7 things that could be hurting your mental health without you even knowing it
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 16 million adults in America suffer from depression, so if that's something you face, you're definitely not alone. Even if your depression is being treated by a doctor, it can still be difficult to cope with.
Of course, it's hard to do positive things for yourself when you're struggling with mental illness. But there are definitely things you can stop doing to make your daily life a little easier, which might seem more manageable to you when things get bad.
Here are ways you're sabotaging your mental health — and what you can do to change these bad habits. Dealing with depression is never easy, but there are definitely things you can try to make that mental and emotional mode a little lighter.
It's worth noting that everyone's journey with mental health — including their coping mechanisms — vary, so you should always do what is best for you.
You're getting too little or too much sleep.
Insomnia and sleeping a lot are, somehow, both symptoms of depression. Giving into those symptoms, however, can make your depression worse. When you're down, it can be easy to want to spend your days in bed, but it's more important to do whatever you need to stay up and awake and ideally productive.
And if you're not sleeping? According to Psych Central, sleep hygiene is necessary. Only use your bed for sleeping, develop a nighttime ritual, and go to bed and wake up at the same times every day.
If you're still having trouble sleeping, it's worth talking to your doctor about it.
You're obsessing over social media.
Scrolling through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or even Snapchat can have negative effects on anyone's mood, but it can make things especially worse for you if you're depressed already.
A study released earlier this year revealed that people who are depressed are more likely to be addicted to social media and to compare themselves to others. If you need to, delete the apps from your phone for now. They'll still be there when your head is in a better place.
You're spending too much time dwelling on the negative things in your life.
Dwelling on the same negative thoughts is called rumination, and this could be one of the ways you're sabotaging yourself. Obviously, it's easier said than done to think positively, but what you can do is distract yourself when you realize you're caught in that negative thought cycle. Watch a movie, take a walk, color in a coloring book — anything to keep your mind (and maybe even your hands) busy until the wave of negativity passes.
You're isolating yourself from the people who love you.
When you're depressed, one of the last things you want to do is be around other people… especially if it requires leaving your house (or your couch). But being social is actually one of the best things you can do for yourself when you're down, according to Web MD.
"In depression, social isolation typically serves to worsen the illness and how we feel," Dr. Steve Illardi told Web MD. "Social withdrawal amplifies the brain's stress response. Social contact helps put the brakes on it."
Make low-pressure plans with your people and stick to them. You may not be feeling it at first, but you might notice how it boosts your mood during and after your hang out sesh — and looking forward to the plans you make in the future could make a difference in your happiness, too.
You're drinking too much.
It's tempting to self-medicate with alcohol, especially if you just want to forget the fact that you're depressed in the first place. But not only is that an unhealthy coping mechanism, but drinking can also make depression worse, according to Prevention.
"It might be a form of self-medication for underlying depression, but alcohol usually makes depression worse because it has depressant effects," Dr. Jean Kim told Prevention.
You're not getting help.
There's no way to understand how truly hard it is to get help when you're feeling your worst and need it the most, but it's essential if you're ever going to feel better. The longer you put off making that appointment, the longer you're going to be depressed.
If it makes you feel more comfortable, you can start out with an appointment with your general practitioner to get advice and referrals. Being on the right medication and/or seeing a therapist could truly make a huge difference in your life, and chances are that once you've gotten help, you'll wish you had done it sooner.
You're eating a lot of unhealthy foods.
Some people may cope with depression by eating comfort food. But even though you feel good in the moment, those yummy foods can be hurting you in the long run. A 2012 study published in the Public Health Nutrition journal confirmed the link between junk food and depression, so make sure you're filling up on plenty of veggies, fruit, and protein — and eat the comfort food in moderation.