8 Ways to Cope With a Depressive Episode

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Though some people suffer from major depression (or major depressive disorder) year-round, others experience episodes of the mental illness [1].

These are periods of two weeks or more where symptoms of depression are relentless. So much so, it can negatively affect important aspects of your life, including school and work. Furthermore, though these symptoms eventually leave, they always return and often unexpectedly.

So, what can you do in order to better take control of these episodes?

To begin, it’s important to seek out treatment for your depression. Through medication and psychotherapy, you’ll not only learn to take control of your depression but you’ll also get a better comprehension of how it works. Treatment is the first step towards taking control of these episodes.

In this article, we review eight specific ways for taking control of your depressive episodes. At the end, we invite you to ask further questions.

What Are Depression Symptoms?

Common symptoms for depression include:

  • Aches or pains
  • Continuous feelings of sadness, emptiness, and anxiousness
  • Cramps
  • Decreased energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Digestive complications
  • Feelings of guilt, hopelessness, and worthlessness
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Lack of sleep
  • Loss of appetite
  • Restlessness
  • Slurred speech
  • Suicidal attempts/ideation
  • Weight changes

Of course, symptoms will vary from person to person. Someone who experiences depressive episodes shouldn’t expect to feel all of the above symptoms. Furthermore, you may notice certain symptoms which aren’t mentioned here and solely pertain to you.

This is why it’s importance to seek out treatment. Through psychotherapy, you’ll be able to get a sense of how depression affects YOU personally [2].

#1: Develop Techniques to Reduce Stress

It’s impossible to avoid stress. our bodies naturally produce it through a little hormone known as cortisol [3]. In low amounts, cortisol is necessary in helping the body adjust to the variety of stress that come with life. However, in high amounts, this hormone can inflict feelings of depression.

Therefore, it’s in your best interest to learn ways to reduce stress.

If you do the research, you’ll find there are a large amount of different techniques to develop in order to decrease the amount of stress you have. This is due to the fact that people experience stress differently.

However, some basic techniques you can implement are:

  1. Try to think optimistically rather than pessimistically.
  2. It’s okay to try to live a full life, but don’t allow it to overwhelm you.
  3. Understand where your weaknesses are and the weaknesses of those around you.
  4. Don’t seek to be a perfectionist when you seek high achievements.
  5. Begin to develop a better understanding for your feelings and allow yourself to feel them.
  6. Create a steady balance between your work and leisure.

Stress is natural. It only becomes unnatural when it takes control of our day-to-day lives. By developing techniques to handle stress, you’ll be more prepared for when stress appears.

#2: Avoid Negative Thoughts

Though it may be obvious, negative thoughts have a way of building up over time. Eventually, developing into symptoms of depression.

The simple answer to this problem is to avoid negative thoughts.

Of course, this isn’t so simple when you’re actually trying to make it happen. Luckily, there’s help available.

For example, cognitive behavioral therapy [CBT] has helped many people overcome their depression [4]. The purpose of this therapy is to help you identify where your negative thoughts are coming from. In turn, allowing yourself to understand the patterns of these thoughts and move away from them.

You can also check out self-help books or online resources which provide lessons on changing the way you think.

#3: Get Better Sleep

You may be surprised to find out that sleep plays a large role in depression. In fact, some studies have gone as far as to say sleep disorders are a core problem when it comes to symptoms of depression [5].

Take the 2014 study by Journal of Affective Disorder as an example. It was found that 80% of those who face depression also experiences a great deal of sleep interference.

Have you ever felt as though you can’t get to bed at night? Or, vice versa, it’s extremely difficult for you to get up in the morning as you feel exhausted?

This is all a product of bad sleep. But what can you do to improve sleep quality?

There are a number of different techniques people have developed, including:

  • Getting in the habit of engaging in relaxing activities before bed.
  • Only using your bed for sleep and sexual activity (doing work in your bed can actually be bad for you as you begin to associate your sleep space with stress).
  • Reading and/or writing before bed.
  • Turning off all electronics at least one hour before bed time.

#4: Develop a Support Network

We as humans are social creatures. We need others around us for a number of different reasons. One of the most important is they provide support [6].

Of course, it’s granted not everyone is surrounded by a strong support network. In fact, some people feel depressed because they feel so isolated from those already around them.

If you’re in a position where you have no one to reach out to, help is available. The most prominent of these is, though it depends where you live, there are mental health communities across the nation. These are groups of people who meet up at a specific location regularly to support one another through a variety of mental health complications, including depression.

Furthermore, there are online tools available. Similarly to the community groups, you might find internet groups which specialize in mental health. There are also a number of different toll-free hotline to reach out to, such as SAMSHA’s national help line which can be reached at (800) 662-4357.

However, though these options are available, it’s important to keep in mind those already around you. If you have family and friends, it’s in your best interest to share with them your mental health issues. As they begin to develop an understanding of these complications, you’ll find you always have someone to reach out to when necessary.

#5: Stop Procrastinating

It’s natural for people with depression to procrastinate. Symptoms such as fatigue or difficulty concentrating make it easy for someone to be influenced to putting off their responsibility [7].

Yet, as you may have already noticed, procrastinating only makes depression worse. It makes you feel as though you aren’t getting anything done with your life. It leaves you to believe you’re guilty for wasting so much time. And, potentially worse of all, it gets you worried and stressed about the future.

If you have responsibilities, it’s vital to meet them. If you have personal projects you’d like to work out, it’s important to set deadlines for yourself.

You might have a big goal in mind of something you’d like to accomplish. If so, it’s key to set smaller goals prior in order to work your way up to that bigger goal.

Some tips for beating procrastination include:

  1. Making a list of everything you’d like to complete.
  2. Make sure this list is only compiled of things you can handle.
  3. Routinely keep up with the list.
  4. Just go for it! Don’t hold yourself back.
  5. Give yourself a reward for when you complete a task.

#6: Do Your Chores

If you’re still an adolescent, this might sound a bit ridiculous. But if you’re an adult with your own place, it’s become obvious that a messy environment isn’t good for mental health. Nor is a lack of organization in other areas of your life.

Depression has a way of stopping us from doing these chores. It makes these chores seem too difficult.

Yet, you’ll find that by cleaning up your room, tidying up your closet, completing that stack of bills, or even just washing the dishes all make a HUGE difference.

By taking control of these little chores, you’re taking control of your life. Don’t feel you need to do it all at once either. Do one chore at a time just to get your body moving.

Once you’ve progressed to a clean and well-organized environment, you’ll start to notice yourself naturally making these decisions in real life.

#7: Eat Healthier

You are what you eat. How many times have you heard that? The reason people continuously make point of it is because it’s true.

Study after study discovers that there’s a clear connection between diet and mental health. These same studies have also found that those who eat healthier tend also have a healthier mindset [8].

Take this 2012 study by Journal of Affective Disorders which found that those who lack zinc in their diet tend to have more symptoms of depression.

By giving yourself a healthy and consistent diet, you’re paving the way to reduce symptoms of depression. There are even vitamins and supplements available which help.

#8: Make Time for You

People with depression might feel like they have too much time for themselves or, vice versa, like they don’t have enough.

Wherever you stand on the spectrum, it’s important for you to get a clear sense of your time and – when you have moments for yourself – do what makes you happy.

Whether this be spending time with a pet, taking a warm bath, or reading a book, you’ll want to do what makes you happy.

Don’t be afraid to create a list of things you enjoy doing. In a planner, figure out when you have time to do the things on that list.

Your Questions

Still have questions concerning how to control depressive episodes?

We invite you to ask them in the comments below. If you have any more information regarding how to control depressive episodes, we’d also love to hear from you. We reply to each comment in a prompt and personal manner.

Resources

[1] NIMH: Depression

[2] NIH: Psychotherapies

[3] HealthDirect: The role of cortisol in the body

[4] HHS Public Access: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Mood Disorders: Efficacy, Moderators and Mediators

[5] Dialogues in clinical neuroscience: Sleep disorders as core symptoms of depression

[6] NIH: Research Suggests a Positive Correlation between Social Interaction and Health

[7] Psychology Today: Depression and Procrastination

[8] Indian Journal of Psychiatry: Understanding nutrition, depression, and mental illness

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