How to Get Out of a Depressive Episode

I went through a month-long depressive episode this past October. At the beginning of the month, my mood plummeted and stayed like that for the duration of October. The depression seemed to creep up unexpectedly, swallowing me into its dark hole. While I was in the midst of the depressive episode, I reconnected with an ex and got my heart broken. This exacerbated my symptoms and sent me over the edge.

I spent weeks in insurmountable pain. Although I’ve made it through my previous depressive episodes, I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. 

Eventually, I slowly began to pick up the pieces and pull myself out of the darkness. 

Symptoms of Depression

  • Persistent feelings of sadness, emptiness, hopelessness, or worthlessness
  • Angry outbursts or irritability
  • Loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Changes in appetite
  • Tiredness or lack of energy
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, or having memory problems 
  • Anxiety, agitation, or restlessness
  • Slowed thinking, speaking, or moving slowly
  • Physical aches and pains
  • Suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts

When you’re experiencing a depressive episode, it can feel incessant. As much as you want to feel better, overcoming depression is difficult. Those of us struggling with depression know that it’s not something we can just snap out of. Instead, it often takes various coping methods and sometimes treatment to work through our symptoms. 

Depression is more than just feeling sad. It’s a mood disorder that can impact every aspect of your life. Experiencing a depressive episode is often debilitating; if symptoms aren’t treated, they can worsen. 

There are different types of depression. These include:

  • Major depressive disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Persistent depressive disorder
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
  • Psychotic depression
  • Postpartum depression
  • Situational depression
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)

If you struggle with depression, there are steps you can take to manage episodes. 

How to Get Out of a Depressive Episode

Practice Self-Care

For those of us living with depression, carving out time to take care of our overall well-being is essential for managing our symptoms. When we’re in the midst of a depressive episode, it can be difficult to practice self-care; however, not tending to our needs may increase our symptoms. 

Having a self-care routine that you can rely on can help you continue to function day-to-day. 

Some self-care strategies you can try include:

  • Journaling – Writing in a journal is a great way to work through your feelings. While sitting with your feelings is important, when it comes to depression, it’s best not to wallow in them for too long. Although you can journal about negative thoughts and difficult feelings, spend more time focusing on positive things you’ve experienced. To start a journaling practice, all you need is a notebook and something to write with. Decide how much time you’ll spend journaling each day and set aside time to write. 
  • Guided Imagery – This is a relaxation technique that promotes calmness through mindfulness. Guided imagery uses specific scenes and images to create a place in your mind where you feel happy and at ease. You can find guided imagery recordings on YouTube. 
  • Make a Self-Care Box – Having a self-care box can be helpful in moments of distress. It’s a convenient way to have all your favorite self-care items ready for when you need them. Your self-care kit should include things that will make you feel better during the bad days.

Some things to consider adding include the following: 

  • Notebooks and pens
  • A candle
  • Your favorite book
  • Helpful sayings, positive affirmation cards, or notes of encouragement
  • Essential oils
  • Earphones
  • Snacks
  • Coloring book
  • Bubbles or play-doh
  • Games 
  • Calming teas
  • Tissues 

Talk to Someone You Trust

When you’re experiencing a depressive episode, it’s common to withdraw from friends and family members. During this time, it’s vital to reach out to your support system. It may be difficult to talk about how you’re feeling, but it can help you feel better.

If you’re able to, it could help to invite your loved one over to sit and talk or do something else together. Remember, isolating yourself can make depression worse. 

Distract Yourself 

Although it’s important to feel your feelings, sometimes, with depression, the best thing to do is distract yourself. 

Many people dealing with depression struggle with self-harm urges and suicidal ideation. When we’re battling with our minds, we may turn to destructive behaviors in an attempt to cope. We may have trouble ignoring these thoughts and urges. Distractions can help you get through these moments without harming yourself.

A few ways to distract yourself include:

  • Watch a TV show, YouTube video, or movie
  • Express yourself creatively
  • Dance or do some type of movement
  • Rip up paper or tissue
  • Scream
  • Play with a pet
  • Take a warm bath or shower
  • Listen to music

Contact a Hotline

If you don’t have a strong support system or feel uncomfortable talking to family or friends, there are crisis lines that you can reach out to that allow you to chat with someone trained to support you. 

I know it can feel scary reaching out to someone you don’t know for help, but the person you chat with genuinely wants to support you in what you’re going through. 

Here are a few crisis lines:

Crisis Text Line

US: Text 741741

CA: Text 741741

UK: Text 85258

Ireland: Text 50808

Suicide & Crisis Lifeline

Call 988

Chat online by clicking here.

The Trevor Lifeline (For LGBTQ+ individuals)

Text 67878

Call 1-866-488-7386

Chat online by clicking here.

Veterans Crisis Line

Dial 988, then press 1

Text 838255

Chat online by clicking here.

National Domestic Violence Hotline

Call 1-800-799-7233

Text 88788

Chat online here

Schedule a Therapy Appointment

Seeking treatment can help you learn healthy ways to cope with and manage your depression. If you’re already in therapy, it would be a good idea to ensure you have an upcoming appointment. If not, now is the time to look for a therapist.

While therapy can be life-changing, it’s not always accessible to everyone. If you don’t have insurance or can’t afford to pay out-of-pocket for therapy, search online for different affordable options.

Read this blog post for more information on what to expect during your first therapy session. 

Do the Hard Tasks

A lot of times, when we’re depressed, we don’t feel like doing anything. While it can feel difficult, it’s important to try and do the hard things.

If you have trouble getting out of bed to take a shower, wash up in the sink or use baby wipes instead. If cooking is a struggle, eat food that can be microwaved or have something delivered. If you realize the dishes are piling up or your bedroom is messy, set a timer for 15-30 minutes and clean as much as you can.

Not being able to accomplish everyday tasks is a struggle for so many of us living with depression. Try to push yourself to do a few small daily tasks. It may even improve your mood. 

Exercise

Research shows that exercise is an effective treatment for depression. However, moving your body when your mood is low can be a challenge. It’s best to start small. This can look like doing a few stretches in bed or walking around your home. You can also try relaxing exercises like yoga. Over time, you may find that you’re able to do more. Take time to celebrate yourself for your effort. 

Indulge in Things That Make You Happy

With the loss of interest in things once enjoyed being a symptom of depression, it’s common to stop engaging in hobbies when going through an episode. 

Each day, try to carve out time to do something you enjoy. While it may be challenging initially, you may eventually notice that you feel some of the enjoyment you once did. 

Challenge Negative Thoughts

With depression, it’s not uncommon to have negative thoughts or engage in negative self-talk. These thoughts can consume you.

To challenge your negative thoughts, think of yourself as a friend. Just as you wouldn’t belittle your friend, you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself for having trouble with your mental health. Become aware of your negative thoughts and replace them with more positive, uplifting ones. It may even help to recite a few affirmations. 

Practice Meditation

Meditation can help you cope with stressful situations. It can help with working through dark thoughts and feelings by becoming aware of them without judging them. When you meditate regularly, you train the brain to respond differently.

Meditation isn’t necessarily about stopping your thoughts; it teaches you how to notice them, accept them, and release them.

Practicing meditation can teach you how to learn to live in the present moment. 

Overcoming Depression

While depression can be debilitating, in most cases, symptoms will improve. It’s important to realize that what you’re currently feeling is only temporary. Remembering this is one thing that helped me through the rough days. 

Making lifestyle changes and taking things one day at a time can help you manage depression. During your better days, take time to plan for depressive episodes so that you’re prepared if things go downhill. 

Remember that you’re not alone. So many people are struggling with their mental health. There are resources online and help that is available. Following these tips during a depressive episode may provide you with some relief. 

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