Is it normal to feel depression worsening due to a long distance relationship?

A long distance relationship is probably the hardest test for any couple to go through. One moment you feel like you are at the top of the world and the next you plummet into darkness, leaving you feeling vulnerable and scared. No one can argue that being in a long distance relationship is like getting on an emotional roller coaster. It is quite normal to feel sad after an amazing visit or it has been too long since you last felt your partner’s arms around you. You might also feel frustrated because you are not able to express yourself the way you want to without your partner being physically near you. It is perfectly all right to feel this way. We are just human after all. It only becomes a real problem when you cannot get over this feeling of depression and it is constantly impacting your daily life in a negative way. You need to be aware of your emotions and if you are starting to isolate yourself, it is time to do something about it. Long distance relationship depression is a real thing and a very serious issue. Therefore, we have spent a lot of time researching how to best deal with it. Our suggestions are backed by science and some even have studies done on them by scientists. If you think you might be in or approaching long distance relationship depression, please read on carefully. Hopefully, we could help you get back on the right track before the problem becomes more serious.

How to cope with long distance relationship depression

1. Talking about it

That certainly sounds easier said than done, doesn’t it? Of course you know how to just find someone and talk about your problems! However, we understand that opening up to other people about your vulnerabilities and insecurities could be the hardest thing ever. Because of this, we usually put on a facade and venture into the world as if nothing is wrong inside. You might believe that other people will think that you are just overreacting or worse, being a drama queen. If this is what you think, you need to stop thinking this way! Depression is an extremely serious issue and could lead to devastating outcomes if not taken care of. As the saying goes, no man is an island, so people around us play a vital role in giving support when we need it. Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that you are not alone. There are so many people around you that you can count on for support. You just need to take the first step and reach out to them.
  • Your partner
If you are suffering from long distance relationship depression, the first person who absolutely needs to know about this is your partner. He or she is in the same long distance relationship as you and is the person who will understand the situation the most. Keeping your partner out of the loop will only make matters worse because they might misunderstand and think that you are not happy with the relationship anymore. Know that your partner loves you and they will do anything within their capability to ensure that you are happy. Should the person who is depressed is your partner who can’t seem to open up to anyone, do not force them to talk about it. The best thing you can do is always be there for them and make sure that they know you will support them no matter what. When they feel confident enough, they will eventually talk to you.
  • Your friends and family
When you live far away from your partner, your friends and family are the ones who are physically closest to you. If you miss the human touch and affection that only being in close proximity can offer, then your friends and family will be the ones who are there to lend you a crying shoulder and give you a hug. They might not understand what you are going through exactly but they are will always have your back. Trust that they will not ridicule you for opening up and will try their best to help you.
  • Find support groups
Sometimes, it might be easier to show your vulnerable side to strangers rather than people who are close to you. Perhaps it is because you believe that strangers will not judge you or if they do, you can always sever the friendship and never see them again. There are many support groups out there and you can find them online. You can chat with someone over the internet or even participate in a physical support group near where you live. The advantage of being in a support group is that it provides a more relatable atmosphere to talk about your problems because you know everyone there is going through or has gone through some sort of depression.
  • Professionals
If things get really bad and you are unable to get out of the depression, it is time to bring in the big guns. Look for a professional therapist near you and schedule for an appointment. Sometimes it is just easier to talk to someone who is a stranger to you but also has experience in helping people with emotional issues.

2. Being socially active

When you are in a long distance relationship, you do not always get to see your partner whenever you want. Because of this, there are bound to be moments of loneliness. Therefore, the last thing you need right now is isolation and even more loneliness. Being involved in your friends’ lives and participating in social events are very important right now, even if you do not feel like it. According to the mental health magazine, somebody who is constantly feeling lonely can have some very negative long-term impact. For example, someone who does not want social contact will have a higher frequency of being sick and they may experience a shorter lifespan. We understand that it could be very challenging to reach out to someone for social contact when you are feeling so vulnerable but we promise you that it gets easier with practice. Research have found that face-to-face social interactions are far more effective in combating depression than just talking to someone over the phone or via text messages. So, find out what your best friend is doing for the weekend and it may be good for you to join them in their social events to start you off.

3. Get on a set routine

When you miss your partner so much that all you can think of is how sad and empty you feel, every single day could be a torture to get through. You might want to just stay in bed and hope that time will go faster until the next time you see your partner again. Nothing else seems to matter and you cannot help but stay fixated on all these bad thoughts. Being in depression may destroy the structure you have in your life. Without a proper structure in place, you will not be able to break away from depression. A routine is something that can bring back structure to your life and help you pull yourself out of depression. When you have a set schedule, your mind will focus on how to stick to the routine rather than on other negative thoughts. Directing your mind to keep to the routine on a daily basis will help you build back structure. Some routines that you can follow are:
  • Morning routines
According to Britt Reints, morning routines are what got her to regain control in her position. They are one way to encourage you to get out of bed and prepare to face the world. You can wake up a bit earlier than needed and do something that will help relax you before the day begins. Some people drink a warm cup of tea, read a book, or play a puzzle game – anything that will help you feel calm. This will get your day started on a positive note and set the tone for the rest of the day.
  • Communication time with your partner
When you are in a long distance relationship, you should never take it for granted that your partner will be within reach should you feel like a chat. It is important to set up regular video chatting sessions not only to maintain your relationship but also to feel that intimate connection that all humans need. Having a regular communication schedule with your partner could also be something that you look forward to each day to help you feel more positive.

4. Establish realistic goals to achieve

Just like keeping to a routine, setting goals and trying to accomplish them could help you focus away from your negative feelings. When you set your goals, it is crucial that they are realistic and attainable. If you create goals that are unreachable, the entire thing will backfire and cause even more negativity. Additionally, your goals must be clear and concise. A few years back, the University of Liverpool found that people in depression have the tendency to set unreachable goals compared to people who are not in depression. They found that one of the reasons for the result is that goals set by depressed people are relatively more general and less detailed compared to people who are not in depression. Therefore, for this to really work, you must set realistic goals in details. For example, a goal that says “lose weight” will not be very helpful compared to a goal that says “lose 20 pounds within the next 3 months”. Here are the different types of goals you can set:
  • Short-term goals
    • Wake up when the alarm goes off
    • Finish reading that book you have left untouched for months
    • Get a haircut
    • Call your family
  • Long-term goals
    • Take up Spanish lessons
    • Cook a healthy meal at home at least three times a week
    • Fit into a size 6 jeans
    • Pay off your student loan
  • Personal growth goals
    • Learn a new skill
    • Go to evening school to get a degree
    • Volunteer at an animal shelter
    • Go hiking once a month
    • Learn not to procrastinate
  • Relationship goals
    • Video chat every day
    • Send a picture to your partner’s phone every day
    • Plan for your next visit
    • Send Christmas cards to your partner’s family
Obviously, after setting your goals, you will need to make sure that you try to achieve them. There is no point in setting a bunch of goals and then just forgetting about them. It is only when you make real efforts to accomplish them that will help you pull yourself out of depression.

5. Improve your mental health

Depression is mostly in your brain so you do need to exercise your mind too.
  • Meditation
Thousands of research conducted at Johns Hopkins University concluded that meditation holds the key to solving many mental issues and especially depression. It has been found that when you meditate, your brain will have higher levels of serotonin which is a chemical responsible for your well-being and happiness. There are also more GABA, which is a neurotransmitter that will help keep you in a relaxed state. Additionally, your stress hormones are reduced. Meditation does not mean you have to sit in a certain position, have your eyes closed or do some kind of chant. There are many ways that you can carry out effective meditation. If you do not know where to begin, taking yoga classes is a good starting point. You can also just google “how to meditate” and there will be many instructions online.
  • Reading
Reading is a great way to keep your mind focused and away from feelings of depression and loneliness. It could also calm you down and help you “escape” to another world, forgetting your problems at least for a while.
  • Brain training
There are many brain training exercises that you can do to improve your mental health. If your partner is also suffering from long distance relationship depression, you could both do some brain training together which could also improve the quality of your time spent together.

6. Improve your fitness

Many people keep fit to improve their physical appearance but do you know that exercising can also enhance your mental health? When you do aerobic exercises, your brain produces a hormone called endorphin which has a morphine-like effect on your body. You stop feeling pain and your mood will improve. A study conducted by the Psychiatry Department of Duke University concluded that patients who regularly go through aerobic exercises show fewer signs of depression, as if they have taken antidepressants. Furthermore, relapses are rarer when they have regular aerobic exercise sessions. Add in the bonus that you will look great with a sexier body the next time you see your partner, keeping fit is definitely something you should start right away. Here are some suggestions on how you can begin:
  • Returning to what you used to like
When we were kids, we would always be active and playing something. If not, there was certainly something that you have always wanted to try but never got to do it. Now is your chance! Were you into team sports? Or even in a band? Not only would you get a good work out from these activities, but you would also be interacting with other people too. Definitely a win-win situation here.
  • Sign up for a gym membership
Perhaps the most obvious choice here is to start going to the gym. This is a good choice because there are a plethora of activities you can do at a gym. You can do aerobic exercises either by signing up to classes or just running on a treadmill. You can also do weight training to tone your body. You can even have a combination of both to have a well-balanced workout. Furthermore, there are other people around you working out so it should provide some sort of motivation for you to exercise. If you don’t know where to start at the gym or feel a bit overwhelmed, you can appoint the help of a personal trainer so you do not hurt yourself by using the equipment wrongly.
  • Work out at home
If you can’t find a gym nearby or the membership is too expensive for you to afford, do not worry! There are other ways for you to get a good workout too – and it’s free! There are many videos online like on Youtube where you can play on your TV or computer screen. Then just follow what the trainer tells you to do! There are many things you can find on Youtube like Zumba, Yoga, or even hip-hop dance routines. Choose something that you like so that you are having fun while you whip your body into shape!
  • Just start moving right away
Sometimes, waiting to find the right gym or the right team sports might become an excuse for you to procrastinate. There are things you can do right at this moment without any special equipment, instructions, or signing up for anything. Go out and take a walk, go jogging, hiking or even get on a bike. It might be hard at first so you can start with doing just a short walk, run, or ride. As you get used to the physical activity, increase the length of it and you will surely see results soon enough.

7. Developing a good sleeping pattern

If you and your partner live in different time zones, your sleeping pattern could be disrupted. When you finally get a chance to talk, you might chat into the wee hours of the night. You might also lay awake at night worrying if your partner has found someone else or you are simply missing your partner too much. Many studies have found that not sleeping enough or sleeping too much could lead to depression. Should this be happening to you, you will need to establish a good sleeping pattern immediately. Here are some ways you can do that:
  • Align your sleeping pattern with your natural sleep cycle
Create a routine where you go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. Try not to nap or sleep in for too long.
  • Manage light exposure
Do not have curtains that are too thick so that you allow some light to wake you up naturally in the morning. However, when you are going to bed, try to keep the room as dark as possible and do away with your nightlight. Avoid looking at bright screens an hour or two before bedtime.
  • Work out!
Try to work out regularly and you will find that it is easier to fall asleep when you want to. If possible, go for high-intensity exercises every day, even just 15 minutes daily will help.
  • Manage your eating schedule
Avoid consuming nicotine and caffeine as much as possible, especially when it is near bedtime. Do not drink too many liquids at night or you might have to wake up frequently in the middle of the night to go to the toilet. Try to have a small dinner and avoid large snacks before heading to bed.
  • Make your surroundings better
Keep the room where you sleep as quiet as possible. You can install double-pane glass or wear earplugs if you live in a noisy neighborhood. Have comfortable pillows and a mattress that are not too soft nor too hard. Try not to do anything else on your bed apart from sleeping or having sex. You want to condition your body to associate lying in bed with sleep.

8. Eating healthy food

When you are in depression, eating right can be something very tough to do. Some people tend to eat their feelings away, feeding on unhealthy food with high sugar content. The long-term effect of this could be devastating to your health and will further contribute to your depression. There are studies that found people who eat healthy and nutritious food are less likely to develop depression whereas those who mainly eat processed food are more prone to depression. Therefore, you should consume food high in vitamins, minerals, and omega 3. At the same time, try to reduce consumption of food like coffee, alcohol, high-sugar and processed food. We do not mean that you should completely avoid unhealthy food but do so in moderation and see it as a treat.

9. Learn how to be grateful

What gets you into depression is that you focus only on the negative things but probably forgot about all the good things that have happened to you. The loneliness that inevitably comes with being in a long distance relationship will make anyone feel down. However, some people will move on while others dwell on it, leading to depression. There are research that found that somebody who is grateful for what they have can reduce depression and stress. So why not give it a try? Here are some suggestions on how you can learn to be grateful together with your partner: Tell your partner something that you have done as an act of kindness or the kindness you have received from someone else.
  • Gratitude letter
Write a message or letter telling your partner what you are grateful for within your relationship. Tell them how much you appreciate them and state specific examples of what they have done for you.
  • 3 amusing things
Recall 3 amusing things within the last 7 days to your partner. It could be a joke you have overheard or something you have read about too.
  • 3 positive incidents
Tell your partner 3 positive incidents that have happened to you within the last 7 days. If possible, also tell your partner why they occurred. You do not have to talk about all the above at once but you can pick and choose what to talk about with your partner. The point is to make your mind think about positive things that have happened to you.

10. Seek help from a professional

Although we have done a lot of research and used science to back up the content of our article, we are not medical professionals. If you find yourself constantly feeling down and it is influencing how you go about your daily life, do reach out to a professional to get a proper diagnosis and help. Do not feel embarrassed because professionals are not there to judge and they have a lot of experience helping people like you get back into the swing of things. If you have more suggestions on how to help someone deal with long distance relationship depression, please let us know in the comments below.

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