Developing healthy coping skills is essential, especially if you live with a mental health condition like depression. For those with depression, healthy coping strategies and quality treatment can improve symptoms and make life more manageable. However, it is not uncommon for depression to reoccur, even after a period of remission. To learn how to manage, it’s helpful to understand what can trigger a depression relapse, as well as how to develop healthy coping mechanisms.
Triggers for Depressive Episodes
One way to learn how to cope when you live with depression is to identify and manage your triggers. While precipitating events that lead to a recurrence of depression can vary from person-to-person, studies have revealed multiple factors that tend to be triggers for depressive episodes.
Some factors that can trigger an episode of depression include:
- Stressful life events, such as job loss, death of a loved one, relationship breakup, or financial difficulties
- Patterns of negative self-thoughts (thinking negatively rather than positively about oneself)
- Sleep disturbances
- Lack of exercise
- Poor nutrition
Knowing these common triggers can help you to take steps to prevent a depressive episode from taking hold. It can also be beneficial to identify your personal triggers, such as work-related stress, conflict with your significant other, or lack of downtime. When you notice that these triggers are increasing in your life, you can employ coping skills to reduce their effect on your depression symptoms.
Worsened Depression at Night
For some people, nighttime can also trigger feelings or symptoms of depression. This seems largely to be due to the relationship between depression and sleep disturbances. Insomnia can lead to symptoms of depression, and in some cases, the reverse is true: depression leads to insomnia.
Regardless of why insomnia and depression go hand-in-hand, the reality is that for some people, depression is worse at night. If you’re unable to sleep, you may experience racing thoughts, or begin to ruminate about your day. Negative emotions and feelings of worthlessness can also interfere with sleep, creating a vicious cycle in which depression seems worse at night.
If sleep problems are a trigger for you, it can be helpful to practice healthy sleep hygiene by limiting caffeine after lunch, going to bed at the same time each day, avoiding the use of electronics a few hours before bed, having a relaxing winddown routine, and maintaining a cool, dark bedroom.
Practicing Healthy Coping
Learning effective coping mechanisms is important for managing depression. Healthy coping strategies can be effective for preventing a relapse of depression symptoms; they can also help you to get through a depressive episode.
The coping strategies below are beneficial:
- Establish a support network: Having trusted friends and family to turn to can be life-changing for those with depression. When you’re faced with stress or beginning to experience depressive symptoms, your support network can listen and offer advice and reassurance.
- Make time for exercise: Engaging in physical activity that you enjoy can boost your mood, and it’s an excellent way of coping when depression takes hold. Move your body in ways that bring you joy, whether this means going for a run, hiking at a nature preserve, attending a group fitness class, or lifting weights.
- Make time for rest and relaxation: Since stress can make depression symptoms worse, it’s important to incorporate rest and relaxation into your routine. Schedule downtime to help you rejuvenate, even if it’s something as simple as taking a 20-minute bubble bath, watching a favorite show, or doing some gentle stretching at the end of your workday.
- Eat nutritious foods: A poor diet composed mostly of processed or fast foods can make depression worse. If you’re under stress or in the midst of a depressive episode, make an effort to prioritize healthy nutrition. This means eating a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, and healthy protein sources.
- Focus on your strengths: Negative thoughts about oneself are a defining feature of depression. If you’re stuck in a pattern of negative thinking, try to reframe your thoughts to focus on your strengths. Remember that no one is perfect in every area, and if you’re falling into negative thinking patterns, it can be helpful to think about your positive traits. If you struggle to imagine your strengths, think about what your best friend, your partner, or your grandmother would say they like about you.
Reaching Out for Treatment
Coping strategies can help you to prevent and manage depressive episodes, but in some cases, you may need to reach out for treatment. If you’ve tried several coping strategies but you find that depression symptoms are severe and/or interfere with your daily functioning, professional treatment is warranted. The most typical course of depression treatment is a combination of therapy and medication. Medications for depression can help to balance abnormal brain chemistry, whereas therapy sessions are a safe setting for processing your emotions and correcting unhelpful thinking patterns related to depression.
While medication, therapy, or a combination of the two are often beneficial for alleviating depression symptoms, sometimes, people may need something more. If depressive episodes frequently recur, or you are unable to find relief with usual treatment methods, you may benefit from transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). This non-invasive treatment modality uses a coil placed over the head to stimulate areas of the brain responsible for mood.
Pulse TMS offers this service in the Southern California region, with an office conveniently located in Los Angeles. Contact our admissions team today to learn more about our services, or to determine if you are a candidate for TMS. If you’ve not found relief with medication or therapy, TMS may be the solution to help you manage depression.