By Suzanne Jessee, Founder and CEO, Anew Era TMS
Hallelujah! The lingering effects of depression have finally dissipated after a long bout of misery. For many who battle depression—and battle is the perfect word—getting to the other side of it may have taken multiple antidepressant trials, alternative treatments for depression methods, and hours of psychotherapy. In my practice of treating patients who have suffered from relentless depression, I am as thrilled as they are upon witnessing the fruits of clinical success.
While in the thick of the depressive disorder, some may feel they will never return to their old self. Depression can do that to a person—cloaking them in symptoms so thick it begins to feel like the new normal. But with much determination and patience, seeing one’s spirit and energy level perk up is cause for celebration.
Unfortunately, the nature of the disorder may involve periodic relapses back into depression. In fact, about half of patients who have struggled through a depressive episode will likely suffer a relapse within five years of the initial episode. Patients who have suffered two episodes have an 80% chance of experiencing a relapse back into depression. In general, someone diagnosed with major depressive disorder will have five to nine recurrent episodes in their lifetime.
For this reason, being proactive in deterring relapse should be a primary motivation. While genetics may play a significant role in recurrence, there are some measures to take that can reduce the risk of depression relapse.
8 Ways to Prevent Depression Relapse
Returning to symptoms of depression after a period of remission can be very disheartening. To continue feeling well, it is important to reduce the risk of relapse by being on the offensive. This involves taking steps to actively avoid triggers, as well as incorporating lifestyle changes that reinforce mental wellness.
- Adhere to treatment. It may be tempting to assume you are good to go once you experience a couple of good weeks. Resist the urge to stop taking medication or discontinuing psychotherapy. It may take months to stabilize, so continuing on with the treatment plan in place will help keep the depression from flaring back up.
- Know your triggers. Environmental factors that negatively impact one’s mood or state of mind should be identified, and then avoided if possible. Some of these triggers might be difficult to avoid, such as an unsatisfying job or a dysfunctional or abusive relationship, however, as remission stabilizes it might be advantageous to consider making some positive changes.
- Get regular exercise. There is no denying the powerful benefits, both physically and psychologically, of getting regular exercise. Physical activity, when it is woven into one’s usual routine, can be a significant protective factor to help reduce the chance of depression relapse. Not only will exercise improve mood, it also improves sleep quality and overall physical wellness.
- Get quality sleep. Establish a healthy sleep routine, keeping a regular sleep schedule. This allows the body to adjust to a predictable sleep rhythm, which helps regulate the circadian cycle. To enhance sleep quality, avoid caffeine after 3 pm, avoid heavy meals after 7pm, and shut down electronic devices one hour before bedtime.
- Eat a nutritious diet. Feed your brain with nutrients for better overall mental health. A diet high in omega-3 fatty acids, lean proteins, complex carbs, and fresh vegetables and fruits while limiting sugars and processed foods is linked to healthy brain function and better mood.
- Manage stress. Access coping skills when you sense that stress is negatively impacting your mood. While impossible to eliminate stress entirely, knowing techniques that can help you through stressful situations will help keep your mental health on an even keel. These might include a deep-breathing exercise, taking yoga classes, learning how to use mindfulness during the day, or keeping a journal.
- Stoke your passions. Emerging from depression’s fog offers a wonderful opportunity to address the things that feed your soul and make you feel good about yourself. Taking up a new hobby, enrolling in a class, volunteering for a charity, or reigniting a forgotten passion can provide opportunities to accomplish new goals, build self-esteem, or rediscover a love for music, art, or learning.
- Join a support group. A support group can provide an important social connection with others who are recovering from depression. These groups allow participants to share their own stories, challenges, triumphs, and to gain fresh insights and ideas on managing triggers or identifying warning signs.
Know the Warning Signs
When in recovery from major depressive disorder it may be tempting to ignore the first signs of a possibly impending recurrence. But sticking one’s head in the sand is the worst action to take because it delays taking important steps to stave off depression. It is always a good idea to remember the situations that may have preceded the prior depressive episode in order to be able to recognize if that situation is repeating itself.
Maybe it was working excessive hours or getting insufficient sleep that led to the last bout of depression. Possibly it was due to excessive use of alcohol that trigger depression. Whatever the trigger, if a similar situation is developing, taking proactive steps may help prevent depression relapse.
- Define the problem or situation that is causing distress. Make adjustments as needed, such as cleaning up one’s diet, returning to the gym, getting more sleep, managing a stressful work situation proactively, or going to couples counseling if a relationship has hit a snag.
- Make an appointment with your psychotherapist or psychiatrist to reconsider medication dosing, return to therapy, or get some TMS maintenance sessions. Reviewing these warning signs with your mental health practitioner is key to getting in front of the depression.
Although there is no way to predict whether or when a depression relapse might occur, by practicing the tips that help avoid a relapse and being proactive should warning signs emerge, helps increase the individual’s ability to better manage the mood disorder.
About the Author
Suzanne Jessee, Founder and CEO of Anew Era TMS is a TMS industry expert. Suzanne is a master’s level clinical therapist and addictions counselor with nearly two decades experience in chemical dependency patient care. Her passion for improving patients’ mental health and her expertise in TMS technology and business make her a leader in the TMS patient services industry. In addition, Suzanne is a published author, PBS show host, educator, and facilitator.