Many people find that helping others helps them to deal with their depression. An example that often comes up is feeding homeless people. While this is good advice, try to get involved in an already existing project and don’t take on more than is emotionally sustainable for you. Also, try not to make it explicitly political. The idea here is to help others, not turn it into a political project. While giving out food for the evangelical church down the road is probably not the best idea, there are lots of liberal community groups one can get involved with. There are plenty of other options, too: after-school programs, libraries, support work and advocacy, litter removal, volunteering at a hospice or hospital, work with ex-convicts, etc. As always, if you feel community work is causing more stress than it's alleviating, scale back your involvement.
Anecdotal as well as clinical research often claims that exercise is just as, if not more, effective than anti-depressants. The problem, however, is taking that initial step to get started. Sometimes it’s helpful to find a friend and sign-up to a course together. Alternatively, make yourself a schedule, selecting a specific time to go for a walk, ride a bike, lift weights, or play basketball.
While we think it’s always important to have activities outside of politics, there are many possibilities to integrate exercise into your political life. Many organisations offer self-defense courses, for example. If that’s not your forté, you can start a regular exercise session within your political group or trade union. And it doesn’t have to be super formal either—a weekly pick-up game of basketball or football/soccer in the park is fine, too. Finally, you could consider doing a charity run. It’ll probably be liberal, but there are plenty of at least partially worthy causes out there which might help to motivate you to get out there and train.
Finally, remember that there’s no need to undertake especially strenuous exercise. As one of our contributors puts it, “Walking works wonders, it's exercise, but it also re-engages you with a real physical world... plus it's still possible to discuss while walking!”
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with drugs and alcohol in a broad sense, understanding how they affect you and your mental health is a really important part of managing your emotional state. If alcohol tends to make you depressed or upset (either while drinking or afterward), avoid it.
Similarly, psycho-active drugs like ecstasy or acid can have a negative effect on your mental state. And downers (certainly opiates) are probably not a good idea. But, of course, this can go either way. Everyone reacts differently to drugs. Everyone finds their different ways of coping. The key is to be aware and conscious of the effect drugs have on your body and your mental state. Many people report that, when used proportionately, alcohol or marijuana can help them relax at the end of the day. However, if you’re finding you can’t get through the day without it or if your recreational drug use is exacerbating your depression, it’s probably best avoided.
Finally, we again wish to emphasize that this pamphlet is not a substitute for professional help. While mental health workers have contributed in the writing process, we don’t claim to have the expertise to speak definitively on the above issues. As always, if your depression is severe or you’re thinking of hurting yourself, speak to someone ASAP.