Depression isn’t the same as just feeling sad. Depression is a persistent condition, often accompanied by bodily changes such as sleep issues, listlessness, and even physical pain. It doesn’t seem to matter whether things are going right or not; it’s hard for people with depression to be happy even when life is going reasonably well. And depression doesn’t usually go away on its own.
People with autism are prone to depression, but so are their parents and other members of their families who deal with the strain of a society that doesn’t understand autism.
The world doesn’t show enough compassion for the unique obstacles these people face, often leaving them feeling alone and misunderstood. Here are some tips for helping yourself or a loved one (with or without autism) cope with depression.
1. Get professional help
Whether it’s through a therapist, a medication, or both, sometimes depression requires the help of a professional. It’s nothing to be ashamed of or avoided. Everybody needs help sometimes. A therapist or other medical professional can give you more advice on how to combat depression and offer suggestions for learning to think positively, manage your stress, and increase your self-esteem.
You may see professional help as the last resort after the rest of the items on this list have failed, and for some situations, that makes sense. But if your (or a loved one’s) depression is severe or persistent, or if it causes thoughts of suicide and/or self-harm, please take this option first.
2. Eat healthy
One way to keep yourself as emotionally balanced as possible is to make sure you’re getting all the right nutrients your body needs and not too much of the junk foods that could actually end up making you feel worse. There are lots of nutrients in the healthy diet that impact mood. While it can be a struggle to find healthy things your child with autism likes to eat, do your best to make sure you and your family are eating as healthy as possible. But remember that it’s okay to indulge here and there too!
Getting out in the sunshine is a great way to get some vitamin D and keep your spirits up. Exercise also releases endorphins, which make you happy. And you may even experience increased self-esteem from looking and feeling more physically fit. Try some soccer, baseball, or another sport with the whole family!
4. Get some sunlight
Even if you (or your child) don’t feel like exercising, you can get some of the same benefits by just being outside. The sunlight will provide your body with the vitamin D it needs to boost your mood. And who knows? Maybe that extra shot of the happy-vitamin will encourage you to get up and moving around too!
5. Express yourself creatively
Writing, making art, dancing, or expressing yourself and your thoughts in whatever creative way you see fit, can be extremely cathartic. Journaling is also a good way to get out your pent-up feelings, reduce your stress level, and help you learn to cope with what you’re feeling. Art can make you feel more in touch with your emotions, which can help you work through the more difficult side of your emotional state. If your child is depressed, supply some art materials, music, paper, or whatever else you can think of and see what happens! He or she may discover a new hobby!
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?