According to contemporary research, there’s approximately a 50% chance of relapsing into depression, and that risk increases to at least 70% if you’ve already suffered from more than one period of depression in the past.
So, after you’ve had one experience of depression, it’s important to start thinking about what you can do to prevent a relapse. While part of your plan should be constructed with the help of your doctor (and may make reference to specific medications and therapies), there are also things you can do in your everyday life to reduce your chances of relapsing into depression.
P.S. These are actually good tips for everyone who is fighting stress.
Stay Busy, But Don’t Take On Too Much
Anxiety happens when you think you need to get everything sorted out at once. You don’t. You are only human. Keep reminding yourself of this.
It’s is important to know your limits, there are things that you cannot do and that’s fine.
Take a look at your to-do list again. Is there too much stuff on it? What can wait? What can be delegated? What isn’t necessary at all?
Feeling overwhelmed created extra stress that you don’t need in your life right now, so make sure you’re not expecting too much of yourself.
And no, this doesn’t mean you have to go to the gym every day, don’t worry.
Just try to include short walks into your everyday routine, go to your local swimming pool when you’ve got a chance or play volleyball with your friends every weekend.
Exercise can act as an antidepressant, so you need to find time for it even if you’re super busy.
Get Rid Of Negative Thoughts
Most people who’ve suffered from depression have a hard time seeing themselves through a positive lens. However, over time, focusing on negative images of yourself and cultivating a critical inner voice can trigger relapses of depression.
Consequently, it’s so important to find ways of viewing yourself in a kinder, more compassionate life. As well as specific techniques taught by cognitive behavioral therapists, you can use daily mindfulness practices to cultivate a more peaceful, positive way of thinking about yourself and the world around you.
Anything that helps you live in the moment can reduce the instance of intrusive thoughts that spark anxiety.
Know Your Own Vulnerabilities
Although there are common life experiences and traits that seem to increase the likelihood of depression, no two people suffer from this difficult mental health issue in exactly the same way.
Everyone has their own unique vulnerabilities, and it is through discovering your own that you will learn how to insulate yourself against potential relapses. In particular, think about people, places, events and dates that tend to make things more difficult for you, and do what you can to mitigate these potential triggers.
In some cases, this may mean pulling back from certain relationships or not accepting certain invitations, and in other cases you may simply need to seek a bit of extra support or set aside extra time for rest and relaxation.
Write In An Emotional Journal
Those who have had two or more relapses into depression often say that when they look back, they can see when they started to go downhill. However, when that relapse was actually beginning, they were unaware and therefore didn’t take certain actions that could have helped to make things better.
Keeping an emotional journal is one thing you can do to boost self-awareness—checking in with your emotional state every day can assist you in stopping the signs of an approaching relapse. If you don’t have time to write a lot, just summarize your feelings in a few sentences or even grade your mood from 0-10.
Generally, a pattern of negative emotions that last around 7-10 days suggests you should get extra help immediately. In some cases, a small tweak to your medication schedule may be all that’s needed.
Reach Out to Others
While it’s good and empowering to be self-sufficient in many areas, don’t feel like you have to struggle alone. Having a support network has been proven to be incredibly important in preventing relapses into depression, so take a deep breath and reach out—even if the resurgence of your symptoms means you have to give yourself a little extra push to be social.
Make sure you don’t become isolated, whether you opt to speak to one close friend, ask for assistance from your family or attend a specific support group where you can talk frankly about your difficulties.
Take Care Of Yourself
This is something we all sometimes forget, but it is ok to put yourself first from time to time. If you’re feeling exhausted take that day off or go to bed early. Find time to do something you enjoy, whether it is treating yourself to a nice meal or taking a long hot bath.
And take care of your health. There is a mind-body connection and it plays a huge role in stress and depression. Eat well, exercise, get enough sleep, cut back on alcohol, and if you feel like something is wrong, go see a doctor.
Monitor Your Sleeping Habits
There is considerable evidence to suggest that keeping a poor sleep schedule can increase your likelihood of relapsing into depression—whether you’re going to bed too late, not getting enough sleep, or creating an environment that leads to lighter than ideal sleep.
If insomnia is a factor for you, speak to your doctor about whether meditation or other treatment is appropriate (as there are sometimes underlying diseases causing this type of problem, quite apart from anything to do with depression).
Meanwhile, aim to get around eight hours of sleep per night, and do something that makes you feel calm and mellow before bed—think meditation, a hot bath, or reading an amazing book.
Follow Through With Plan You Made
Finally, perhaps the most common trigger for a relapse is simply failing to follow through with the plan you made. When you start feel better, you may think you don’t need to worry about depression and can just forget about the specifics you previously assumed would be essential.
However, things like self-care strategies, counselling sessions and medication schedules are in place to keep you feeling good, so stick with them. And if negative side effects come up, take your concerns to your doctor and/or therapist, where you can figure out how to make changes that will support long-term wellness.