Depression sometimes returns months or years after it first goes away. This is called relapse. The good news is that planning ahead for a relapse may help to reduce the severity of a future depression and make recovery that much faster. Here are some tips that may help.
- Continue with self-care. Anything that helps reduce depression (as long as it is a healthy choice) should be continued on a regular basis. This might mean reading, going for short walks, going to bed at regular times, talking with friends, attending counselling sessions and doing counselling homework.
- Follow health care provider advice. As depression gets better, or when symptoms are no longer a problem, it can be tempting to stop medication or counselling. But sudden stops to treatment can lead to relapse (or withdrawal symptoms in the case of medication). Therefore, changes to a treatment plan should only be made in consultation with a health care provider.
- Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs. These substances can slow or prevent full recovery and they can become problems if relied upon for symptom relief.
- Take part in social activities. Staying connected to others (e.g., getting together to share activities, socializing with friends) can be a way to help prevent depression from returning.
- Take it slow. If roles and responsibilities have been reduced, return to them in a gradual, step-by-step fashion rather than all at once.
- Create a “Mood 911” plan. Develop a list of warning signs that indicate depression might be on the rise again, and have a plan ready to deal with these signs early. For example, if certain workplace situations trigger depression, create a plan of action for handling them before they are encountered, and put that plan into place when the troublesome situation arises.
- Arrange for continued support. Ongoing support can help keep depression in check for a lifetime. Self-help groups organized by mental health advocacy associations are a great resource for information, counselling, and support. Self-help workbooks and websites (from a trusted source such as a national mental health association) can provide practical advice.
For more information about mood and related issues, the following resources may be helpful.