The following tips for tackling triggers were gathered from a number of sources, including health.com, Yahoo Health, and PsychCentral. These tips should not substitute for professional care. You should always consult your professional caregiver before changing your treatment plans.
Sometimes they come out of nowhere; sometimes you see them coming, but can’t seem to get out of their way. Triggers—those things that send depression sufferers back into the black—are frequently unpredictable but predictably frightening. There are ways of coping with them, though, that can loosen their hold and prevent a relapse episode of depression.
Stay the Course
You’ve probably heard this so many times that you don’t even hear it anymore. But here goes: stay on your treatment plan. Take your meds. See your therapist. Do the things your caregivers prescribed, even if you feel better. You feel better because the treatment is working, so keep working the treatment.
Get to know the enemy
Certain events, like divorces and deaths, are known triggers for many people. But each person with depression has his or her own particular triggers as well. Get to know them by keeping a mood journal. The more detailed, the better, but even just tracking how you feel from day to day can show patterns you might not notice otherwise. Other things to track are: meals, exercise, interactions with your children, medications—whatever you think might affect your mood.
Head ‘em off at the pass
When you know what triggers you, you can plan ahead. Winter, with its decrease in daylight hours, hits some like a hammer. Try to get outdoors, even if it’s just for a short walk; only a few minutes of sunshine per day and your body can produce enough depression-fighting Vitamin D, according to the Vitamin D Council. Aim for about half the amount necessary to turn your skin pink. As an alternative, take a Vitamin D supplement; ask your primary care giver to recommend the proper dosage.
It isn’t just stressful events that trigger depression. Anniversaries of such events can be triggers, too. So make sure you mark them on the calendar and have plans that will lift you up, such as seeing friends. Make sure your therapist knows, too; you might want to book an extra session.
Hit back fast
Sometimes, you find yourself slipping and you don’t know why. Those are the times you need to act quickly to prevent a further dive. Keep a depression box, full of things that lift your mood, and go to it whenever depression threatens. Notes from loved ones, photos of your children and other things that make you smile should be at the ready to lift you up when you’re feeling down.
Call in the troops
Trying to battle depression on your own is hard and foolhardy. Keep a list of people and places you can call any time you need help. Your therapist, if you have one, should be on top, along with good friends and family. Ministers and hotline volunteers are also good people to talk to when you feel unsafe. Places can sometimes be healing, as well. Natural areas, churches and temples can offer a calm, comforting environment but so can the local coffee house. Find a place where you feel safe, even if it’s the Starbucks around the corner.
The American Psychiatric Association* reports that at least half of all people who experience one incidence of depression will have another. Those who’ve had two episodes are even more likely to have more. If you know what your triggers are, though, you can plan ahead to prevent them from bringing on another depressive episode.
* American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Text Revision – Fourth. Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association; 2000.