Depressive episodes can be utterly debilitating, entirely removing one’s ability to do even simple tasks. These episodes tend to come and go in waves, with some people even experiencing high manic episodes in between.
If you search “how to get out of a depressive episode,” most of the tips revolve around improving your overall mental wellness, changing how you think about depression, and asking for help. While those tips are important, I’ve found that the best ways for some of us to beat depressive episodes are physical and material methods that affect the actual situation around you. Changing the way you think is important, but it’s a process that takes time, and is difficult to do when you’re…you know…depressed. Here’s a few things you can do right now, this very instant, to beat back depression in the moment.
1. Do something simple, but productive, and springboard it
During depressive episodes, there’s a strong temptation to give up on working and “treat yourself” to something you like, whether that be food, watching TV, or online shopping. However, this can only help so much, and at a certain point, self-care does more harm than good.
Instead, make a conscious effort to do a task you need to do, and start as small as possible. For example, say you wake up feeling depressed. The temptation is to just stay in bed and try to fall back to sleep. In this situation, you can start small by making a conscious effort to get up. That’s it; simply getting out of bed. Setting and accomplishing even a tiny goal can go miles towards pulling you out of an episode.
The second thing to do is to build those tiny goals on top of each other. Once you’ve gotten out of bed, use the energy from accomplishing that goal, however little there is, to get dressed. From there, make an effort to brush your teeth. Then do those dishes. Set goals that are tiny, easily accomplished, and can be used to push yourself to other goals.
Having these goals be tiny and so easy to accomplish might sound a bit pathetic; being proud of doing the dishes or folding laundry does sound silly. But having small and easy goals to accomplish is the point. Setting unrealistic expectations for yourself is just setting yourself up for failure, and that failure can make you plunge even deeper into an episode.
It can be as small and insignificant as getting up and opening your blinds to let some sunlight in, but setting and accomplishing goals, no matter how small, is a great way to turn a depressive episode around.
2. Natural light, fresh air.
Speaking of opening the blinds, you should do that right now. The best thing to combat a depressive episode is to open your blinds, turn the lights on, and crack a window open.
Fresh air and natural light are an easy way to improve your mood; sunlight provides vitamin D to the body and boosts serotonin. A lack of sunlight tends to make depression worse, as well. When the days get shorter in the fall and winter, and the weather tends to cloud over, even people without depression can feel their mood worsen, a condition often known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (which ironically abbreviates to SAD).
On the flipside of getting more natural sunlight, try to avoid getting too much unnatural light, meaning screens like your phone or computer. The blue light Check if your phone or computer has a blue light filter, which automatically modifies your screen to output less blue light as the day goes by, keeping your natural rhythms on track.
Fresh air also has health benefits like natural sunlight. Rooms with poor ventilation tend to have equally poor air quality. Having better oxygen levels in the room helps your body circulate blood more efficiently, and improves your mental wellness, mental clarity, concentration, and memory. And like exposure to sunlight, exposure to fresh air helps raise serotonin levels.
To combat this lack of natural light in the winter, consider investing in a sunlight lamp, a lamp made to mimic the natural effects of sunlight. If you can’t open your window for fresh air, open your door and set up a fan to keep the air circulating.
3. Take care of your physical needs.
Going hand in hand with natural light and air, taking care of your physical state is a helpful way to get out of a depressive episode. Physical wellbeing can very easily affect your mental wellness, and vice versa, so taking steps to improve your physical state can help turn a depressive episode around. Since “staying healthy” is a very vague and broad topic that usually takes a lot of work over a lot of time, here’s a short list of things you can do in just a few minutes, in almost any situation, to help your mood and physical state.
- Run your hands under warm water to improve your circulation.
- Drink water to keep hydrated.
- Clean yourself up; put on clean clothes, wash your face, brush your teeth.
- Do some light, quick physical activity; walk around the house or do some squats.
- Stretch; roll your shoulders, crack your knuckles, gently massage anywhere that’s sore.
- Take a few deep breaths; in through the nose, out through the mouth, five seconds each way.
- Step away from screens for a moment, take off any headphones or earbuds, close your eyes and clear your head.
Surviving a Depressive Episode &
Improving Your Mental Wellness
All these tips can help you bounce back from a depressive episode, but the best way to get out of one is avoiding them in the first place. At the same time, the first step towards avoiding depressive episodes altogether is to get out of the one you’re in. Hopefully, these tips help you out of the situation you’re in and set you on the path to a better one.
About the Author
Jeff is a Communications graduate living in Connecticut who isn’t very good at talking about himself.
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