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Rebuilding Your Life After a Depressive Episode

Managing Depression

December 21, 2022

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Photography by Jimena Roquero/Stocksy United

Photography by Jimena Roquero/Stocksy United

by Maya Capasso

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Karin Gepp, PsyD

Medically Reviewed

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•••••

by Maya Capasso

•••••

Karin Gepp, PsyD

Medically Reviewed

•••••

•••••

Getting back on your feet after a depressive episode can feel overwhelming. Here are some tips to help keep the stress down as you return to your routine.

Depressive episodes look different for everyone. When I’m in the midst of my depression, I tend to isolate myself from friends and become irritable and snappy with my family. My motivation goes out the window, and I stop keeping up with housework and personal hygiene. All I want to do is lay in bed and find a way to stop ruminating and feeling so low.

So, once those feelings subside, and my depressive episode reaches an end, I’m left with a big mess to clean up. Now, I have to clean a massive pile of filthy dishes, pick up the dirty clothes all over my floor, and find my hairbrush in the pile of crap on my desk. Not to mention reaching out to connect with friends and family again.

I’ve been through it time and time again. Rebuilding your life after a depressive episode can be overwhelming and can bring up a lot of challenging emotions. But there are some strategies you can use to make the process a little more bearable.

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Take it slow

Rushing through the rebuilding process is a recipe for disaster. You’re in a sensitive place and just getting your energy and motivation back. If you rush to clean up everything quickly, you might feel more overwhelmed and ashamed.

You may feel like you have to make up for the time you lost while you couldn’t get out of bed. When I rush, I often feel ashamed because I cannot complete a specific task in my expected time frame, and those depressed feelings start to come back.

When I give myself the time and space to slowly clean up, connect with friends, and get my life back on track, I feel more at ease and less overwhelmed by the process.

For me, taking things slow looks like not setting goals or expectations for when a task will be completed. I’ll have a plan to complete a task, but with no set “when.” This helps me hold myself accountable for cleaning without punishing myself for missing harsh deadlines.

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Be kind to yourself

Self-kindness is essential to rebuilding. If I’m too hard on myself, especially during a time when I’m so sensitive, the shame begins to well up, and I fall back into a depressive episode. I must be kind to myself to slowly get back on my feet.

Being kind to yourself can take many forms, including:

  • Writing a mantra on the mirror: Reading kind, motivating words every morning can make an impact. I personally prefer something simple like, “you are doing your best.”
  • Journaling positive affirmations: “You are strong,” “you are learning,” “you are enough,” and “you are capable,” are good examples of things we sometimes need as reminders.
  • Rewarding yourself: Completing a task deserves celebration. When you finish washing the dishes, get a fun coffee from your favorite cafe, or let yourself watch 15 minutes of your favorite show.

There are many ways to show yourself love that help you slowly and steadily rebuild your life.

Make space for big feelings

If you take things slow and be kind to yourself, you’re less likely to be overwhelmed while exiting a depressive episode. But that doesn’t mean you won’t have moments when big feelings of shame, guilt, embarrassment, anger, or disgust come to the front.

When big emotions overtake me during these times, I try to make space for them rather than push them away. Creating space for your feelings helps you work through them rather than ignore them and have them return stronger than ever.

Here are some methods I use to face my feelings:

  • Again — journaling: I pull out my journal when big feelings arise because writing down my thoughts and experiences helps me process them. When I get them down on paper, I feel less confused and more able to tackle my problems.
  • Opening up to loved ones: Reaching out and connecting with those we trust helps us feel less alone and more supported.
  • Letting myself cry: For years, I HATED crying and would just push down my feelings. Recently, however, I’ve found that letting myself cry can be cathartic and actually help me feel better at the end of the day.
  • Turning to a therapist: A mental health professional can help you find effective ways to cope with the stresses and emotions that come with depression.
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Engage in your passions

When I’m in a full-blown depressive state, I have nothing left to give. I lose interest in the things I love, like making art and creative writing. So, when I finally get some of my motivation and interest back, I need to dive back in head first.

For me, that means engaging with my creativity. I will make sure to spend time between cleaning and tidying to rest and spend time writing short stories, drawing, or crafting. For others, this may look like playing video games, going out with friends, playing sports, or reading.

Getting back into my passions helps me feel revitalized. It shows me why life is beautiful and enjoyable, and it’s an essential life-rebuilding tool in my mental health tool kit.

The takeaway

Depressive episodes are hard to overcome, and the cleanup process can be extensive once you do. When I’m coming out of a depressive episode, I make sure that I take things slow, stay kind to myself, make space for big emotions that arise, and engage in my interests. A therapist can also be helpful when it comes to finding personalized coping strategies. Altogether, these strategies help me avoid intense overwhelm and rebuild my life more smoothly.


Join the free Depression community!
Connect with thousands of members and find support through daily live chats, curated resources, and one-to-one messaging.

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About the author

Maya Capasso

Maya (she/they) is a professional freelance writer and cold pitch coach. Her writing is featured in TransLash News & Narrative, HorrorPress, the Episodes Newsletter, and more. They’re passionate about mental health advocacy and social justice. She manages the Accessible Cold Pitch blog and email newsletter to help freelancers connect with their ideal clients. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram.

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