In addition to psychotherapy and medication, the following may also help keep depressive symptoms in check and improve quality-of-life:
- Exercise. Clinical experience and some studies show that exercise, particularly aerobic exercise, may help lessen depression. If you feel depressed, resuming or increasing physical activity is a simple, healthy, effective way to reduce symptoms for many people. Given that depressed people often suffer from fatigue, exercise may feel nearly impossible. The point, however, is not to try and exceed what you are capable of, but to push yourself at least a little bit to engage in some physical activity every day. This can start with something as simple as taking a walk around the block.
- Get adequate sleep. Experts recommend maintaining good sleep hygiene. This includes trying to go to bed at the same time every day, using your bedroom only for sleeping whenever possible, and not drinking caffeinated beverages too late in the day.
- Try to eat a healthy diet. Remember that lots of sugar can initially be quite stimulating, but then followed by a physical and emotional “crash.” If you have no appetite, try eating small meals and snacks throughout the day rather than one or two big meals.
- Interact. If possible, spend time with friends and in social settings, rather than remaining isolated. Even if regular social contact feels excessively difficult, it can be psychologically important to at least leave your house regularly.
- Don’t overwhelm yourself. If possible, postpone making major decisions until you are feeling better.
- Get support. Studies have found that HIV-positive people who have little social support, especially from other people living with the disease, are more likely to experience depression and anxiety. Many people find seeking out an AIDS service organization for referrals to peer support groups for people with HIV to be helpful. Also consider reaching out to others in our online community forums.
Last Reviewed: June 14, 2010