Coming out from under the suffocating cloud of depression can feel liberating, yet terrifying. When you were sick, so much of your energy went to fighting off the depression and willing yourself to get through your days.

Now that the battle is over, you can clearly see the casualties in every area of your life. Maybe your home has been neglected, or the bonds of your relationships have frayed.

You might be tempted to funnel your new-found energy into tackling all of these challenges at once. This is very well-meaning and sensible. Yet, approaching your post-recovery life like this can quickly become overwhelming.

Getting your life back after depression doesn’t mean trying to make everything exactly as it was before. Instead, it means creating a life that supports your ongoing recovery.

Figuring what that means and what it looks like for you by creating a self-care plan should be the first task on your agenda.

From there, you can gradually start to recover your relationships by having a heart-to-heart with your loved ones. Once you’ve garnered the social support you need, you will be ready to get your routines back on track.

Recovery doesn’t have a set timeline. Take the time you need to go through the process. You can always take a break and adapt your plan as often as you need to.

Put Your Own Oxygen Mask On First

This basic air safety advice also applies to your everyday life. An important lesson that depression can teach us is that our emotional health matters. When you go back into your normal routine, don’t forget what you’ve learned.

Your recovery will depend on you embedding self-care throughout your day. Creating a self-care plan can make this easier to do. Self-care plans are a toolbox of strategies that you can pull from to maintain your well-being.

Self-care activities can take on many forms. For example, you can pay more attention to your emotional state by monitoring your moods and tracking your triggers. You can find an app to help you with this, or simply write a few lines every day in your journal:

Sample Mood Log Entry

Time of day: Early morning

Mood/emotion: Foggy, zoned-out, detached

Environment/surroundings: Bedroom, woken by alarm clock, sun is not up yet

Thoughts: Getting up was harder than normal today

Remember to record both your positive and negative moods. Being depressed can dull your ability to feel your own emotions. Being able to recognize and process your emotions is a skill that will benefit you throughout your recovery.

Your plan should also include instructions for what you can do if you start to experience depressive symptoms. Some ideas could be making a therapy appointment if your symptoms don’t subside after a few days, or reducing your workload or responsibilities temporarily.

Other self-care strategies include:

  • Stress management practices, such as mindful breathing, meditation, or pursuing a relaxing hobby
  • Daily exercise
  • Delegating tasks to reduce overwhelm
  • Goal-setting- Setting and achieving goals that align with your interests and values can improve your mental health. Try the Life Compass exercise to figure out which areas of your life mean the most to you, and what you would like to focus on.
  • Practicing self-compassion- Talk to yourself as if you were a good friend.

A solid self-care plan acts as a strong foundation for your post-recovery life. Once it is set, you can start on the challenging work of repairing your relationships.

Have an Open Conversation With Your Loved Ones

As you probably know, depression is a largely invisible fight. It can be difficult for friends and family to understand why the disease caused you to withdraw. Although depression is to blame, it is normal to feel guilty and responsible.

Please take to heart that there is nothing wrong with you. This is the nature of depression. Negative thoughts can cloud communication, and make it difficult for you to open up and share your feelings.

Now that you have recovered, you are in a better place to reconnect with your loved ones and let them know how they can help you. Here are steps you can take to ease the process.

1.Set the stage

Talking about depression and recovery can be a heavy topic. So it’s important that both you and your loved one are in the right headspace to have the conversation. You can let them know in advance you’d like to talk to give you both time to prepare to reflect on your feelings.

When the time comes, center your conversation on strengthening the relationship. This way, you and your loved one are on the same side, tackling the horrible beast that is depression together. These sentences can help you clearly express your intention:

  • Our relationship means so much to me. This is why I wanted to share my feelings with you.
  • I have just been through a very difficult time, and I would appreciate your support.
  • I want you to understand what has been going on with me. I would like to share my story with you.

2. Discuss your experience

Unless someone has experienced depression themselves, they may have a hard time truly understanding what you have gone through. You can give them a clear picture by describing your symptoms as best as you can. Maybe you can relate to some of these experiences:

“Depression is much more than just feeling sad. I also felt irritable. I felt like everyone was judging me and criticizing me. My negative thinking made me hear criticism, even if someone was being neutral.”


“I can feel like I’ve checked out emotionally. I see how it affects others, but I can’t help it. I feel too numb. But it isn’t their fault, and it isn’t a reflection of how I feel about them.”


“Just getting out of bed took so much energy, I barely had any motivation left to do much else.”


If your loved ones have more insight into what you were going through, they will understand that your actions weren’t anything personal. This realization can go a long way in repairing your relationship.

3. Use your words carefully

While there should be space to discuss negative feelings, it is essential to avoid blaming language. Instead, stay focused on your own experiences by using “I” statements. Here are a few examples:

Instead of → Try this

You didn’t listen to me I felt unheard

You made me feel sad/angry/upset I felt sad/angry/upset

Likewise, absolute statements like “never” or “always” can stoke conflict and trigger defensiveness. It’s better to talk about specific situations from your perspective.


I never felt understood I sometimes felt misunderstood, especially when my depression symptoms were very severe

4. Offer practical ways to help you

Not knowing how to help is a major source of stress and frustration for people watching someone they care about grapple with depression. When you give your loved ones specific instructions, it benefits both of you. They feel empowered and connected to you, and you can count on their support. You can use any of the suggestions below:

  • Share your self-care plan: Your loved ones can help you maintain your routines and follow your plan. Of course, only share what you are comfortable with.
  • Ask for quiet support: There are times when you may just need company. Quiet support is asking your loved one to just be there. They do not need to do or say anything to make you feel better.
  • Be clear about what you don’t need: Well-meaning friends and family may offer a helping hand in ways that are not so useful for you. Being clear about what you don’t find helpful can prevent misunderstandings.

While you probably won’t resolve everything in a single conversation, starting off this way sets an important tone for how you and your loved ones communicate moving forward. Social and emotional support is key to depression recovery, so having these difficult talks are well worth the effort.

Start Putting Your Life Back Together - Step by Step

In this next step, we move from emotional processes to more tangible, practical ways to organize your life.

During a depressive episode, it can feel like your life was on pause. In the meantime, chores, bills, and other obligations have been piling up. When recovery allows you to hit the play button again, you may be surprised by how much things have spiraled out of control.

This can be an overwhelming feeling but take a deep breath. This mess wasn’t made in a day, so remember it will probably take you some time to clean it up. The more important thing is that you are engaging in actions every day that improve your progress. Here are a few ways to work through your to-do list:

Tips for managing chores/household tasks

Work in sections: Setting a goal to “clean up the house” is admirable, but can be unrealistic.

If you don’t have a block of hours to devote to chores, it would be much more feasible to divide the task into smaller chunks. For example, you start by simply clearing the floor of a single room. Then move on to the next one. Once the clutter is removed, you can start doing some deeper cleaning and organizing.

Declutter: This is also an ideal time to take inventory of what you have. Most likely, you don’t need every single item in your home. The easiest way is to create three piles: one for donations, one for throwing away, and one for keeping. If you’re having trouble deciding what you should keep, think back to the last time you used the item. If it’s been at least two weeks, you’ll probably be fine without it.

Follow the “touch once” rule: Housework often starts to pile up when you constantly put tasks on your “I’ll get to it” list. Instead of kicking the can down the road, the touch once rule encourages you to act as soon as you notice the chore needs to be done. Here are a few examples:

  • If you’re throwing something away and notice the bin is getting full, take it out right then and there.
  • When you’re done with your plate, wash it or place it in the dishwasher immediately.
  • Whenever you leave a room, take an item with you that doesn’t belong there and put it in the right place.

These small actions add up and can prevent housework from becoming unmanageable.

Tips for managing your workload

Understand your rights: In many countries, workers returning to work after a depressive episode can request reasonable work accommodations to help them manage their workload and mental health at the same time. Try to set up a meeting with your employer or human resources department as early as you can. Your workplace may be able to make the following accommodations for you:

  • A flexible schedule
  • Work-from-home days
  • Adjusting responsibilities

Take real breaks: Far too many of us work through our lunch breaks, which can affect our well-being. Part of making a healthy return to the workplace will include making time for rest. Instead of eating lunch at your worksite, try to take a walk outside.

Keep a strong boundary between home and work: In addition to taking breaks at work, an important part of your recovery will be learning to switch off at the end of the day. It is easier said than done, especially if you feel guilty or overwhelmed.

You can add more separation between your work and home life by leaving work devices in your workplace and removing work-related apps from your smartphone. If you work from home, you can designate a drawer or closet to put away your work devices. Remember, taking breaks makes you more productive in the long run.

Tips for establishing daily routines

Practice sleep hygiene: Since sleep is such an essential aspect of mental well-being, you can start by establishing a set bedtime and wake-up time. You can use a sleep calculator to determine when is the best time to go to bed based on the time you wish to wake up.

Most sleep experts recommend spending the last 30 minutes before your bedtime winding down. You can try the following sleep-inducing activities:

  • Turn off devices
  • Drink a relaxing tea like lavender or chamomile
  • Read
  • Listen to relaxing music

Start with small changes: You can work your way up to a rejuvenating daily routine by incorporating one habit at a time. Once the first habit starts to feel more automatic and takes less mental effort to complete, you can add others.

Use supports: Good routines don’t happen by chance. In the same way, you’ve created a plan for your self-care, you can use systems and reminders to help you follow your routine.

For example, you can create a 3-item to-do list system to help you focus on the most important tasks of the day. You should prioritize your tasks by their importance and urgency. Picking 3 tasks to focus on ensures that you make the most out of your day without feeling pressured to get everything done at once.

Here is an example of a 3-item to do list:

  • Work: Finish presentation
  • Home: Sweep/Vacuum/Mop
  • Self-care: Call a loved one

You can also use apps to remind you to keep up with healthy habits, like:

  • Standing up and moving around during your work day
  • Doing a 5-minute mindful meditation
  • Starting your bedtime routine on time

If you’re recovering from depression, you’ve proven just how strong and determined you are.

As you work towards getting your life back in order, remind yourself of how far you’ve already come. You’ve accomplished an incredible feat, and you should feel proud of your progress.

Learn how to prevent depression relapses with mindfulness meditation.


Mike Oliver, Karen Rodham, Jennifer Taylor & Claire McIver (2021) Understanding the psychological and social influences on office workers taking breaks; a thematic analysis, Psychology & Health, 36:3, 351-366

Harvard health publishing: Better Sleep Naturally Equal Treatment Qualifications