Some people can take the “good” along with the “bad” in life, and mostly let things roll off of their shoulders. Others, however, are not quite as resilient. For them, any stressful life event -- whether the loss of a loved one, a dramatic break-up, or a layoff -- can kick-start a downward spiral.
If you have a personal or family history of depression, the key is to stop this spiral before it gets out of control by putting the clues and cues together. “If you know what your Achilles heels are and can say ‘Aha!” this is what is going on,’ you are halfway there,” says Gail Saltz, MD, a New York City-based psychiatrist.
No matter what triggers your depression, help is available. WebMD talked to mental health experts about the best things to do to help manage depression. Getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, and sleeping enough (but not too much) are good ways to take control of depression. A healthy lifestyle can help you head off depression, and will also help get you through a rocky patch.
But there’s more you can do, depending on your stressors. Here are some common depression-triggering scenarios and expert-approved mood-boosting strategies to help you cope:
Depression Trigger: Job Loss
In today’s unsteady economy, many people are losing their jobs. This can often lead to feelings of shame, worthlessness and depression -- especially in a person who is vulnerable.
Getting laid off doesn’t mean you are powerless, says Scott Bea, PsyD. He is a psychologist in Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Behavioral Health in Ohio. Don’t take the news lying down. Seek employment counseling right away. “It is important to maintain social contact and connectedness,” he says. Don’t stop caring for yourself. You may be on a tight budget, but not everything has a steep price tag. “You can volunteer or coach a local softball team.” In short, “you need to find some way to make a difficult situation stimulate something new and better, rather than shutting down,” says Bea.
Depression Trigger: Empty Nest
Many women devote their lives to raising children, but that leaves them feeling as empty as their “nest” when their kids go off to college or begin their own life as an adult, says Saltz.
“Plan for it,” she says. “It can be the time for you to start taking classes, go back to school, or start a hobby,” she says. You are not alone. “Find other empty nesters for camaraderie.”
Depression Trigger: Caregiver Stress
There is a high rate of depression among people who take care of a loved one with a chronic illness, says Saltz. It can be physically and emotionally grueling.
It’s not selfish to take care of yourself, says Saltz. “You need to eat well, sleep well, and get exercise or you will not be able to take care of your loved one,” she says. Many caregivers take on too much. “Be realistic about what your loved one needs and what you can provide,” she says. “Call in other family members to help. You don’t have to be the one and only.” Support groups for caregivers can also provide a safe place to talk about your frustrations and grief.