How to Cope With a Depressive Episode

by | May 30, 2021 | Mental Health

depressive episodeSadness is a normal emotion, but when feelings of hopelessness, depression, guilt, or frustration persist for extended periods and interfere with your ability to function, you may be experiencing a depressive episode. If you have experienced a depressive episode in the past, you may benefit from educating yourself on healthy coping skills and speaking with a licensed professional. Learning how to recognize and cope with these episodes can help you manage your symptoms and live more freely.


Recognizing a Depressive Episode

A depressive episode is classified by a period of depression lasting at least two weeks. The exact symptoms of a depressive episode may vary depending on the individual. Most commonly, individuals experiencing a depressive episode will have persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or emptiness and a decline of interest or passion in things that typically bring them joy. Often accompanying these prominent symptoms are fatigue or low energy, irritability or restlessness, issues with concentration and memory, and changes in appetite. Additionally, many individuals who experience a depressive episode may experience changes in their sleeping habits, including insomnia, sleeping too much, and difficulty sleeping through the night.

Some individuals may also experience physical symptoms such as indigestion or body pains that cannot be treated normally, and weight fluctuation, often due to appetite changes, can also occur. Depressive episodes can also cause individuals to have suicidal thoughts, and some individuals may act on these thoughts during an episode.

There are many different potential causes of a depressive episode. Individuals diagnosed with conditions like anxiety, bipolar disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, or other mental health disorders are often prone to experiencing depressive episodes. Other contributing factors to a depressive episode include childhood trauma, stressful events such as losing a loved one, and a family history of depression.

Knowing the potential for a depressive episode can help individuals more adequately prepare to cope with an episode should it occur. However, anyone can experience a depressive episode even without a history of depression or an inciting event. Learning how to cope during an episode effectively can be beneficial for anyone.


Know Your Triggers and Symptoms

If you have had a depressive episode before, tracking your triggers and symptoms can help you stay informed and prepared. By being aware of what can trigger your depression, you can have greater success in preventing a depressive episode. You may take notes on your potential triggers based on past experiences to give you an idea of what to avoid when possible, and just knowing what can trigger you may help you keep a calm, logical approach to triggering incidents.

Additionally, documenting your common symptoms when they occur, especially concerning potential triggers, can give you a better idea of what to expect during future episodes. Creating a list of symptoms and triggers also serves as a great resource for any clinical professionals you consult, offering them better insight into what you experience during your episodes so that they can tailor the advice and resources they give you.


Stay Calm

When a depressive episode begins, the onset tends to cause anxiety, stress, fear, and more. These feelings are natural, but for individuals experiencing depressive episodes, staying calm is essential to avoid contributing to difficult symptoms such as low mood and loss of appetite. Many individuals can benefit from reframing exercises in which they remind themselves that depression is treatable, that they can survive this episode, and that there are plenty of resources available to help them cope.

During these episodes, practices like meditation and breathing exercises can help individuals stay calm and focused. Generally, mindfulness exercises can also help individuals stay level-headed while coping with a depressive episode.


Avoid Self-Medicating

Some individuals may turn to self-medication to combat discouraging or debilitating symptoms, but this practice will only cause harm in the end. In order to prioritize healthy coping mechanisms, individuals should be careful to avoid using alcohol, nicotine, and any drugs or medications that have not been prescribed to them. Not only can these substances contribute to addictive patterns, but some, like alcohol, can act as depressants, resulting in worsened symptoms. Additionally, these substances can have harmful interactions with some medicines prescribed for mental health conditions like depression and anxiety, so avoiding them will be critical.


Take Care of Yourself

The self-care trend has many advantages for everyone, and individuals who experience depressive episodes can significantly benefit from the practice. What self-care looks like for you may be unique. Any activity that promotes better physical and mental health can be considered self-care. Getting enough sleep, practicing proper hygiene, eating good meals, and engaging with loved ones in productive, enjoyable ways can all be considered self-care.

The important thing to consider with self-care is what you need to feel better. Investigating this inquiry and identifying what will allow you to rest, relax, and survive can inform your self-care decisions and improve your coping skills even outside of a depressive episode.


Depressive episodes can make you feel isolated, hopeless, and frustrated. These periods of depression are difficult, especially if you are not used to them or are trying to combat them alone. Learning the right coping skills to anticipate and manage a depressive episode can help you prepare for these challenging periods and live a healthier life. By learning how to recognize a depressive episode and making an effort to track your triggers, stay calm as the episode progresses, avoid self-medication, and practice self-care, you can effectively cope with depressed feelings in healthy, productive ways. Sober Life offers mental health services to support you and provide you with practical skills and tools to cope with difficult experiences like depressive episodes. If you are looking for further information or guidance related to depression or other mental health concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out. Contact Sober Life at (619) 542-9542 to learn more.

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