If you’ve been through an episode of depression, you’ll know only too well how much you’ve slowed down. This is a feature of depression, but in part it may also be due to the advice that loved ones, or professionals like me have offered. But once the clinical symptoms of depression have lifted, there often follows a period of inactivity and uncertainty. Typically you’ll feel that your mood is more improved, but you still may not feel quite like the old you. This is the time when I like to encourage people to reintroduce activity into their lives. So I’ve put together some of my own thoughts and advice on the matter.
When depression is stress related, and much of it is, symptoms may be largely in part due to the fact that a person has been emotionally over-stretched. If this is the case, hopefully you’re feeling better after treating yourself more gently and not letting inactivity dominate. But if a person continues to sit back and wait until he or she feels like doing something, it may never happen.
In fact by doing very little you may be preventing your own recovery or even be in danger of relapsing. In the early stages of recovery you’ll find that motivation tends to follow activity rather than the other way around.
During depression the activities most likely to diminish include self-care, routine tasks, socializing and hobbies and interests. Reactivating your life is about taking small steps in each of these areas. This is how they help:
Self Care: This isn’t just about washing and wearing clean clothing. It’s about eating nutritious food and getting in a little fresh air and exercise. The physical act of looking after yourself will help to improve your sense of wellbeing.
Routine Tasks: This is about all those little things that make up a day. Making the bed, paying bills, checking your email, peeling vegetables or walking the dog. They may not seem like much, but gradually getting back into these habits will increase your sense of personal control, something often lost during depression.
Socializing: Depression is an isolating experience during which you may have unwittingly pushed people away. Returning those emails, phone calls and messages is a great way to re-engage with friends and family. A sense of social connectedness is a real mood booster, and it gives others a chance to offer you support.
Hobbies and Interests: The things that were of most interest to you may have been the things that slipped away during depression. This is when adding rewards back in your life is important, so it’s a good time to rebuild your interests. You may not be able to throw yourself back into climbing or skiing, but there’s nothing stopping you from buying a related magazine or maybe planning your next trip.
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Dr. Jerry Kennard is a Chartered Psychologist and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society. Jerry's clinical background is in mental health and, most recently, higher education. He is the author of various self-help books and is co-founder of positivityguides.net.