Despite the past decade of work on normalising struggling with mental health it still remains a sensitive topic to many, myself included. It’s something a large part of our population deals with on a daily basis or comes across at one point or another in their lives. As someone who’s been struggling with depression for the last ten years, I’ve found that relapsing with your depression is not spoken about enough.
After long periods of digging yourself up from that hole that keeps you so confined you’d think it’s all sunshine and rainbows, unfortunately not. Many people like myself find that overtime they begin to slide back into the same patterns that led to their depression growing and I’d love to just take a few minutes explaining ways in which we can identify those patterns and how to avoid falling back into those same holes. This is I have depression and I’m relapsing.
This isn’t a fool proof plan for everybody but in a lot of cases depressive episodes can be prevented. Depression can come in many forms but they all come with their own triggers, triggers that are different for everyone but ultimately can be subsided by a lot of the same techniques.
What are some signs of a depression relapse?
Lack of pleasure or interest – from things you were once passionate about or just life in general.
Irritability and low moods – feeling irrational or easily irritated can be a key identifier as well as feeling sad or just simply not in the mood
Difficulty concentrating or making decisions – I personally find myself getting into a new project and suddenly hitting a wall I can’t seem to go through
Changes in sleeping habits – gone from sleeping at 10pm to lulling in your bed scrolling through your phone till 3am?
Weight loss or weight gain – when these changes are outside of your dietary choices, feeling like you can barely eat a meal a day or for others unable to stop binge eating
Feeling like a burden – feeling like you are a pain to others and not fun to be around or just generally unworthy
Increased fatigue – there are times when being lazy and tired is natural and means you just need a breather, when encountering fatigue in long drawn out periods it could be a sign that you’re falling into some defensive patterns emotionally and physically that leave you with no more energy
Alcohol or drug abuse – leaning on alcohol and drugs is so easy especially with how accessible these things are becoming, it can start slowly and become an increasing problem that will not only hinder your path to getting better but it may even develop it’s own addiction
There are so many more signs of a depressive relapse but these are a few I consider obvious and a focal part of our mental development. These are the things I personally look out for whenever I can, it allows me to have the power of hindsight, to remember the things that led me deeper into my depression to begin with.
It’s also important to remember that triggers are not always just things from the past but they can develop as things you have never done before and wouldn’t think to see them as triggers. Here are some techniques that might keep you in the loop of your depression and help stop it before it festers. Here are some techniques that could help you identify and hopefully control said triggers.
1) Getting enough exercise
You’ll find that the benefits of getting regular exercise is well (if not overly) documented. It’ll improve your overall mood, find yourself with a better appetite, physical health and your sleep will hit its stride. In general it may even help thwart other underlying health problems you may have.
2) Talk to family and friends
Getting lost in your own reality and emotions is actually pretty easy, we’re always trying to regulate our thoughts amongst many other things and getting lost inside it all can be addicting in itself. Your family and friends are not always able to identify the triggers in your behaviour, but speaking to them and allowing them a glimpse into your world could help you alleviate some tension mentally and give them the opportunity to help you see when you’re going through these depressive episodes again.
There are other ways to stay connected to the people around you too; attend social events where you can be around other people; try new hobbies like learning to paint or take a writing class; if you have a day off, don’t sit and do your reading at home, go with a friend to the park or take a trip to another town, enjoy those little moments.
3) Distancing yourself from social media
Social media is a continually growing community that research shows directly affects depression. Social media is a focal part of our lives, helping you stay in contact with family, friends and co-workers as well as world news and generally any update on any current topics.
Remembering to taking breaks from social media can be beneficial to preventing a relapse in your depression. Things you can do towards making your phone a safer space:
Restricting your phone time on specific apps using your native phone apps such as “Screen Time” or other third party apps.
Getting rid of social media all together. Most applications these days have an option to deactivate instead of delete. Meaning you can take a month off, your profile becomes invisible and you can pick up where you left off – not worrying about losing anything you’ve uploaded or conversations you’ve had.
Instead of juggling Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and whatever else is popular nowadays, you can choose. Which apps are benefiting your mental health and which apps are being detrimental towards it? I personally tend to find places like Instagram make me worried I’m not living my life to the fullest when everything posted on there is portrayed in a way that makes it seem everyone is having the best time, which is not always true
4) Stop overthinking!
Overthinking is one of my main problems, there’s always something I should’ve done differently or wanted to do differently but I didn’t because I wrapped myself in a cocoon of worry.
Do you overstress about what to wear in the mornings? Start picking out outfits the night before
Do you agree to plans and outings you don’t want to go to? Saying no is okay, but not when you’ve already agreed and have other people relying on you. Be upfront and honest about how you’re feeling and saying no shouldn’t be rewarded with someone making you feel bad
Start meal planning! Lay out what you’re going to eat for the week, maybe even pre-make some meals and freeze them. The more routine you put into your life the less time you’ll have to overthink about it
Slowly start reminding yourself that change is okay and that you can begin letting go of the things that are holding you back. You have no obligation to anyone or anything but yourself and in reality letting yourself be subject to things that do no longer serve you will most likely make you feel even worse
These are small suggestions that hopefully in the long run will give you a better sense of decisiveness. The more you speak your mind and plan a little bit a head of time means the you have more time to feel safe in the decisions you’ve made.
5) Seek or maintain treatment
Asking for help is hard. Making yourself vulnerable is always going to be hard, we’re taught to not share everything and keep information private but that’s why we have friends and family, that’s why we have mental health professionals. These people are there to help us go through life, because nobody was meant to go through life alone
I’m well aware that treatment isn’t for everyone but a step in the right direction is going forward and seeing whether there is something that could actually impact you positively.
Avoid stopping treatments you start abruptly, always confer with your doctor if it’s a good idea to go off a treatment and if that’s something you really want – how to do it safely
Research and maintain coping mechanisms; your breathing techniques, exercise routines, diet etc. These are all things that affect your treatment, keeping them in check with a journal or even the notes app on your phone can go a long way
Regular vent sessions – I recommend having these with a therapist or doctor of some sort, but having a close friend or family member who is emotionally available towards you (remember to not spill everything on one person, make yourself aware of their mental health too) can also be nice, less informal even
I’m not in any way shape or form a mental health professional. This is research I’ve done for myself and also pointers from my own personal experience. If this helps even one person the way it has helped me then it’ll make all the difference.
A 23 year old writer, from fictional short stories to poetry and song writing. I enjoy making articles about modern culture, the way it affects our brains and creative lifestyles – how we can learn from it, what I’ve learned from it so far.