Recovering from a mental illness like depression can seem incredibly daunting; there are no quick programs, which may be due to the highly individualised presentation of the disorder. Or this may be due to lack of available treatment. But everything is easier with a plan – even if that plan may be a very rough guideline. Everyone’s journey is different, however, there are some milestones that occur in the majority’s recovery process.
Step 1 – Admit how you are feeling
This may seem simplistic but coming to terms with your mood not being quite right is a hard thing to do. How do you know it’s you that has the problem and not someone else? Should you seek help – is that even possible? Doesn’t everyone feel this way?
You know yourself better than anyone and if something feels off, then it probably is. Diagnostic criteria are widespread across the internet and you can check this link here -> Am I depressed?: Diagnostic Tests. However, it’s so important not to self-diagnosis – you need to speak with a doctor. Consequently, while you may believe you are depressed this needs to be confirmed by a medical professional as it could be as a result of something completely different.
Step 2 – Seek help
Your doctor will give you a treatment regime personalised to your needs, this may include antidepressants or therapy. For an in-depth view of treatment, read here -> Treatment Options for Anxiety and Depression. But while you wait for the pills to exert an effect or to make headway in therapy make use of some alternative remedies. Try all of it. Try the yoga, the meditation and the journalling. Will it all help you? Of course not; but it is likely that one of those things will really work for you. Make you sure you stick them out for a good length of time to give them a good go. May it seem like a waste of time? Probably, but in the darkest depths of depression you will want to try anything that might make you feel better.
Step 3 – Adopt a healthy lifestyle
Mental health and physical health are not mutually exclusive; one greatly impacts upon the other. When you look after your body, you are looking after your mind. It can be challenging to pour effort into exercising (30 minutes for 5 days a week), when you are feeling deflated and there is no way around it other than forcing yourself to do it. Try behavioural activation – it’s a technique that involves deciding to do something so quickly and starting the activity that you don’t have time to convince yourself otherwise. No one is expected to live perfectly healthily all of the time, but by taking steps to live a better lifestyle you will definitely reap the benefits.
If a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows and not the flower itself.
As depression often causes lack of appetite or overeating, following a healthy balanced diet will greatly help with this symptom. Whilst exercising will help produce mood-boosting endorphins and it will tire you out, which is great if you suffer from insomnia. Furthermore, you always feel much better knowing you are taking good care of yourself.
Step 4 – Evaluate your progress
Think back to the start of your journey – have you improved? Have you made any significant lifestyle changes? If so, then keep it up. If not, then ask yourself why might that be. Have you fully dedicated yourself to your recovery and made the required lifestyle changes? Visit your doctor and they may alter your treatment regime or try some new techniques to elevate your mood, such as music therapy or spending time with animals. There isn’t a set treatment for everyone so don’t be afraid to play around with some unorthodox recommendations. Detailing your journey is not only therapeutic, but it can be extremely reassuring. Sometimes are reminded of how far we have came – check out this notebook to do just that.
Step 5 – Positive vibes only
I have heard the middle of recovery described as the hardest as whilst you have come so far, you have so far to go, which can be disheartening. You may even feel like your progress has plateaued but everyday you are growing. At the start, you will see drastic improvements from the day you finally leave bed to the day you realise you have a regular sleep routine again. But a little further down the line, you may stop seeing such obvious progress being achieved. You just have to have faith in the process and trust that you are still recovering. Look up motivational quotes on Pinterest and keep going.
It can be hard to continue recovering when you are still living a full life, but nothing worth having comes easy. You might think as you are feeling a bit better that you can slip back into your old ways, but that is exactly not what to do – do you wonder what got you there in the first place? Gossiping, jealously and stress can emotionally drain you, so it’s important to avoid at all costs. Your health is too important to let drama get to you. Maintaining good mental health is not an easy task, so you should make this as easy for yourself as you can. If there are people in your life causing you negativity then cut them out.
Step 6 – Keep it up
When I was recovering from depression, I was obsessed with the idea of getting “back to normal”. Now that I have recovered, I have realised I’m not the same person as I was – and that’s for the best. Perhaps that is the purpose of the journey. Facing mental health battles puts your life into perspective; it shows you who you are and what you want. It flags up who and what in your life is toxic or redundant and you can use this all of this information to restructure your life. You don’t want your life to shift back to how it was because it was the environment in which you became sick in – you want your life to be much healthier. Staying mentally healthy is an ongoing process and don’t get lazy with it. Embrace the new person you have become. Sometimes things have to get worse before they can get better.
Depression recovery varies widely from person to person, however, they share the same common principles; lifestyle modification; perseverance; self-growth and maintenance. It is easier – yet harder in some ways – to free your mind from depression but it is worth it. I hope this plan illustrates that progress is possible and is a vague blueprint of getting your life back together.