December 21, 2022
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Photography by Jimena Roquero/Stocksy United
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.
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.
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:
There are many ways to show yourself love that help you slowly and steadily rebuild your life.
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:
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.
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.
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