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Looking after your mental health

How can I manage my depression?

On this page we explain ways you can manage your depression. You can also read about the possible ways depression can be treated.

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. There are things you can try to manage depression:

Keep active and exercise

Looking after your physical wellbeing is very important 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.

We have resources available to help you keep active at home. Discover our:

Research has shown that pulmonary rehabilitation improves not only your fitness, but also your mental wellbeing. It’s a course of information and physical exercise that covers ways you can cope with feeling low. Ask your health care professional to refer you to your closest programme. 

Connect with other people

We know it can be hard to explain how you’re feeling to others. You might find it difficult to talk about your depression, which could leave you feeling isolated and lonely. 

Try talking to someone you trust like a friend or family member about how you’re feeling. Sometimes just sharing what you’re going through can help you feel better.

We know not everyone will feel comfortable talking to people they know about their depression. In fact, you might feel more comfortable talking to people who don’t know you so well. You could try joining an online forum - our online community is there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for you to chat with other people with lung conditions, about whatever’s on your mind. You could also speak to your GP or another health care professional about how you’re feeling.

Joining a support group is a great way to meet people locally who are going through similar things and can share advice.

If you don’t feel up to seeing people in person, or aren’t able to, send a text or email to keep in touch with friends and family.

I’d recommend talking to someone about how you’re feeling. I spoke to people with lung conditions on the online forum, but you could also go along to a Asthma + Lung UK support group. You could talk to a friend or a member of your family too – they don’t need to know all about your lung condition. The important thing is that you talk to someone, especially when you’re down.

Andy, who lives with a rare interstitial lung disease, shares the impact having a long-term lung condition has had on his mental health.

Look after yourself

Taking the time to look after yourself can make you feel better. You should try to:

  • Eat well. Try to eat a healthy, balanced diet, even if you don’t feel like eating. You could try eating small meals more often rather than three big meals. This can be much more comfortable for people with a lung condition.
  • Avoid alcohol. While it might be tempting to drink to cope with how you’re feeling, drinking too much is likely to make your depression symptoms worse. Reducing how much you drink – or avoiding drinking altogether - may help you manage your symptoms and feel better.
  • 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 sleep.
  • Look after your hygiene. This might not feel like a priority when you’re experiencing depression, but small things like taking a shower or getting properly dressed can make a big difference to how you feel. 

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. You could:

  • arrange to meet a friend
  • phone someone you haven't seen for a while
  • cook a simple meal
  • watch your favourite film or TV show
  • spend time in the garden or in your local park.

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 behaviour.

Try these tips from others living with a lung condition:

“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.”

“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.”

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
  • 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.

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, 161KB).

Get out in nature

Spending time outside has been found to help with mental health problems, including depression. Being outside in natural light can also be helpful if you experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

We know not everyone will be able to easily spend time outdoors. For example, you might not have access to a garden, you might feel unmotivated to go outside or your lung condition might make it difficult to get outside easily. Take small steps to try and increase the amount of time you spend outside.

You can still reap the benefits of being outside by increasing the amount of nature in your everyday life. This could include growing a houseplant, planting vegetables, or listening to natural sounds like the ocean or rainfall.

Read more about how nature benefits our mental health on the Mind website.

Challenge your thinking

How we think affects the way we feel. At times, we develop unhelpful thinking patterns which can lead to depression. These are sometimes called automatic thoughts, as you don’t plan to have them. For example, you may find yourself catastrophising (thinking things are worse than they are), predicting the future or discounting the positive things. If you notice you are thinking negatively or have developed unhelpful thinking patterns, you should discuss this with your doctor or nurse. Challenging negative thinking plays a big part in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

The Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Trust has useful online resources to help with different mental health problems.

Download our mental health information (PDF, 474KB)

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.