Eight Ways to Prevent Depression After Leaving a Mental Health Facility
Inpatient care offers hope for a brighter and healthier future for those who’ve struggled with depression. But those who’ve been through recovery can experience new encounters with depression once their recovery program ends. There are strategies that can help anyone avoid this hazard, which can help make the changes associated with professional help for depression permanent rather than temporary.
People often emerge from mental health care programs feeling refreshed, re-energized, and renewed. When depression has been the issue, they may experience a sense of lightness and freedom that is completely transforming.
Unfortunately, that initial burst of optimism and hopefulness doesn’t always last.
No matter how much they believed things were better, some people who’ve completed a depression recovery program will suffer a relapse once they return to their regular lives.
While this type of relapse can happen to anyone, it is not inevitable. If you’ve gone through professional care for a depressive disorder, you can take steps to ensure your recovery endures outside the intensive care environment.
Here are eight effective ways to prevent the onset of depression following your stay at a mental health facility:
#1 Change Any Circumstances That Can Trigger Bad Outcomes
When it’s time to leave inpatient care, you shouldn’t go home and pretend nothing has changed. In reality everything has changed, and you must be proactive in shaping your personal and professional circumstances to make sure your long-term health and welfare are protected.
In most cases, you shouldn’t have to leave your job or end your previous relationships to preserve your mental health. If they have toxic elements that can’t be fixed, however, radical change might be necessary. Consequently, you must examine everything carefully, to gain a clearer understanding of how the people you interact with and the environments you occupy might put you at risk for future struggles with depression, anxiety, or other debilitating emotions.
Completing a residential or intensive outpatient care program for depression is a critically important first step in the healing process. That process can only continue if you take responsibility for your living circumstances, and make whatever changes are necessary to guarantee that your quest for wellness is supported and respected.
#2 Talk to Loved Ones About Your Feelings
Once you’ve acknowledged your depression in a professional setting, and made a real effort to discover its source, your healing will progress at a steady pace. But you shouldn’t abandon your efforts at self-comprehension once care ends. If you do, it will be too easy to slip back into old emotional and behavioral patterns.
Self-understanding best emerges through a combination of quiet introspection and honest talk with trustworthy companions. You should actively seek the guidance and counsel of your loved ones, as you tell them about what you’ve learned, how you’ve progressed, and what you need to do to stay focused on recovery. You should especially seek their input if you start feeling depressed again, since you’ll want to address that before it gets out of control.
The people who love you will always be your strongest advocates and most loyal supporters. Give them a chance to help, and they will be glad to do so.
#3 Pursue Pleasurable Hobbies and Activities
One of the best ways to maintain positive energy and resist the pull of depression is to do things that you know will put you in a good mood. This means finding the time for activities that bring you excitement or a sense of satisfaction. These may be hobbies that you truly enjoy, social activities that keep you connected, or self-development practices that let you increase your knowledge or skill level.
You won’t use these activities to escape from real challenges and difficulties, those must still be confronted and dealt with head on. But as a reminder of what life can and should be, simple pleasures can offer immense rewards.
Whatever brings you joy and fulfillment will act as a powerful antidote to depression. Your struggles with this disorder emerged from your failure to address all of your basic needs, and your need to have fun while developing your physical and intellectual capacities is as real and important as any other.
#4 Continue Your Investigations Into the Nature of Depression
During recovery, you’ll learn many valuable lessons about how to cope with depression. You’ll also learn more about what causes it.
Even after professional care ends, you should still be seeking to learn more about depressive disorders. You should make it your goal to become an expert on the subject, because your in-depth knowledge can act as a powerful protective mechanism. With such knowledge, you’ll learn to recognize the earliest signs of relapse, giving you the opportunity to consult with experts or take other actions to stop depression in its tracks.
#5 Take Up Self-Help Practices That Reduce Stress and Boost Mood
In some ways, depression feels like the opposite of stress. But in fact, depression is the mind’s coping mechanism when stress is chronic and left unaddressed.
Stress feeds depression and can do so at any time regardless of what progress you might have made in treatment. Consequently, it is important to learn and practice stress reduction and management methodologies and techniques, as a way to counteract the disturbing emotions that helped cause your depression in the first place.
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#6 Get Out of the House and Enjoy the Fresh Air
When you were depressed, you might have reinforced the problem by not doing enough to change your circumstances. Sameness and routine may have seemed to offer momentary comfort, but in the end only worked to make you feel worse.
One of the best remedies for a depressed state is to get out into the fresh air and sunshine, out in the natural world where the atmosphere is uplifting and energizing. Vigorous activities in a healing environment will stimulate your mind to re-engage with the world, keeping you happily focused on pleasurable experiences.
A safe and comfortable home environment can be an oasis. But it can also turn into a prison if it becomes a place to hide or escape from real experiences.
#7 Avoid Immersion in Virtual Environments
Individuals who’ve battled depression cannot afford to spend inordinate amounts of time wandering around aimlessly online. It will rob them of their energy and leave them trapped by compulsive behavior that will not improve their lives or circumstances.
We live in a society where constant immersion in digital environments is considered normal. More and more people are replacing in-person social interactions with virtual simulations, spending increasing amounts of their time on social media or otherwise engaged in online-only activities.
This behavior increases feelings of alienation, by cutting people off from the type of face-to-face contact with others they need to feel healthy and connected. It substitutes the artificial for authentic experience, suppressing mood and creates a sense of alienation or hopelessness. Virtual environments are ubiquitous now, but they can be dangerous for those prone to depression, who do much better when they are engaged with the real world.
#8 Be Diligent About Aftercare
Your post-recovery mental health care will be delivered through a continuing care or aftercare recovery program. Your aftercare plan will include many of the same elements as formal care, including individual, group, and family therapy, medication management services, life skills and coping skills instruction, and special interventions that can help you reach personal or career goals.
Aftercare is there to assist your efforts to change your life permanently and for the better. Your recovery from depression will inevitably have some ups and downs, but if you take full advantage of the available aftercare services, you can make the ‘ups’ last much longer.
You should never treat your aftercare program as a formality or see it as a burden. Aftercare services are designed specifically to help you deal with the types of challenges you’ll encounter once inpatient care ends. They represent a proactive approach to recovery, reinforcing the messages received and lessons learned in your residential care program. They will help you remember that recovery from depression is an ongoing affair, which you must remember if you want to stay on the right path.