This blog post will answer the question, “What to do when depression hits you hard?” and cover topics like types of depression, symptoms, and signs that you have depression, possible triggers, and also certain tips for dealing with a depressive episode.
What to do when depression hits you hard?
- Try to reach out to a psychotherapist
- Understand your condition better
- Get physically active
- Get adequate Vitamin D
- Seek support from your friends, family, and partners.
- Practice deep breathing and muscle relaxation
- Learn and practice self-care and take care of your mental health
We will be exploring all these in detail in further sections.
Depression and its impact
In 2017, about 7 percent of Americans had a major depressive episode. This figure is significantly higher than the number of people who experienced depression in 2017.
The prevalence of depression symptoms tripled in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Depression symptoms aren’t always as obvious as frequent crying and overwhelming despair. “Oftentimes the changes are subtle, and the person may not notice, but their friends and loved ones may,” says Boadie W. Dunlop, MD, director of the mood and anxiety disorders program in the psychiatry department at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta.
A depressive episode in the context of a major depressive disorder is a period characterized by low mood and other depression symptoms that lasts for 2 weeks or more. When experiencing a depressive episode, a person can try to make changes to their thoughts and behaviors to help improve their mood.
Signs and symptoms of depression
In order to deal with depression, one needs to be familiar with the signs and symptoms of depression so that they can seek professional help that might help them through their issues.
The major signs and symptoms of depression are mentioned below:
- feeling sad, hopeless, or helpless
- feeling guilty or worthless
- irritability or frustration
- fatigue or low energy
- changes in appetite or weight
- loss of interest in things once enjoyed, including hobbies and socializing
- trouble concentrating or remembering
- changes in sleep patterns
- moving or talking more slowly than usual
- loss of interest in living, thoughts of death or suicide, or attempting suicide
- aches or pains that do not have an obvious physical cause.
Types of depression-related disorders
Major depressive disorder is the most common form of depression. Other types of depression have similar symptoms and can deeply affect one’s mental and physical health. These include:
- Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder similar to major depressive disorder but there are periods of mania referred to as manic/hypomanic episodes or phases during which the person is bursting with energy, euphoric, and also indulges in impulsive decisions. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), approximately 2.8% of adults in the U.S. might develop bipolar disorder each year.
- Postpartum depression causes major depressive symptoms in women after giving birth. These symptoms can include a combination of physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral issues after the birth of the child.
- Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) causes symptoms of depression associated with the changes in the seasons. SAD usually starts and ends at the same time for the person every year. The depressive symptoms usually end after the end of the season they get triggered.
Possible triggers of depression
Depression is a complex condition with many possible causes. Even though a person may be more susceptible to depression than someone else, they usually only experience a depressive episode when a stressful event triggers the condition.
Possible triggers include:
- changes in daily routines
- disrupted sleep
- poor eating habits
- stress at work, home, or school
- feeling isolated, alone, or unloved
- living with abuse or mistreatment
- medical problems, such as Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, or erectile dysfunction
- some medications, including certain antibiotics and blood pressure drugs
- a significant life event, such as a bereavement or divorce
- a traumatic incident, such as a car accident or sexual assault
What you can do when depression is hitting you hard? (Tips to help you)
If you are feeling that depression is creating havoc in your life and you’d like to work through it and create a better place and well-being for yourself.
Tackling depression as soon as symptoms develop can help people recover more quickly. Even those who have experienced depression for a long time might find that making changes to the way they think and behave improves their mood.
The following tips may help people deal with depressive symptoms:
Track triggers and symptoms
Keeping track of moods and symptoms might help a person understand what triggers a depressive episode. Spotting the signs of depression early on may help them avoid a full-blown depressive episode.
Use a diary to log important events, changes to daily routines, and moods. Rate moods on a scale of 1 to 10 to help identify which events or activities cause specific responses. See a doctor if symptoms persist for 14 days or more.
Identifying the onset of a depressive episode can be scary. Feeling panicked or anxious is an understandable reaction to the initial symptoms of depression. However, these reactions may contribute to low mood and worsen other symptoms, such as loss of appetite and disrupted sleep.
Instead, focus on staying calm. Remember that depression is treatable and the feelings will not last forever.
Self-help techniques, such as meditation, mindfulness, and breathing exercises can help a person learn to look at problems in a different way and promote a sense of calmness. Self-help books and phone and online counseling courses are available.
Understand and accept depression
Learning more about depression can help people deal with the condition. Depression is a widespread and genuine mental health disorder. It is not a sign of weakness or a personal shortcoming.
Accepting that a depressive episode may occur from time to time might help people deal with it when it does. Remember, it is possible to manage symptoms with treatments, such as lifestyle changes, medication, and therapy.
Separate yourself from the depression
A condition does not define a person; they are not their illness. When depression symptoms begin, some people find it helpful to repeat: “I am not depression, I just have depression.”
A person should remind themselves of all the other aspects of themselves. They may also be a parent, sibling, friend, spouse, neighbor, and colleague.
Recognize the importance of self-care
Self-care is essential for good physical and mental health. Self-care activities are any actions that help people look after their well-being.
Self-care means taking time to relax, recharge, and connect with the self and others. It also means saying no to others when overwhelmed and taking space to calm and soothe oneself.
Basic self-care activities include eating a healthful diet, engaging in creative activities, and taking a soothing bath. But any action that enhances mental, emotional, and physical health can be considered a self-care activity.
Breathe deeply and relax the muscles
Deep breathing techniques are an effective way to calm anxiety and soothe the body’s stress response. Slowly inhaling and exhaling have physical and psychological benefits, especially when done on a daily basis.
Anyone can practice deep breathing, whether in the car, at work, or in the grocery store. Plenty of smartphone apps offer guided deep breathing activities, and many are free to download.
Progressive muscle relaxation is another helpful tool for those experiencing depression and anxiety. It involves tensing and relaxing the muscles in the body to reduce stress. Again, many smartphone apps offer guided progressive muscle relaxation exercises.
Challenge negative thoughts
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective therapy for those with depression and other mood disorders. CBT proposes that a person’s thoughts, rather than their life situations, affect their mood.
CBT involves changing negative thoughts into more balanced ones to alter feelings and behaviors. A qualified therapist can offer CBT sessions, but it is also possible to challenge negative thoughts without seeing a therapist.
Firstly, notice how often negative thoughts arise and what these thoughts say. These may include “I am not good enough,” or “I am a failure.” Then, challenge those thoughts and replace them with more positive statements, such as “I did my best” and “I am enough.”
Take some time every day to be mindful and appreciate the present moment. This may mean noticing the warmth of sunlight on the skin when walking to work, or the taste and texture of a crisp, sweet apple at lunchtime.
Mindfulness allows people to fully experience the moment they are in, not worrying about the future or dwelling on the past.
Research suggests that regular periods of mindfulness can reduce symptoms of depression.
Make a bedtime routine
Sleep can have a huge impact on mood and mental health. A lack of sleep can contribute to symptoms of depression, and depression can interfere with sleep. To combat these effects, try to go to bed and get up at the same time each day, even at weekends.
Establish a nightly routine. Start winding down from 8 pm. Sip chamomile tea, read a book, or take a warm bath. Avoid screen time and caffeine. It may also be helpful to write in a journal before bed, especially for those whose racing thoughts keep them up.
Exercise is extremely beneficial for people with depression. It releases chemicals called endorphins that improve mood. An analysis of 25 studies on exercise and depression reports that exercise has a “large and significant effect” on symptoms of depression.
Alcohol is a depressant, and alcohol use can trigger episodes of depression or make existing episodes worse. Alcohol can also interact with some medications for depression and anxiety.
Record the positives
Often, depressive episodes can leave people focusing on the negatives and discounting the positives. To counteract this, keep a positivity journal or gratitude journal. This type of journal helps to build self-esteem.
Before bed, write down three good things from the day. Positives include regular meditation, going for a walk, eating a healthful meal, and so much more.
Seek professional help
When you feel that nothing has been working out for you, you should consul a mental health professional who can help you navigate through your depression and take care of your holistic well-being.
Seek support from the following people when depression hits you hard
Dealing with depression can be daunting, but no one has to do it alone. One of the most important steps in dealing with depression is seeking support.
- Family and friends. People experiencing depression should consider telling family and friends how they are feeling, and asking for support where they need it.
- A doctor. It is essential to speak to a doctor who can make a diagnosis and recommend treatments. Research suggests that tailoring early treatment to the individual offers the best possible outcomes.
- A therapist. Talking to a counselor or psychotherapist can be beneficial. Talk therapy can help address low moods and negative thoughts. A therapist can also teach coping skills to help people deal with future depressive episodes.
- Support groups. Look for a local support group for people with depression. It can be beneficial to talk to others who are experiencing the same thing.
- Support lines and crisis hotlines are another way that people with depression can reach out to others. Save important numbers to a cell phone, so they are easily accessible in times of need.
This blog post addressed the question, “What to do when depression hits you hard?” We understood the signs and symptoms of depression, common types of depression, triggers, and tips on how to handle it when it’s affecting you.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs): What to do when depression hits you hard?
What are some strategies that can help when depression has hit you hard?
There are various strategies that can be used by you when you feel depression is creating a lot of challenges for you, some of the most commonly used are mentioned below:
- Accept that you are going through a tough time
- Try to stay calm and do not panic
- Understand your triggers
- Go to see a mental health professional
- Eat healthily and take care of your physical health as well
- Indulge in self-care
- Take out time for physical exercises
- Fall back on your support system
What are the warning signs and symptoms of depression?
There are various warning signs of depression that you should be on the lookout for and they are mentioned below:
- Sleep-related issues
- Loss of interest in things you once enjoyed
- Suicidal thoughts
- Change in eating habits
- Feeling that you are on the edge
- Unexplained pain and physical health issues
- Feelings of guilt
Should I go to a therapist if depression is hitting me hard?
If you have noticed signs and symptoms of depression in yourself or if someone close has pointed out them to you, you can consult with a psychotherapist and navigate through your issues.
When you go to see a therapist, you talk about what is bothering you, your daily functioning, and other aspects of your life. A therapist can help you gain clarity over your issues, help you manage your symptoms, and refer you to a psychiatrist who can prescribe you medication if it is required otherwise therapists are equipped to help you work through your symptoms without any medication as well.
Do I need to take antidepressants prescribed by my psychiatrist?
Yes, you should take the prescribed antidepressants that can be quite helpful in managing your symptoms of depression. Depression and its severe forms are also associated with various neurochemical changes in the brain and these medications can be quite a game-changer for you and your symptoms but you should tell everything that has been going on with you so that the psychiatrist can help you better with what kind of medication they are giving you.
Do I need therapy if I am already on prescribed medication for my depression?
When you are facing several issues being created by your condition, a combination of medication and psychotherapy is often the best way to move forward as when both of these lines of treatment are used, we are able to see positive results sooner than when only one modality of treatment is used.
Tami Walker. 6 things to do when depression hits https://www.thewonderforest.com/when-depression-hits/
Amy Marlow (2019). Strategies to deal with depression https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/strategies-for-dealing-with-depressive-episode