One of the leading mental health issues nowadays is depression. It can happen to anyone, regardless of their age or gender. It can affect your behavior, feelings, and thoughts and impact your overall health as well as other aspects of your life. Numerous factors can cause a person to experience depression. It may be due to a family history of the condition, physical illnesses, medicine or substance abuse, past trauma, or overwhelming stress from the environment.
Despite that, depression is treatable. Health care experts have come up with numerous ways to prevent it such as lifestyle changes, therapy sessions, and medication like antidepressants. But the thing is, if you’ve had a past episode of depression, there’s a 50% chance you may have another episode. And if you’ve had two episodes of depression, there’s an 80% chance you’ll experience it for the third time.
So if you’ve been actively trying to recover from depression, having a relapse may be your deepest concern right now. Your risk for depression relapse may vary depending on the primary cause of your condition and its symptoms. But the good news is that there are measures you can take to help you avoid relapsing in the future.
To begin your journey toward a successful recovery, here are six ways to prevent depression relapse:
- Stay Consistent With Your Treatment Plan
After your previous depression episode, your doctor or therapist may have created a recovery plan specifically for you. This may involve attending therapy sessions regularly, making healthier lifestyle changes, taking your antidepressants, and so on. Once you start feeling better after a few weeks, you might assume that it’s alright to cut corners and perhaps skip some of your treatments.
Unfortunately, trying to go against your treatment plan will eventually catch up to you. For instance, you figured that you’re better off without antidepressants, so you stopped taking them despite not being given permission to do so by your doctor. Abruptly stopping your medications may lead to antidepressant withdrawals. Symptoms from antidepressant withdrawal may include dizziness, insomnia, headaches, anxiety, and irritability.
As these symptoms merge, they’ll eventually lead to depression relapse. Thus, it’s crucial to stick to your treatment plan for as long as your doctor has advised. If you’ve intentionally or unintentionally missed some of your treatments, make sure to go back to them as soon as possible.
- Avoid Triggers
Being aware of your common triggers is essential to preventing depression relapse. If you’re having difficulty figuring out your triggers, you may consult your therapist about them, and together you can identify the patterns and situations that led to your previous depression episodes. Some of the common depression triggers are:
- Exposure to media, news, and certain movies
- Substance or alcohol abuse
- Frequent sleepless nights
- Stress (e.g., work, school, divorce, breakup, giving birth, moving houses, and accidents)
- Past traumatic events
Once you’ve figured out your triggers, it’s time to determine ways to avoid them at all costs. For example, you can work on getting enough hours of sleep every night or go on a social media break.
In case avoiding triggers isn’t possible, you can reduce your exposure to them instead. For instance, if you’re working in a company, ask if you can be moved to a new department or have your shift changed so work would be less stressful for you. Another option is to hire a house helper if you’re constantly feeling overwhelmed by responsibilities such as looking after your kids and doing household chores.
Being mindful about your triggers and taking proper precautions help minimize their impact and, overall, prevent depression relapse.
- Manage Stress
Among the primary reasons for depression relapse is stress. Those who are frequently exposed to stressful events, environments, or even people are more prone to depression relapse. Stress is already known to adversely affect your mental and physical health. Thus, it’s not surprising that it’s also linked to the relapse of depression.
As part of avoiding that problem, you can consult your doctor or think of your own stress-busting strategies such as meditation, self-hypnosis, exercise, yoga, or acupuncture. Every person differs when it comes to their experience with stress and how they manage or cope with it, so anti-stress methods that work for others may not be that effective for you.
Other steps you can do to cope with stress levels include saying ‘No’ to people’s demands from you, getting enough sleep, and giving yourself a break from everything and anyone that causes you stress.
- Boost Your Mood
When you’re in a depressive episode, hearing people tell you to ‘cheer up,’ ‘have fun,’ and ‘spend some time outdoors’ may only sound futile and nonsensical to you. However, if the feelings of depression are only about to begin, doing things to improve your mood can go a long way toward preventing another episode of depression. Thankfully, there are many ways you can elevate your mood and boost your mental state.
You can listen to your favorite comfort music, watch funny videos or movies, try out a new hobby, go for a walk, or do something creative. If you’re up for it, you can even pack your bags and travel somewhere. Even a short road trip would be impactful enough to interrupt another depression relapse. The key is to find out which solution and mood booster works best for you. Knowing a few techniques to lift your mood may prevent you from being depressed for months.
- Stay Connected
One prominent early sign of depression relapse is the urge to be alone and isolate yourself from everyone, even your loved ones. A familiar scenario is when your friends ask you to go out with them, but you choose to lock yourself up so you won’t be bothered by anyone. However, isolating yourself will only make depression come back quickly. As you start feeling worse, the more you crave isolation.
To help you feel better and resist the urge to stay away from people, work on staying connected with your friends and family or participate in a support group. Even a simple phone call or text message from your loved ones can contribute to the improvement of your mood and help you feel better about yourself. It might also be helpful to join support groups as doing so would remind you that whatever you’re going through, you’re never alone.
- Practice Self-Care
Self-care is vital in preventing depression relapse and keeping yourself healthy and happy. There are three things you must never miss when it comes to self-care: good sleep quality, regular exercise, and a healthy diet. Keeping up with those three main pillars of self-care is beneficial in reducing stress, boosting your mood, regulating your emotions, and minimizing the chances of relapse. Additionally, it’s recommended to set aside a few minutes or hours of your day to do fun and relaxing activities.
The Bottom Line
While depression may return after your first episode, that’s not always the case. Knowing your triggers, being aware of early signs of depression relapse, and applying the tips above can help you prevent the issue in the future or reduce its severity. Remember: sticking to your treatment plan and switching to a healthier lifestyle will bring you a step closer to recovery.