger an easy conversation.
7. Make small overtures and be as honest as you comfortably can.
If the fear of being rejected is preventing you from reaching out to people you’ve lost touch with, know that a simple gesture can go a long way, says Dr. Annunziato. She recommends sending a simple “Hey, I was thinking about you and wanted to say hi” text or email. “Oftentimes, it’s just harder to stay in touch when you’re feeling depressed, and sometimes that’s misinterpreted. People may think you’ve changed in the friendship so then maybe their outreach to you changes,” she says. If the other person has responded, and you feel comfortable doing so, you can explain your lag in communication. (Or you can mention that you’ve been feeling down in the initial text if you’re okay with that.) You don’t need to get into the details, but people can be more understanding if they know why you stopped responding to their texts. “If you’re worried that your friend is going to be upset with you or if you’re feeling overwhelmed, remember that several people in your life have probably experienced this,” Dr. Stern says.