Depression isn’t always situational, but some lifestyle habits may exacerbate episodes. Bryce Evans explores his four “depression triggers.”
After living with high-functioning depression for several years, one of the most important things I've learned is to be more proactive than reactive.
People struggle with depression for many reasons; for some of us, it’s a constant companion. Over the years, I’ve made it a point to take a step back to notice some of the events or behaviours that cause me to feel worse. While this may not “cure” me of depression, it can be useful in preventing a downhill emotional spiral.
Are you lonely and feeling disconnected from people?
Is a particular food or drink always around when you're feeling bad, or do you seek it out when you’re deep in a depressive episode?
What happens to your thought process if you haven't been active enough for a few weeks?
These are the types of questions I started asking myself when I began to feel more anxious or depressed than usual.
This can be tricky territory — the behaviours and events that might have a negative impact are super personal, and there isn't a digital guide to all of them. Plus, it may be tricky to determine if your feelings are a "normal" part of your depression symptoms or if they are being aggravated by something else.
Identifying the thought patterns, events, and behaviours that negatively affect you can provide valuable insights. In turn, these insights may help you become more aware of your own health and help you manage your symptoms more effectively in the long term.
My anxiety and depression “triggers”
Over time, I’ve become well-versed in what makes me more anxious or depressed. Here are a few examples and what I do to mitigate them.
1. Caffeine on an empty stomach makes me feel anxious
Caffeine + No Food = Disaster was one of the easiest anxiety triggers for me to spot. Noting this also helped me recognise that my eating habits weren’t particularly healthy.
The fix: Years ago, I cut down on my caffeine consumption, and if I did have coffee, I made sure to have food in my stomach first. I’ve also been working to improve my diet and physical health, which has helped make this less of an issue — I love coffee and don’t think I could give it up entirely!
2. Not expressing myself or avoiding conflict makes me feel down
This one comes in different shapes and sizes. It may be that I feel isolated or unable to express my feelings. It can also come as a conflict with someone else where I'm withholding my frustration or feelings. All types of unexpressed emotions seem to lead me down the dark path into a more serious depressive episode.
The fix: Early on, I was able to open up with photography as a way to express what I was going through. But overall, finding ways to express myself right away — whether through words, other healthy habits, or art — when I’m feeling a certain way has made all the difference.
3. Not being physically or socially active enough can lead to a bad episode
This is one of those tricky ones that I need to be aware of. I recognised a pattern – the times I was less social coincided with the beginning of a depressive episode or some rough anxiety. It was a slippery slope — the less time I spent exercising or hanging with friends, the more intense my symptoms were. As my symptoms worsened, I had less motivation to do anything.
The fix: Recently, I've been focused on building a solid routine of taking care of my physical health while also taking time off during the weekends. Pushing myself too hard is one of the downsides of working for myself. Instead, I use my free time to meet up with friends more often.
Setting up reminders on my calendar or having structures around social time and workouts helps me to remember and not fall off my routine. It’s also one of the first things I dive into if I start to feel these issues coming on — head to the gym, hop on a call with family, or meet up with a friend.
4. No boundaries = no good
I’ve learned the importance of boundaries in my work (I run multiple businesses) and personal relationships. It became clear that not having the right — or any — boundaries and allowing others to control my time and energy intensified my depression and anxiety.
The fix: It's simple in theory, tricky in practice — set proper boundaries. Stick to them.
It's essential to take the time to reflect on your experiences with depression and see if you can spot any common patterns. I’ve found daily journaling to be a great method of catching these. It also gives me the time and space to discover them regularly.
Even 5 or 10 minutes of writing about your day, what you did, and how you felt and why could make a big difference in how you manage your symptoms and your day-to-day life.
Remember that the things that intensify bad feelings can change over time, and they’ll be different for everyone.
It’s also important to remember that depression is a serious health condition. While certain behaviours or events may make you feel worse, they likely are not the cause of depression. Still, identifying those behaviours can be a good supplement to the treatment program you design with your doctor.
I hope you can discover some powerful insights into how your mind and body work in relation to your mental health. I hope these discoveries help you live the life you truly want.
NPS-IE-NP-00682 February 2023