Dealing with your mental health

How can I manage my depression?

When you experience depression, it can be hard to find the energy to look after yourself, especially if you are living with a long-term lung condition too.

But there are lots of things you can try to fight depression such as:

Keep active and exercise

Staying active and exercising is key if you’re depressed.

Try to keep active. This could be housework, walking to a local shop or any part of your normal routine. Try to get outside, perhaps for a short, slow walk. This will help you to keep physically fit, and you may sleep better. It can help take your mind off painful thoughts which make you more depressed.


I was diagnosed over 15 years ago with severe COPD but my mood is only rarely depressed because of that. Maybe because I have always been a really active person both mentally and physically. I walk every day as fast as I can for about 20 minutes and try to be out and about as much as possible. I have lots of mental activity as well – I’m very interested in cosmology, number theory and other things of scientific interest. I also play bridge, do tai chi and, above all, singing for breathing which is absolutely brilliant.

John T

Research has shown that pulmonary rehabilitation improves not only your fitness, but also your mental wellbeing. This course of information and physical exercise will cover ways you can cope with low mood. Ask your health care professional to refer you to your closest programme.

Connect with other people

Talk to your friends and family about how you feel. Be open and honest, write down how you feel and ask family members to help you notice changes in your mood. For example when you get irritable or angry, as well as times when you avoid doing things you would normally enjoy. But also when you’re having a good day!

Join a support group. This is a great ways to meet people who are going through similar things and share tips. 

If you don’t feel up to seeing people in person, send a text or email to keep in touch with friends and family. Or you could use online support. You could join our web community.

The importance of frequent communication, including by email and Skype, with friends and family cannot be underestimated.


Look after yourself

  • Eat well: Try to eat a healthy, balanced diet, even though you may not always feel like eating. Eat small meals more often rather than three big meals. This can be much more comfortable for people with a lung condition.
  • Avoid alcohol. Resist the temptation to drown your sorrows with an alcoholic drink. Alcohol makes depression worse. It may make you feel better for a few hours, but you’ll feel worse afterwards.
  • Get good sleep. This will help to improve your mood and boost your energy levels. Have a look at MIND’s tips and ideas to help you have a good night.

Notice what helps your mood

Make a list of activities, people and places that make you feel happy or feel good.

Try to do something on the list you enjoy:

  • arrange to meet friends
  • ask a friend to visit you for a coffee
  • phone someone you haven't seen for a while
  • cook a simple meal

Starting a new hobby can also be a good way to meet people, focus your mind and have some fun. Trying something new, like learning a new skill or trying new food can help boost your mood and break unhelpful patterns of thinking and behavior.

Try these tips from others living with a lung condition

“Tai chi – taking part in things to connect the body and mind help. Tai chi helps breathing too!”

“Seek out things you love – I go to art, exhibitions and visit old friends. I try to always have things to look forward to.”

“Do what you enjoy – music, theatre, cinema, reading, cooking, walking.”

“Join a club. We go on outings and holidays with our retirement club.”

“Singing! With a choir is great, but round the house or in the bath will do!”

“Make phone calls and have friends round for coffee.”

Treat yourself

When you’re feeling down, it can be hard to feel good about yourself. Commit to do at least one positive thing for yourself every day.

This could be

  • taking the time for a long bath
  • spending time with a pet
  • reading your favourite book
  • doing a crossword or sudoku puzzle

Do you feel best at lunchtime, first thing or are you a night owl? Try to plan something then.

Learn to relax

You can help yourself relax using simple techniques like having a bath or making a warm milky drink. It's good to spend some time on yourself.

Keep a mood diary

This can help you keep track of changes in your mood. It can also help you notice if any activities, people or places make you feel better or worse.

You could use our record of your mood form (PDF 207KB).

Keep a journal - not necessarily for daily entries but to note the better and not so good. It can be useful to look back on.


Try self-help

These are resources that have been developed by health care professionals for you to use by yourself. Answer this NHS Choices questionnaire for some recommendations to suit you.

Challenge your thinking

If you’re depressed, you tend to have lots of negative thoughts. The trick is to alter how you respond. They’re often called automatic negative thoughts as you don’t plan to have them – they just pop into your head without you thinking.

Breaking the cycle involves:

  • noticing when you have these automatic negative thoughts
  • looking at the evidence for and against them
  • finding ways to alter these to more realistic thoughts

Try this:

Write down what is making you feel depressed.

Now write down your thoughts about it.  For example “I should never have started smoking”, “I have never been able to do that without help”, “I don’t look ill - they’ll think I’m trying it on”.

Now it's time to question the automatic thoughts you wrote down. So write down any facts or experiences that support or contradict your automatic thoughts.

Ask yourself:

  • What evidence have I got to support that? You may be exaggerating something bad or only looking at part of the picture or making assumptions.
  • Is there another way of thinking about this?
  • What would anyone I look up to say to themselves in this situation?
  • What would I say to them if they were thinking the same thing?
  • How could I look at this situation so that I would feel less depressed? Is this view as reasonable as what I was thinking in the first place?

Try to think of alternatives to your negative thoughts and write them down.

Keep working at writing down your thoughts and arguing with them. This is a new way of thinking and you’ll need to practise.

Next: What treatment can I get for depression? >

We use your comments to improve our information. We cannot reply to comments left on this form. If you have health concerns or need clinical advice, call our helpline on 03000 030 555 between 9am and 5pm on a weekday or email them.

Download our mental health information (399KB, PDF)

Last medically reviewed: March 2018. Due for review: March 2021

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.