Ways to avoid a relapse
Depression is a term where many people look away and try to not speak about it. Often it is considered a negative and forbidden word, and you may notice that many people change the topic or try to avoid it whenever a conversation goes down towards that direction. Truth is that experiencing a depression is a real thing and believe it or not, it is possible that you yourself have experienced an episode already in your life. There are minor, major and severe experiences of depression and they may vary depending on the personality, genetics, life events and more.
Especially after experiencing a depressive episode, the chances can be high of a relapse. In this post, I want to share some ways on how to avoid a relapse, which have been helpful to me up until today.
Limit alcohol and other drugs
You may feel better when you drink or when taking any drugs, but remember it is just a temporary feeling. The moment of entering sobriety might actually make you feel worse. Especially when experiencing a depressive episode, alcohol and drugs might change the way you see reality and especially in this phase you can be extremely sensitive to becoming addictive. Take a break from alcohol and drugs, whenever you feel that a relapse is possible. It will not only help you avoid another episode but also give you a boost of self-esteem by accomplishing a task you have set for yourself. Additionally, it might keep you away from people that use alcohol and drugs as a hideaway or solution to their problems. These are the people you want to stay away from when wanting to avoid a relapse.
Treat your body as a temple
Take care of what you put inside your body! Especially when entering an episode, you may get the feeling of not caring at all about what your body is doing and start to binge eat or overeat things such as sugar or fat. At this point, I have to admit that I advise giving your body a break sometimes. Especially when following a strict diet, it is okay to sometimes have a chocolate bar or fries. But be aware of the quantity. Eating an excessive amount of food and especially sugar might give you the same high as when drinking or doing drugs. Eventually, reality will hit you and may crush you harder than before. On top of that, don't neglect your exercise. It is okay to sometimes take a break and just rest, as your body can also get the feeling of a high when exercising too excessively. Continue to do sports from time to time to not only keep your body moving but also to distract your mind. But remember it is alright if you sometimes just want to sit on your couch and watch a movie. Your body needs this as much as you need to be active.
Give yoga and meditation a try
Yoga and meditation were the most effective therapy methods when I was healing after my depression. It not only gives you a time to solely spend time with yourself but also releases a lot of emotions that you store and have difficulties to let go of. Whenever I feel that I get anxious or need a timeout, I do a walking meditation where I take a walk and breathe deeply. I stay in silence during my walk and usually end my meditation at a spot that I connect with peace such as a beach or sitting in nature.
Watch your treatment
When you have been prescribed medication by your psychiatrist, make sure that you talk about what to do when you feel better. Many psychiatrists recommend you to keep taking antidepressants even after you feel better and then lower down the dose before you completely stop. This decision is up to you, but I advise to talk with your psychiatrist about it. It is not only a physical but also mental issue. Once you stop the medication, your mind might tell you that you need it, even though your physical body is fine. I recommend to listen as well here to your gut feeling and find out which solution fits you best. You are the person that knows yourself best. I also advise not to abuse the usage of antidepressants and to aim to stop them as soon as possible, whenever you may feel ready to slow down. Myself, I took Trimipramine to help me sleep and release anxious feelings especially to treat my insomnia. Even when I was still under therapy, I stopped taking Trimipramine on the advice of my psychiatrist as well, after I felt that I don't need it anymore to fall asleep. Firstly, I lowered the dose and then completely stopped. I had been taking Escitalopram as well to treat my severe depressive disorder, especially to decrease panic attacks and outbursts. As Escitalopram has major side effects as well, it is often recommended to keep taking it for months after therapy and lowering the dose with time. After talking to my psychiatrist, I lowered my dose immensely in a short time but always kept the medication close to me in case I may need them. After feeling that I don't need them anymore, I completely got rid of them. Having them as a backup helps you in the beginning, but make sure to completely remove them out of your environment once you are done, to not see them as a possible treatment when entering a relapse.
This is the most important advice I can give to you. When having the feeling of entering a relapse, it is definitely not the right time to follow any major life decisions or stress yourself. This is the time to slow down and take a lot of time for yourself. But be aware to not isolate yourself. Surround yourself with the people you love and people that share their positive energy with you. Do things that you like and focus on having a positive and grateful attitude, towards yourself and the world. It is okay to have a bad day from time to time, this will only make you realize that you want to come back to having mostly good days. Appreciate yourself, the person that you are and the value you bring with you. Don't take things too seriously from the first moment on, as they could be no real harm and less meaningful than you might think they are at this moment. My advice is here as well to take a deep breath before reacting, as you might overreact and be overwhelmed with the situation. This is definitely not easy, speaking from my own experience. But with exercise, it will become more natural to you.
Find your support
Feel the support around you! Your family and friends are there for you. Don't be afraid to ask for help. After yoga and meditation, this was the second most important treatment for me during my therapy. The people that love you will always take time for you, even if you may not believe it at that moment. And if you need some extra support, you can always reach out to communities, may they be in your local area or online, where you can find extra tips. One organisation that was extremely helpful to me was the Loss Foundation in the UK, that offers great support especially for people in grief.
From time to time, I feel myself getting closer towards a relapse and these mentioned steps have been extremely helpful to me to stop myself getting to deep into it. I hope I could inspire you with this post and truly hope that you will never need these steps :)