Many people experience recurring episodes of depression. You can break the cycle and prevent future bouts of symptoms.
For many people, depression is a chronic mental health condition, and it’s common to experience recurring episodes. It can have a ripple effect on all aspects of your life.
You may find it helpful to identify and learn about your symptoms, so you can deal with your depression and move forward.
Once you understand how depression affects your mental and physical health, you can try making changes to help break the cycle of depression and heal.
Symptoms of depression can affect your daily routine and behavior. This can often make it hard to nurture your mental health, making depression worse. It becomes a vicious cycle.
For example, a lack of motivation or low energy can cause you to stop engaging in your hobbies, neglect daily responsibilities, and leave decision-making to others.
“The fewer pleasant activities people do, the more distressed they feel in this cycle,” says Ankita Rathore, a mental health therapist at MantraCare.
“When activity level decreases, we may become even less motivated and more lethargic. When we stop doing the things we used to love, we miss out on experiencing pleasant feelings and positive experiences. And depression can get worse!”
Depression cycles can be challenging to break, so it’s common for someone who is depressed to fall back into unhealthy patterns.
“Many people with depression — but not all — will experience recurring episodes. Depression consists of symptoms like changes in appetite or sleep, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, losing interest in things you normally enjoy, or experiencing suicidal thoughts,” says Gregory Scott Brown, MD, psychiatrist, mental health writer, and author of “The Self-Healing Mind.”
“A vicious cycle of depression could mean experiencing many depressive periods with only short or infrequent relief in between times when you feel depressed,” explains Brown.
A person with depression may also find it hard to recognize they’re depressed because of their symptoms.
“Once you have developed those symptoms of another episode, your judgment may be affected, so your ability to judge that you have depression can be compromised due to this mental illness,” explains Gail Saltz, MD, associate professor of psychiatry at the New York Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell school of medicine and host of the “How Can I Help?” podcast from iHeartRadio. “It creates a constant cycle.”
Regardless of how often you’ve experienced depression, you can break the cycle of depression.
Here are some tips Rathore recommends:
1. Reduce stress.
Using relaxation techniques in unavoidably difficult settings, like family gatherings, may help reduce depression symptoms.
To relax and lower stress levels, you may find it helpful to try:
- guided meditation
- breathing exercises
2. Get a good amount of sleep.
Quality, restorative sleep is an important factor in nurturing your mental health. You may experience more negative thoughts and anxiety without adequate sleep, making you more susceptible to depression.
3. Try to move every day.
Even a small amount of regular physical activity can make a big impact. Exercise not only boosts self-confidence but it can also improve social connections and increase self-esteem.
4. Eat healthily.
To support your mental health and improve your mood, you can try:
- eating a diet that includes plenty of fresh whole foods
- staying hydrated
- cutting out sugary beverages and heavily processed food
- reducing caffeine and alcohol consumption
5. Cultivate social support.
Having personal connections with others may provide you with a reason to get up in the morning. Strong relationships help reduce isolation and loneliness.
You may find it helpful to consider the following:
- joining a class
- making phone calls to people you’ve lost touch with
- volunteering in a food kitchen or animal shelter
- adopting a pet, if you feel capable of doing so
- maintaining contact with family and friends
Accepting support from people close to you can be incredibly helpful. They may be able to spot your depression symptoms before you notice them yourself, Saltz explains.
Your support system can also help you find professional help and listen if you need to talk about your feelings.
6. Find a meaningful purpose in your life.
A strong sense of purpose may protect against mental health setbacks and obstacles. Activities like pursuing a new skill or mastering a challenging task may provide a goal to work toward, and serves as a healthy and meaningful distraction.
7. Get early treatment.
To prevent depression symptoms from coming back, you may find it helpful to take action sooner rather than later.
“The best way to prevent a worsening depression episode and the recurrence of an episode is to get treatment early,” says Saltz.
“You then need to stick with your treatment through remission and follow the advice of your psychiatrist — especially if you take medicine to help treat your major depression.”
A combination of psychotherapy and medication is usually most effective for treating major depression, Saltz explains.
Additionally, using the skills you learn in therapy can help you prevent a relapse.
“There’s no one-size-fits-all treatment, and all treatments for depression don’t automatically have to include medications. Meeting with a mental health professional can help you determine your best course of treatment and get you on the path to recovery,” says Brown.
While depression looks different for everyone, it requires attention and asking for help when you’re caught in the cycle. Being aware of the symptoms is important.
A combination of exercise, healthy eating, quality sleep, and a strong support system may help you break unhealthy patterns and enjoy a healthier and happier life.
To learn more about depression coping skills and get help finding treatment, consider checking out these helpful resources:
- American Psychiatric Association’s Find a Psychiatrist tool
- American Psychological Association’s Find a Psychologist tool
- National Alliance on Mental Illness Helplines and Support Tools
- Asian Mental Health Collective’s therapist directory
- Association of Black Psychologists’ Find a Psychologist tool
“If you’re experiencing severe depression or experiencing thoughts of suicide, it’s always best to talk to someone you trust about what you’re feeling and to touch base with a mental health professional, like a psychiatrist, if you can,” says Brown.