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They say lightning doesn’t strike twice, but unfortunately, if you have suffered from depression for any length of time, you are probably aware the sentiment doesn’t always hold true for episodes of depression.
After cycling in and out of several episodes of depression, you may find yourself trying to deal with the reality you might experience depression again.
You might deal by denying any hints you could be entering another period of it, or by spending months on high alert assuming you are relapsing every time you have a bad day.
While finding a perfect balance may always be a challenge, there are several steps you can take to help you find peace while you are healthy. These steps include protecting your mental health, keeping mental health charts, learning what to look out for, and securing several sources of honest outside input.
Perhaps the most important step we can make towards balance is keeping the likelihood of relapse at a minimum.
There is no way to ensure you’ll never have another episode of depression, but there are steps you can take to keep you as healthy as possible.
First, continue to do what helped you heal!
Even though you may not feel like you need it, continue to seek support from a counselor or therapist (perhaps a little less often after a while) and continue to take any antidepressant medications you have been put on until your doctor/psychiatrist tells you you can stop.
Aim to get at least 8-10 hours of sleep and do activities such as yoga, meditation, prayer, and journaling to help decrease your stress. Have a schedule, but keep lots of wiggle room in it to avoid overwhelming yourself and depleting your resources. Ensure you are getting plenty of healthy foods, and make sure you include fat in your diet! Talk to your therapist, and continue this list with the things that have helped you recover.
It is also crucial to keep what my therapist and I call “mental health charts.”
Include any information at all relevant to your mood. I often set mine up in a journal where I record how I felt for the day on a scale of 1-10 and a few quick notes describing my feelings. Then, I mark down my relevant information, including sleep, changes to my food intake, busyness, stress, life situations, and menstrual cycle information.
You may find that other things affect your mood – be sure to include these on your list. Be on the lookout for patterns, particularly for correlations between mood and another factor or low moods unrelated to any other factor. It is wise to talk over your chart with your therapist regularly.
By keeping a chart, you are forced to keep yourself accountable for not ignoring the fact that you might need to take some action to prevent a full-blown relapse into depression, and you are also more able to fight overreactions to normal mood variations.
It is equally important to know what you are looking out for.
Make detailed list of what it feels like when you are tired, sick, stressed, sad, malnourished, and anything else that might present similar symptoms as depression. Then make a list of what it feels like when you are feeling depressed.
Often, the difference is found in the consistency of the feelings, the severity of the feelings, and the lack of explanations for your feelings. It is important to look out for the major symptoms: sleeping problems, fatigue, loss of interest, appetite changes, low mood, hopelessness, etc., but it is also important to play close attention to what you personally feel, and try to write as detailed a description as possible.
When you are questioning whether or not you are slipping, compare your current feelings (mood charts are super helpful for this!) with each of the above feelings and work with your therapist to determine which is the most likely culprit.
Begin to make changes based on what you find – either by taking steps to prevent full-blown relapse or by fixing the other factors that may be leading to undesirable moods and feelings.
Lastly, find someone to hold you accountable who sees you in your everyday life.
Obviously, your therapist plays some role in giving you outside perspective, but it is very easy to fake it for an hour in therapy. Family or close friends are great, as are teachers, guidance counselors, etc.
Explain to them that you need them to be honest when they feel that you are slipping into depression again, and that you may come to them from time to time asking whether they think your feelings warrant closer evaluation. However, remember this only works if you are willing to be honest and open with people.
Elizabeth currently holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and is planning to work towards becoming a licensed clinical social worker. Elizabeth feels blessed to have been surrounded with support during her journey with depression, and she is passionate about using her experiences and education to bless people in the same way she was blessed. She hopes that as a contributor to Libero, she will be able to provide very practical support.
SITE DISCLAIMER: The opinions and information shared in this article or any other Content on our site may not represent that of Libero Network Society. We hold no liability for any harm that may incur from reading content on our site. Please always consult your own medical professionals before making any changes to your medication, activities, or recovery process. Libero does not provide emergency support. If you are in crisis, please call 1-800-784-2433 or another helpline or 911.