Medically reviewed by Susan Vachon, PA-C on February 4, 2022
After scheduling an appointment with your doctor, you might get the news that you have depression. Your doctor will make this diagnosis after asking you questions about your symptoms, potentially conducting a physical exam, and possibly doing a few blood tests to rule out any other conditions.
With this news in hand, you may be wondering… what do I do now? If you’re a bit lost, use a guide to help you know what your next steps should be.
Work Through Your Emotions About the Diagnosis
Some people might feel relieved to get a depression diagnosis — they finally know what they’re facing and can start getting the treatment they need to feel better. Others might feel scared or ashamed. They might think they’re broken or that there’s something inherently flawed about them. Some might even try to deny their diagnosis and get defensive about it.
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All of these viewpoints are valid, and it’s okay if you fall somewhere in between as well. The important thing to remember is to stay in the present. You have depression, and while you can’t go back in time and change that, you can start working on changing it for the future. With dedication and help from your medical team, it is possible to overcome depression.
Learn Everything You Can About Depression
Hopefully, your doctor will fill you in on the basics of depression, like what treatments might work best for you and what to expect with your symptoms. That said, there’s still a lot of information out there to parse through.
One important thing to research is lifestyle changes that can help with your depression. Many studies have found that diet and exercise play a key role in alleviating depression, so learning about these types of modifications could be very helpful for your treatment. It may be worthwhile to start exercising three to four times a week and cut back on sugary, processed foods.
You’ll also want to learn about the ways depression can affect your life. Sure, you probably know about the all-consuming sadness and weariness, but there are other less noticeable side effects that can affect your relationships and professional life.
Finally, look into what to expect in treatment and recovery. Research any medications your doctor prescribed to see their potential side effects, and also see how long these medications usually take to start working.
When looking up information, always make sure your sources are credible and research-based. Unfortunately, the internet has a lot of misleading and outright incorrect information, especially about mental health issues.
Commit to Giving Your Mind Breaks
Depression wears down your mind, often making it hard to make it through the day. Your brain will be running on overdrive worrying about the future or fretting about your low self-esteem. While you can’t just make yourself stop feeling this way (wouldn’t that be nice?), you can do your best to give your brain a dedicated break every day.
What this means is making time for relaxation in a stress-free zone. Try to schedule a moment of Zen at the same time every day so you have something to look forward to.
Do something that’s mentally calming, such as taking a hot bath, baking some tasty treats, or reading a light book. If you really can’t focus, even just playing some meditative music and taking a few deep breaths can help you ease some of the emotions you’re feeling for a few minutes.
Ask Your Loved Ones for Support
Your friends and family love you, and hopefully, they’ll be willing to support you during this dark time. With depression, it’s typical for people to pull away and withdraw from relationships, so it’s crucial to keep these social ties strong.
You may need to explain how depression works to them, especially if they don’t have prior experience with it. Let them know that, at times, you may be irritable and even rude, but it isn’t always your choice. With their help, you can get the encouragement you need to make it through these tough times and stick with your treatment.
Don’t have supportive loved ones? That’s ok — you can often find encouragement in online message boards or local meetings in your community. These types of places are a good way to talk with others battling with depression to see what works for them and what doesn’t. You’ll be able to inspire and motivate each other to keep getting better.
Schedule a Therapy Session
Your doctor probably already recommended this (and maybe even referred you to someone), but you should schedule a therapy session as soon as possible. Therapy is an evidence-based practice where you can talk through your emotions with a licensed professional.
In these sessions, you might talk about the factors that are contributing to your depression, like a problem in a relationship, the loss of a loved one, or even failures at work. In many cases, it’s a combination of things that leads to your symptoms.
Then, you’ll work on finding ways to resolve these feelings and create positive patterns of thought. Many people get stuck in negative thought processes that perpetuate their depression. By changing the way you think, you can hopefully rewire your brain and learn to deal with your emotions in a healthier way.
At the start, you’ll likely need at least one therapy session a week — possibly more if you’re suffering from severe depression. As you start to gain more confidence and notice your symptoms decreasing, your therapist may recommend less frequent sessions.
Prepare Yourself for the Battle Ahead
Overcoming depression isn’t a battle for the faint of heart. But by processing your diagnosis and learning more about depression, you’ll have the knowledge you need. Then, by committing to giving your brain breaks and leaning on your family for support, you’ll begin the process of healing. Finally, by starting therapy, you’ll get professional guidance on how to change your life.
Once you prepare yourself, you’ll be ready to fight your way back to feeling better.
This blog provides information about telemedicine, health and related subjects. The blog content and any linked materials herein are not intended to be, and should not be construed as a substitute for, medical or healthcare advice, diagnosis or treatment. Any reader or person with a medical concern should consult with an appropriately-licensed physician or other healthcare provider. This blog is provided purely for informational purposes.