Depression can be life changing and serious, affecting the quality of life and the happiness of those who live with it. It is also a common condition. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, it affects approximately 15 million Americans each year.
In some cases, it is possible to prevent depression even if you have had a previous episode.
There are many lifestyle changes and stress management techniques you can use to avoid or prevent depression. Certain triggers can cause us to experience depressive episodes. While the triggers may be different for everyone, these are some of the best techniques you can use to prevent or avoid relapses in depression.
1. Exercise regularly
One of the best things you can do for your mental health is regular exercise. Exercise can help with the prevention and treatment of depression in several key ways:
- It increases the temperature of your body, which can have a calming effect on the central nervous system.
- It releases chemicals which can boost mood like endorphins.
- It reduces chemicals in the immune system that can make depression worse.
All types of exercise can help treat depression, but it is best to exercise regularly. To get more exercise, you can:
- Join a sports team or studio (like yoga or kickboxing), where you’ll be part of a community as well as being active.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Make it a habit: this is the best way to maintain your level of fitness that is most effective in preventing depression.
2. Reduce time spent on social media
Research has shown that increased use of social media can cause or contribute to depression and low self-esteem. Social media can be addictive, and keeping in touch with family, friends and even colleagues is a must. This is how we plan and invite each other to events and share the big news.
However, limiting the time you spend on social media can help prevent depression. You can do this by:
- remove all social apps from your phone
- using website blocking extensions that only allow you to use certain sites for a predefined amount of time
- go on social media only for a specific purpose and avoid logging in multiple times a day just for something to do
3. Build strong relationships
For our mental health, having a strong support system and an active social life is important. Research has shown that depression can be protected by even “adequate” social support.
Make sure to connect with your friends and family regularly, even when your lives are busy. Participating in social events when you can and finding new hobbies that might help you meet new people can also help you build new relationships.
4. Minimize your daily choices
Have you ever walked into a theme park and been overwhelmed by what you wanted to do first? Researchers believe that depression can be caused due to having too many choices which can actually cause significant stress.
Psychologist Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice, describes research which shows that when faced with too many choices, those who aim to make the best possible choice – the “maximizers” – face higher rates of depression. high.
For many of us, our lives are filled with choice. What outfit do we wear and should we buy yogurt or eggs or bagels or English muffins or sausage for breakfast? The pressure to make the right – or wrong – choice is believed to contribute to depression.
If making choices is stressing you out, simplify it. You can:
- Learn to be decisive faster.
- Reduce the decisions you will have to make during the work week: plan your outfits and prepare your meals and be ready to go.
5. Reduce stress
One of the most preventable common causes of depression is chronic stress. Learning to manage and cope with stress is essential for optimal mental health.
To manage stress, you can:
- Avoid getting too involved in things.
- Practice mindfulness or meditation.
- Learn to let the things go of which are out of your control.
6. Maintain your treatment plan
If you’ve been through one episode of depression, there’s a good chance you will have another. This is why it is so important to maintain your treatment plan.
- continue with prescription drugs and never stop them suddenly
- have “maintenance” visits with your therapist from time to time in remission
- consistently practice the strategies and coping mechanisms your therapist has taught you