There's no quick fix for depression. Even if you are under medical care and taking antidepressant medication, improvement takes time.

The December issue of Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource offers five self-care strategies that can help you feel better and reduce the risk of recurrence.

1. Keep active.

--As little as 15 to 30 minutes of physical activity most days has been shown to improve mood.

--Long-term regular exercise can help prevent recurrence.

2. Eat well. A well-balanced eating strategy will help you feel better now and later.

-- Eat more whole grains, beans and vegetables. They provide a longer-lasting energy source than processed baked goods and sugar.

-- Eat regular meals, especially breakfast. Regular meals avoid the irritability and overeating that can come from skipping meals.

-- Increase your intake of cold-water fish such as salmon, halibut, tuna and bluefish. Research indicates that the omega-3 fatty acids in these cold-water fish may help reduce symptoms of depression.

-- Avoid alcohol and caffeine, which can contribute to depression and anxiety.

3. Get adequate sleep.

-- Aim for eight hours a night, and be consistent with bedtime.

4. Control stress. Coping with depression is stressful enough, so try to limit other sources of stress.

-- Simplify your schedule and prioritize.

-- Get organized so you know where to find things you need.

-- If you need a break, take it, even if it's just a day trip or weekend getaway.

-- Recognize stress signals and slow down. Is your stomach upset? Are you forgetting things or feeling extra irritable? Take notice of your signals and do something about it.

5. Stay connected. Make relationships a priority. Social ties give you a sense of purpose and meaning in life.

-- Recognize the importance of give and take. It's true you should give of yourself in a relationship, but it's also important to receive from others, especially when you are depressed.

-- Cultivate your spirituality. Studies have shown that believing in something larger than yourself strengthens your ability to cope with life's ups and downs.

-- Avoid negative and unhealthy connections that might bring you down.

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