Living with depression means learning to cope with change. That’s because depression isn’t a constant; rather, it comes in waves, known as depressive episodes. An episode can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, or even longer. During this time, you might feel restless, anxious, irritable, or hopeless, and find it hard to participate in your daily activities, even the ones that usually bring you pleasure. When you’re depressed, the simple act of getting out of bed can feel like a chore.
Unfortunately, you can’t prevent a depressive episode from happening. But you can learn strategies for coping with it, which can potentially make your episode less severe. Here are some tips for how to take care of yourself during a depressive episode.
Keep a diary
As soon as you feel a depressive episode coming on, start keeping a log of your daily activities, moods, and sleep patterns. Doing so can help you better understand your symptoms and identify triggers for your depression. Tracking your sleeping and waking times is also helpful in preventing poor sleep patterns that can worsen a depressive episode.
Confide in loved ones
While you may be tempted to avoid social contact when you’re going through a depressive episode, isolating yourself only perpetuates the cycle of illness. Make an effort to stay in touch with people who love you and whom you can trust. Aside from helping you feel less alone, loved ones can also help monitor your symptoms and support your self-care practices.
Having something to look forward to can help counteract the effects of depression, so give yourself a reason to leave the house and see beyond your current state of mind. Make a coffee date with a friend, buy tickets to a ball game, or schedule a massage to help you feel better and keep you looking toward tomorrow.
A glass or two of wine might help you feel relaxed at first, but it can actually worsen the symptoms of a depressive episode. Alcohol is a depressant, meaning it has a sedative effect on your brain. It’s also addictive. Self-medicating with alcohol can cause significant problems down the line – according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, one out of every eight Americans living with depression also suffers from alcohol addiction.
Working out benefits your health in many ways – and according to the American Psychological Association, it can even help alleviate long-term depression. If heading to the gym doesn’t sound appealing, there are plenty of other ways to get some exercise. Go for a run around your neighborhood, take a bike ride on the boardwalk, or ask a friend to go shoot some hoops at the park.
Studies have shown that meditation can change areas of the brain linked to depression. It works to minimize symptoms by reducing stress and anxiety. If you’ve never meditated before, try installing a free app like Calm or Headspace, and follow one of their guided meditations. Alternatively, you can practice yoga, do deep breathing exercises, or partake in any other activity that helps you focus on the present moment.
Talk to a professional
If you’re experiencing a depressive episode, it’s important to talk to your doctor. Set up an appointment with your therapist or another mental health professional who can guide you through this difficult period. An experienced therapist can help you develop coping strategies, change negative thinking patterns, and if necessary, recommend psychiatric treatments and medications to help you get on the road to health.
Alvarado Parkway Institute can help you cope with your depression
You don’t have to suffer from the debilitating effects of a depressive episode alone. Alvarado Parkway Institute offers inpatient treatment for major depressive disorder, as well as other mental health conditions that cause depressive episodes, such as bipolar disorder or psychotic depression. Our team of competent, caring mental health professionals will create an individualized treatment plan designed to help you identify your triggers, manage your symptoms, and learn to live your best life.
Call our 24-hour crisis line at (619) 667-6125 for help.