At every stage of life, there are circumstances that can negatively affect your mental health. But you can help ward off depression by understanding how these common experiences contribute to it. Here’s what to know about preventing depression, depending on your age:
Young adulthood is a time of tremendous change. So it might not be a surprise that this age group frequently struggles with symptoms of depression. Living away from home for the first time can be a major stressor. For those in college, there are constant social and academic pressures.
To handle all that change:
Use mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques, like a body scan (pay attention to your body’s sensations from head to toe).
Watch your intake of caffeine, which can harm your sleep and mental health.
Attend group cognitive behavioral therapy to help you boost your confidence, manage stress, and face your fears.
From your mid-20s through your 30s, you’re often building a career, navigating the dating world, deciding whether to start a family, and taking care of young children. This can make you feel like your time is spread thin.
To stay energized:
Eat nutritious meals, making sure to get enough fiber and water, which helps keep your mood stable.
Don’t smoke, and if you drink, practice moderation—the chemicals in tobacco and alcohol can contribute to depression.
Once you reach middle age, you may find yourself with a lot of emotional and financial responsibility. You might need to care for aging parents and growing children. Women in this age group are dealing with menopause, while men often struggle to create strong social networks.
To keep your stress levels down:
Practice mind-body techniques, such as meditation, massage, and journaling.
Accept help from others.
Add exercise to your to-do list and schedule a time for it.
Risk factors for depression in older adults include losing a loved one, being diagnosed with a medical condition like cancer, and not getting good sleep. The stress of caregiving can also take a toll. As you age, you’re more likely to struggle with social isolation, especially if you outlive many in your peer group.
To feel as good as possible:
Nurture bonds with friends and family.
Stay physically active.
Get enough sleep per night (aim for 7 to 9 hours).
Find activities you enjoy and stick with them.