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Exercises To Help Understand The Cycle Of Depression

What does the cycle of depression look like for your client? Here we discuss exercises to help your client understand the cycle of depression.
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© University of Exeter

In the previous step, we discussed the cycle of depression.

What does the cycle of depression look like for your client?

You should support your client to develop an understanding 
of what the cycle of depression looks like for
 them. Drawing on some examples of your client’s experience, perhaps starting with their problem statement can be a very powerful tool for increasing awareness of the factors maintaining her low mood. The important thing to draw out is the relationship between mood and behaviour. Use the chart here to support this exercise if the client struggles to find her own words.

Chart with examples of physical symptoms, feelings, and behaviours of the depression cycle

You can practice by hypothetically formulating a cycle of depression. If you need some ideas to refer to page 20 in the therapist handbook

Mood Diary

Blank journal open with a pen on

Another activity that can be helpful for your client is maintaining a mood diary. It can be helpful to track our mood, feelings and actions on a day-to-day basis to look for patterns that we may want to address in this course. Advise the mother to put aside some moments each day to try and fill out the mood diary. Be prepared to think of alternative methods that may fit in with her schedule or suit her preferences. For example, some may find it embarrassing or effortful to carry paper copies around. In this case, it would be appropriate to recommend using a mobile phone or small, discrete notebook instead. Be flexible around the needs of your client.

For more details on this activity refer to page 22 in the therapist handbook

Self-Care Selection

Self-care is an essential part of being a good mum
– a healthy and happy mum leads to a healthy and happy baby. This is about encouraging your client to take care of herself, doing things that are good for her physical and emotional health. Think of the airplane analogy – adults are advised to put on their own oxygen mask before they attend to the oxygen mask of their child. This part is not to be confused with scheduling in pleasurable activities as you would in behavioural activation.

Keep in mind that often self-care will sometimes have to be done in the context of caring for others (baby, other children) so it may be about finding creative ways to weave in self-care opportunities. Over the course of treatment, you could work with mum towards finding self-care activities just for her. Encourage your client to pick one or two things
to schedule in. Help her prepare to deal with uncertainty by thinking 
of potential contingency plans when things do not work out the way they were planned.

As a part of this course, we request you to keep a mood diary for yourself and share your experience about this activity with us. Further, discuss the effectiveness of this method below and how you could possibly encourage your client to maintain a mood diary?

© University of Exeter
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