Have you ever been depressed? If you're unsure, can you recall the last time you felt unusually sad
for days or weeks?
A growing majority of adults know what it feels like to experience depression - whether symptoms of
chronic depression or a first major depressive episode. As much as it might feel like you're alone in
the heavy, sinking feeling of hopelessness or helplessness, depression is extremely common.
Let's then, for the time being, entertain the notion that everyone knows what this feels like. Because
the truth is, everyone does experience the same emotions and periods of stress that can trigger
We can all relate to feeling unusually tired, withdrawn, negative, or irritable. We can all relate to the
urge to obey our symptoms and turn to vices that we think will help us feel better, such as more sleep,
alcohol, or isolation.
So if we can all relate to the warning signs of depression, does that make us capable of stopping its
symptoms in their tracks?
While some cases of depression are deeply rooted in risk factors or complications that make it trickier
to manage and treat, the short answer is yes. Everyone can prevent symptoms of depression from
happening or reoccurring, and here are a few places you can start:
Become more self-aware:
Becoming more attuned to your emotions and warning signs is the root of better mental health. So
when it comes to depression, self-awareness is key.
Start by learning more about your risk factors. If you have a family history of depression, for example,
you may be more likely to experience it yourself. Whether or not you're considered at risk for or have ever experienced depression, it's never a bad time to start becoming more self-aware and reflective. This way, you're more likely to catch the early warning signs of depression and take action before things spiral.
Depression comes in many shapes and sizes, which means people experience different warning signs. For some, a warning sign could be something seemingly small as a change in appetite. For others, it might be a loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed.
If you notice these signs, take time to stop and reflect before things potentially worsen. Consider
practicing self-reflection regularly, such as journaling, meditating, or taking a few moments each day
to check in with yourself emotionally.
The key is to know your warning signs and sense when you're starting to feel off – physically or
emotionally. You can then take the necessary steps to nip depression in the bud.
Tune into how you feel:
In addition to knowing your warning signs, it's important to listen to your body and how it's responding
to stressors in your life. Tuning into your emotions means being honest about how you're feeling - not just what you think you should be feeling or what would make the most sense to feel.
Learning to identify and sit with your emotions, even the tough ones, is an important part of managing
them healthily. Once you can more clearly label your feelings, try to understand why you're feeling
Are you upset because you fought with a friend? Are you anxious because you assume your new
colleague doesn't like you? Once you understand the root of your emotions, it becomes easier to
Express & release your strong emotions:
After identifying and processing your emotions, it's important to do something with them.
Suppressing or ignoring your emotions will only make them worse in the long run. So instead of
stuffing them down, find a healthy outlet for them like writing, painting, or going for a run.
The goal is to release your emotions in a way that brings you joy — a way that doesn't involve
numbing them, hurting yourself or others, or making them worse. Once you express your feelings,
you'll likely find that your emotions are more manageable.
Talk about how you're feeling:
Finally, one of the most important things you can do for your mental health is to build a supportive
network. Talk about your feelings – the good and bad – with someone you trust, such as a friend,
family member, or therapist.
Opening up about your emotions can be scary, but it's often worth it. Talking to someone who cares
about you can help you feel seen, heard, and understood. It can also provide clarity on how you're
feeling and why.
Furthermore, talking openly about depression can help reduce the stigma around it. This, in turn, can
make it easier for people to seek help when they need it — and we now know that the chances are,