Everyone has days where they feel sad or irritable. Sadness is a normal response to challenging life events, but sometimes feelings of sadness can stick around or occur for no obvious reason.
In this article, we’ll talk about how to recognize depression and how to get out of a depressive episode.
Is it sadness or is it a depression episode?
The loss of a loved one, a missed job opportunity, the breakdown of a relationship, children moving away from home — there are various stressful events in life that can make you sad.
However, feeling sad in response to these life events does not qualify as depression because the sadness passes after some time. In contrast, depression is a mood disorder that can happen without a specific cause and lasts for more than two weeks.
How to get out of a depressive episode?
Before you can understand how to get yourself out of a depressive episode, you need to recognize depression.
Depression is a mental illness that impacts practically every aspect of life, including your relationships, work, social life, mood, and daily activities.
People who are depressed often experience persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, emptiness, and tearfulness. There can also be emotions like restlessness, irritability, frustration, anxiety, agitation, or anger. It is not unusual to lose interest in routine activities like work, hobbies, and sex during a depression episode.
Besides mood changes, depression can also cause physical symptoms such as lack of energy, difficulty sleeping, problems concentrating, and changes in appetite and weight.
In its most severe form, depression can be associated with thoughts of harming oneself, death, and suicide.
To be considered depression, these symptoms must be present nearly all the time, every day, for at least two weeks.
How to get through a depressive episode?
If you are wondering what to do when depression hits, here are 12 simple steps you can take.
Eat a healthy diet
It can be tempting to reach for a sugary or salty snack for comfort when you’re feeling low, but these unhealthy foods can ultimately make your depression worse. For example, weight gain as a result of unhealthy eating habits can make you even more depressed.
The food you eat has a significant impact on not only your body, but also your mind. If you want to get out of a depressive episode, start by eating a healthy, balanced diet to nourish your body and mind.
Watch the beverages
In addition to a healthy diet, you should also watch the beverages you’re drinking if you want to snap out of depression. Caffeine and alcohol are both known to affect mood. Drinking these beverages in moderation is not usually harmful, but if you don’t watch your intake, they can negatively impact your mental health.
For example, too much caffeine can keep you awake, and the lack of sleep can worsen your depressive episode. Also, caffeine can make you high strung and worsen anxiety symptoms.
Similarly, alcohol is known to worsen symptoms of mood disorders like depression. Plus, when you’re dealing with depression, it is easy to start consuming large amounts of alcohol as an escape mechanism, putting you at risk of alcoholism.
Get some exercise
Just 15-30 minutes of exercise every day can help to stop a depressive episode. Besides helping you get in shape, exercise can significantly reduce stress and boost your mood.
Exercising releases feel-good chemicals in the brain that help you feel better. That’s why exercise one of the best natural ways to fight anxiety and depression.
You don’t have to do intense exercise to reap the benefits. Even something as simple as going for a walk, playing outdoors with your dog, working in your yard, or washing your car can help.
Practice mindfulness and meditation
Mindfulness is living in the moment and appreciating it. Rather than rushing through your daily routine, stop for a moment to appreciate the small joys of life, such as your child’s laughter or the taste and texture of your food.
Meditation exercises like deep breathing or activities like yoga and tai-chi can help relax tense muscles and relieve stress.
In the long run, mindfulness and meditation help to change how your brain responds to stress and anxiety and makes it less likely that you’ll have a depression episode.
Keep a gratitude journal
When you’re going through a depressive episode, it’s common to be consumed by negative thoughts. One of the ways to get out of a depressive episode is to redirect your mind to positive thoughts.
Writing a gratitude journal helps you appreciate all that is good and beautiful in your life. Start with something simple like writing down three good things that happened that day or three people you’re grateful to have in your life. This will help to replace negative thoughts and emotions with positive ones.
Soak up some sun
Sunlight has incredible mood-lifting benefits because it increases the release of serotonin, a mood-boosting chemical in the brain.
If you are trying to deal with a depressive episode, spending time outside in sunshine can lift your mood and make you feel less depressed.
Pay attention to sleep hygiene
Depression and sleep are closely linked. Almost everyone going through a depressive episode experiences sleep disturbances. The relationship is bidirectional, meaning poor sleep can cause depression and depression can lead to poor sleep.
If you are trying to bounce back from depression, pay attention to sleep hygiene. This includes sticking to a regular bedtime, avoiding alcohol and caffeine late in the evening, ensuring your bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet, and switching off all electronic devices 2 hours before bedtime.
Keep in touch with family and friends
It is not unusual to withdraw from loved ones during a depressive episode. However, removing yourself from social situations can make your depression worse.
If you are wondering what to do during a depressive episode, try to make a conscious effort to socialize. Spending time with friends and family members is one of the best ways to improve your mood.
Keep your mind occupied
One way to keep sadness at bay is to involve yourself in fun activities. Think of your hobbies and things you love to do, preferably involving other people. Depression can make you lose interest in those things, but the passion is always there.
Activities like painting, cooking, listening to music, playing a musical instrument, working in the garden, or journaling lead to the release of dopamine and other pleasure chemicals in the brain, which can lift your mood during a depression episode.
Track your depressive triggers and symptoms
People going through a depressive episode can feel overwhelmed and alone.
If you’re trying to get out of a depressive episode, it might be useful to keep a journal of your feelings. This will help you identify potential triggers for feelings of sadness as well as spot the signs of depression early on and do something about them.
Accept your depression and understand it will end
One of the scariest things about a depressive episode is that it can feel unending. When you’re trying to bounce back from depression, understand that it is a mental illness which will eventually get better.
While depression won’t disappear overnight, accepting its presence in your life and taking steps to alleviate it can help you feel less overwhelmed.
Get professional help
By learning about depression, you have already taken the first step towards dealing with a depressive episode. Remember, depression is not a shortcoming in your character or a sign of weakness.
If you find you are unable to get out of a depressive episode with lifestyle changes, it may be time to seek professional help. A mental health professional may offer therapy and/or antidepressant medications to help you feel more like your old self again.
How to get someone out of a depressive episode?
If you have noticed that a friend, family member, or partner is struggling with a depressive episode, here’s what you can do to support them.
Start a conversation. Talk to your loved one and also listen carefully. Don’t assume you understand how they feel. Validate their feelings and show empathy with both your words and your body language.
Help them get help. It can be daunting to seek treatment for a depressive episode. You can help your loved one by reviewing potential therapists with them and making an appointment if they are agreeable.
Everyone experiences the occasional blues, but if you’ve been feeling persistently low for several weeks and are unable to get out of a depressive episode, help is available. Lifestyle changes are often successful in helping people snap out of depression, but if they aren’t, don’t hesitate to reach out for support.
At RosGlas Recovery, we offer private and exclusive therapy retreats for mental health issues such as depression. Our team of specialists will tailor the depression therapy program to your needs and ensure that all underlying psychological and social causes are identified and addressed. To find out more about our program, get in touch with us today.