Depression generally sneaks up on you and makes you feel out of control of your life. Even when you have regular depressive episodes every week, it somehow still manages to sneak up. But what if there was a way to spot some warning signs so you can prevent or prepare yourself for your depressive episode? I’m here to tell you that there is a way – and the key yet again is mindfulness. When we are mindful of our bodies and the world around us we can more easily see triggers and warning signs that let us know that depression is peeping its head from around the corner.
What is a “trigger”?
I’d like to set the record straight about these. I know that you’ve probably seen the word “trigger” everywhere on social media these days, and I admit it is sometimes overused and misused. But a trigger is a real thing that should not be taken lightly.
“In mental health terms, a trigger refers to something that affects your emotional state, often significantly, by causing extreme overwhelm or distress.”What It Really Means to Be Triggered, https://www.healthline.com/health/triggered
In simple terms, it’s kind of what makes you boil over emotionally. This is not to be confused with simply being annoyed/upset at something that you see. This article on Healthline goes into great detail of what a trigger is and the seriousness of them.
Mindfulness is the key
The first step is being able to understand when you first begin to feel depressed. For me, especially in the past, I would often find myself deeply depressed for days and had no idea how I got there. Now, I want to note that sometimes we do have long periods of feeling depressed and miserable. But, I strongly believe mindfulness still applies as it can help you distinguish when you need extra support from your friends/therapist/counselor/anyone you reach out to for help.
Okay, so back on track. In my current state of self, I go through “cycles” or kind of extreme ups and downs. I am able to do this from years of mindfulness practice and monitoring my mood. I mentioned this in my last blog post, but I love the app Moodtrack Diary to keep track of my moods. One of my favorite things about this app is that you can see a nice visual graph of your ups/downs.
While journaling or tracking your moods there are three important things to note. I usually do this two times a day, every morning and night:
- What is your energy level?
- How did you sleep last night?
- How are you feeling?
By keeping track of these things, you might begin to recognize a pattern. This pattern could give you insight into what makes you tick/what triggers you. While monitoring your mood begin to keep track of the warning signs that you are slipping into a bad space. These are different for each and every person, but we all have the warning signs. For me, my warning signs look a bit like…:
- my home/room getting dirty
- my self-care practices on a sudden halt
- experiencing a loss of appetite or overeating
- a disturbance in my sleep pattern
- I stop doing things that I enjoy
- Mindlessly watching Netflix
I have my warning signs, what now?
Identifying your warning signs is not the end of your journey, there is still work that has to be done! But you’ve accomplished a huge step once this is figured out. Now, it is time to make a safety plan / a self-care plan. You get to decide a toolkit to take care of yourself on your bad days to make things easier. This is really the best part. It can be as small or big as you want, it just has to work for you.
Right now, when my depressive episodes start to show up I know that when they happen I am pretty much out of commission. So when this happens, I am determined to keep up with my self-care (skin care and hair routine and brushing my teeth), make sure I have my teas and water throughout the day, take my medication, and shower and get dressed.
See, there was nothing super extravagant about that. But reminding myself of those seemingly simple tasks helps me feel more in control and less as if my life is spiraling. Now, it is your turn. I encourage you to track your mood, identify your triggers or things that upset you, write a list of your warning signs, and create a plan to help you through your tough times. It makes the world of a difference!