How To Deal With Depression In Your 20s

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Shorter Version

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“Being sad and being depressed are two different things. Also, people going through depression don’t look depressed, while someone sad will look sad. The most common reaction is, ‘How can you be depressed? You have everything going for you. You are the supposed number one heroine and have a plush home, car, movies…What else do you want?”

~ Deepika Padukone

Why do I feel this way?

The 20s are supposed to be the best times of our lives. For the first time in our lives, we are really adults – goodbye teen years. It’s a time of exploration and rediscovery. It’s also the time when we “hopefully” become more independent, start our first post-college jobs, move out of our parents’ homes, and start looking for the person we are going to spend the rest of our lives with.

On the flip side, however, it is also a time where a lot of us rack up a ton of debt (Credit cards…can you hear me?), break up and make up with the same person 25 times, have episodes of loneliness because we no longer have our families at our beckon call, and develop a hefty dose of uncertainty and self-doubt in ourselves and in our abilities.

What is the difference between sadness and depression?

If you think of it this way, it makes perfect sense why some young adults become depressed. The good news is, most of the time, the depression is really just “the blues.” What does that mean? It means that those feelings of sadness and despair will eventually pass. Still, in some situations, this sadness may be the beginning of clinical depression in your 20s, a more serious, chronic form of “the blues” that requires treatment (i.e. counseling/therapy, antidepressants, and/or hospitalization).

If you are in the prime of your life and depressed, but have no idea how to address it or treat it –look no more. This trusty article will provide you with some valuable tips that can reduce or eliminate “the blues” from your life.

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Actionable Steps


Read the longer version

You can learn more about “depression in your 20s” or “coping with depression in your 20s” by reading the following articles: How to Deal with Depression in Your 20s by USA Today, 7 Ways to Recognize Depression in 20-Somethings by Live Science, 11 Things No One Tells You About Suffering From Depression In Your Twenties by Buzzfeed, and Dealing with Anxiety & Depression in Your Late 20s by Marie Away.


Reach out to family and friends

If you start to feel “down in the dumps” because of personal, health, work, and/or relationship issues, reach out to your family and friends. If you don’t feel like talking to anyone – text him or her. Or, send your loved one an email or private message on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. But, do not sit there in silence or suffer alone.
You need support. But, what if you don’t really have anyone to call, text, email, or message? There are plenty of support groups online and in-person that you can attend. Don’t isolate yourself from the world, and especially from the people who love you. There is no shame in calling Mom and Dad when you’re sad.


Stock up on healthy foods

Another way to curb mild depression is to stock up on healthy foods. A healthy stomach leads to a happy and peaceful mind, and a happy and peaceful mind leads to fewer bouts of depression. In fact, according to a 2019 study, the bacteria in the foods we eat have been linked to neurotransmitters, chemicals that send messages from our brains to our bodies and nervous systems. Results suggest there is a possibility that vitamins, minerals, and nutrients may prevent some young adults from developing depression and/or anxiety.
Researchers also discovered a link between vitamin D (found in sunlight and healthy foods like salmon, eggs, cheese, sardines, canned tuna, shrimp, mushrooms, milk, and fortified orange juice, oatmeal, and cereal) and depression. Similarly, a 2018 study suggests that most young adults (20-30 years old) who are depressed are also deficient in vitamin D. Thus, results indicate that healthy foods can ease depression – in some people.

Try incorporating the following healthy foods into your daily diet:  
1. Folic Acid (Folate) – i.e. asparagus, eggs, Brussel sprouts, and broccoli
2. Iron – i.e. dark, leafy greens like kale, spinach, and greens, canned sardines in oil, lean beef like steak, cooked turkey, ham, liver, beans, and oysters
3. Omega-3 – i.e. salmon, sardines, tuna, flaxseed, seeds, and walnuts
4. Magnesium – i.e. avocados, dark chocolate, beans, chickpeas, tofu, seeds, bananas, and whole grains
5. Potassium – i.e. eggplant, pumpkin, mushrooms, peas, cucumbers, zucchini, orange juice, bananas, and grapefruit juice
6. Selenium – i.e. ham, pork, beef, turkey, chicken, brown rice, baked beans, mushrooms, and sunflower seeds
7. Thiamine (Vitamin B-1) – i.e. pork, fish, seeds, nuts, beans, green peas, tofu, brown rice, squash, asparagus, and seafood
8. Vitamin B-6 – i.e. ricotta cheese, eggs, albacore tuna, salmon, carrots, spinach, avocados, and green peas
9. Vitamin B-12 – i.e. clams, oysters, milk, yogurt, eggs, and chicken
10. Zinc – i.e. pumpkin seeds, peanuts, cashews, almonds, milk, cheddar cheese, eggs, shellfish, whole grains, and lean red meat


Get some extra rest or try acupuncture

If you are having a hard time getting out of your rut, try getting some extra Zzzzz. Guess what? Sleep is not only a requirement for physical health; it is also the foundation for good mental and emotional health. In other words, poor sleep patterns can wreak havoc in certain regions of your brain – regions that regulate your mood.

When these areas become “out of whack,” it can lead to mood fluctuations, depression, and/or anxiety. Try this – develop a nighttime routine and/or schedule and stick to it. If you get enough rest at night, you are more likely to awaken feeling refreshed, calmer, more peaceful, happier, and more energized.
In addition, holistic alternative techniques, like acupuncture, can also reduce or alleviate depression – in some young adults. In fact, according to a 2017 study, acupuncture, along with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and antidepressants, may be more effective at easing depression symptoms like insomnia, than a combined treatment approach of therapy and antidepressants.
In addition, a 2019 study found a link between the number of acupuncture treatments and a reduction in the effects of depression. In other words, the more you go, the more likely you’ll feel better.


Seek help for depression in your 20s

If you have tried these suggestions, but still haven’t found relief, it is probably time to seek help with a trained mental health professional – i.e. counselor, psychologist, therapist, clinical social worker, and/or psychiatrist. With the help of a “depression specialist,” you’ll be able to get your depression under control, before it takes over your life.

The good news is most health insurance plans cover clinical depression, so if you are diagnosed with this condition, there is a very good chance you will be covered for the services. Take a look at your plan or call your health insurance company, and ask if your plan covers counseling services and medications for depression. If so, how much is covered and how much will you be responsible for.
You can find a host of trained, qualified, and licensed mental health professionals on online counseling directories, or by calling the American Psychological Association (APA)

Still need help? Ask the coaches!

About the Author

Dr. R. Y. Langham

Dr. R. Y. Langham

Ph.D. in Family Psychology

Ree has a Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy (M.M.F.T.) and a Ph.D. in Family Psychology. She spent over ten years counseling families, couples, individuals, and children on adjustment issues such as blended families, same-sex couples, dysfunctional family relationships, relationship issues, etc. Now she writes for famous health organizations and is a published author.
Full Bio | LinkedIn

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