At-Home Self-Care Methods to Compliment Your Depression Treatment Plan

Self-care is a must for your depression. In a given year, it’s estimated that over 25% of all Americans over age 18 suffer from a mental health disorder. Depression and anxiety are the most common, impacting a combined 340 million people, on average. Mental health disorders can be a debilitating illness for many people and can affect their ability to work, maintain relationships, and even complete everyday tasks. But today, there are dozens of effective treatments—both medical and holistic—that are helping people manage and improve their symptoms of depression. 

Conventional Treatments for Depression

Typically, a therapist will create a treatment plan for someone with depression based on how severe their disorder is. Some people can improve simply by attending weekly therapy sessions, while others need medication to help control their symptoms. In more serious cases of depression, most patients respond best to a combination of medication, talk therapy, and some alternative treatments.

Talk therapy is beneficial because it gives patients the skills to manage their depression on their own, and helps them find ways to cope with stressful or triggering situations. One of the most widely-used forms of talk therapy is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which enables patients to eliminate negative thoughts and replace them with healthier beliefs that can improve their happiness and wellbeing. Over time, talk therapy can help people identify the root cause of their depression, so they can more accurately address underlying issues.

Antidepressants are another common form of treatment for people with depression. Mental health disorders alter the chemistry of the brain and changes how it functions. In people with depression, their brains become rewired to dwell on negative or harmful thoughts. When someone takes an antidepressant, it impacts the neurotransmitters that pump out mood-regulating chemicals, like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. The drugs work by increasing one or several of these neurotransmitters in the brain, leading to happier, healthier thoughts. 

Another treatment for depression which is gaining popularity is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). TMS is a non-invasive procedure that uses magnetic waves to stimulate different areas of the brain. During the treatment, an electromagnetic coil is put on the patient’s forehead, and small electromagnetic pulses get sent through the coil. The pulses pass through the skull and into the brain, and the patient’s mood improves. Although TMS is a newer treatment, one study found that 14% of patients who underwent TMS saw a remission of symptoms after one session, and 30% after their second session.

At-Home, Self-Care Methods to Try

For people experiencing severe depression that disrupts their daily lives, getting treatment from a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist is always advised. But for those suffering from depression that comes and goes, or that is easily managed, there are a variety of self-care methods that have been proven to improve symptoms of depression. And if you are getting professional help, these at-home treatments are a great addition to your treatment program. Here are some of our favorites:

  1. Exercise

Research has proven that working out is one of the best cures for depression and other mental health disorders. Exercise releases endorphins that make you feel better in the moment, and can even help the brain grow nerve cells and make new connections. If you don’t consider yourself a fitness fanatic, that’s ok. Find an activity you enjoy that gets you moving. It can be a walk around the block, a short hike, swimming, yoga, or an at-home workout video. The key is consistency—make sure it’s something that you can work into your schedule at least a few times per week.

  1. Lavender

For centuries, lavender has been used in many forms to induce relaxation and alleviate symptoms of stress, mood disorders, and anxiety. The herb is often found in aromatherapy oils, which can help people with depression improve sleep, slow down their thoughts, and release tension in the body. Lavender has other health benefits too, such as the ability to reduce nausea, lower blood pressure, and treat eczema. Try using lavender aromatherapy in a diffuser, as a massage oil, or put a few drops on your pillow before sleeping. 

  1. Essential oils

Lavender isn’t the only oil that is known for its ability to improve symptoms of depression. Other types of oil, including ylang-ylang, rose, bergamot, ginger, grapefruit, chamomile, and sweet orange have been shown to induce feelings of relaxation and calmness. Find a scent you like (or try a combination) and use it around the house. You can also look for soaps, lotions, or other topicals that use essential oils as the main ingredient.

  1. Meditation apps

Over the past few years, meditation apps have made a big splash. They’re a great way to access meditations, mindfulness practices, and even relaxing music wherever you are. We recommend checking out Headspace and Calm, which are both free to download, and are available on iPhone and Android. Listen to a meditation before bed to relax into a deep sleep, or tune in on your lunch break if you’re having a stressful day at work. 

  1. Epsom salt and a warm bath 

We love Epsom salt for its ability to regulate mood, relax the body and mind, and relieve tension in the body. Epsom salt contains a high volume of magnesium, which increases serotonin in the brain. The best part? Sitting in a warm bath with Epsom salts can give you relief in as little as 15 minutes. Get your bath going (not too hot) and add about one cup of Epsom salt. Grab your favorite candle, a book, or your meditation app and feel your tension melt away.

If you’re dealing with mild depression, sometimes a little self-care is all you need to improve your mood and get back to feeling like yourself. We love the methods above because they’re cost-effective, convenient, and they can be done from the comfort of your own home. 

But if your depression doesn’t improve with time, consider seeking clinical treatment. Certain treatment methods, like TMS, can be effective, especially if your depression hasn’t responded well to medication. Many of our clients visit Pulse to receive TMS, which has been proven to improve depression in as little as one session. If you’re interested in learning more, you can start by scheduling an appointment with our psychiatrist to make sure you’re a good candidate. You can also take a look at our FAQ page to learn more about the science behind TMS, and the procedure itself. Contact us today to get started.

Article By: Chris Howard
Director of Community Outreach & Education Chris Howard has been working in the mental health field since 2010 after seeing the long-term effects of mental illness within his own family. He is a graduate of UCLA where he received his B.A. in Psychology. Having worked closely with those struggling with addiction, Chris considers the concept of community to be an essential part of treatment and advocates for wellness approaches that integrate both leading conventional therapies, as well as holistic practices like yoga and meditation.