Signs of Depression & Journal Prompts to Help

Learn to recognize the signs of depression and how journaling can help you cope.


If you've struggled with depression in the past, you're probably familiar with depression episodes - those periods of heavy sadness that bring you down.

When you're feeling low, it's easy to think there's no way out.

Luckily, though, learning to recognize signs of a depression episode when they start can help you cope better and manage your symptoms.

We'll break down what signs to look out for, and give you 25 journal prompts that can help you refocus and reframe negative thoughts during a depression episode.

What is a Depression Episode?

So, first thing's first: what is a depression episode to begin with?

Feelings of depression usually ebb and flow over time. You may be doing well for a while, then all of a sudden feel pulled down by negative thoughts and emotions that persist.

These periods of sadness can be referred to as depression episodes. Depression episodes generally last longer than two weeks.

The cause of a depression episode will differ from person to person. It's important to track your mood over time - using a journaling app like Jour, for example, to log your daily mood - to identify patterns and specific triggers.

Common triggers for depression episodes include rejection, major life changes, loss, hormonal changes, or seasonal changes for those with Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Signs of a Depression Episode

Luckily, there are ways to cope with depression episodes. And the first step to feeling better? Identifying an episode when it starts.

Being self-aware and recognizing the warning signs empowers you to take measures to mitigate your symptoms and cope better. Here's what you should look out for:

1. Low Mood

First and foremost, depression episodes are categorized by a significant drop in baseline mood. You may be feeling especially sad, hopeless, empty, or shameful compared to usual while going through a depression episode.

2. Loss of Interest in Activities

During a depression episode, it's also common to lose interest in doing most anything, including things you usually enjoyed. This might mean lacking motivation at work, or feeling bored with hobbies and self-care routines.

3. Sleep Changes

The changes in mood can also have a severe impact on your sleep cycle during a depression episode. Some may sleep a lot more than usual and have trouble feeling rested or waking up. Others may experience chronic insomnia and be unable to sleep at all.

Learn more about how journaling can help you sleep better →

4. Lack of Energy

The heaviness of negative thoughts and emotions generally drain you of all your energy during a depression episode. You may feel particularly tired and unmotivated, and have a difficult time mustering energy to complete your daily routines.

5. Short Temper

Along with lower mood and lower energy can come increased irritability during a depression episode. Small annoyances that would usually roll off your back may cause you to snap, lashing out at others or breaking down.

25 Journal Prompts to Help You Cope With a Depression Episode

When you're going through a depression episode, journaling can be a powerful tool to help you vent and process your emotions, reframe negative thoughts, increase self-worth, and eventually find silver linings.

Learn more about the power of journaling for your mental and physical health →

A journaling app like Jour can give you journal prompts every day that are specifically tailored to how you're feeling, and bring your negative emotions to a healthier baseline. To get you started, here are a few journal prompts that will help you feel better during a depression episode:

  1. What advice would you give a friend in your current situation?
  2. What never fails to make you laugh?
  3. What's a quote you find inspiring? Why does it resonate with you?
  4. Who is your biggest role model? What do you admire most about them?
  5. What's a new habit you could start to improve your daily life?
  6. What's a habit you'd like to stop?
  7. What's one small thing you're looking forward to, no matter how far away?
  8. What usually makes you feel better when you're down?
  9. What have you learned about yourself in the last year?
  10. What's a personal goal that excites you?
  11. What are small steps you can take now toward reaching that goal?
  12. When was a time you were at your happiest? Why?
  13. What's a new hobby you've always wanted to try?
  14. What are 3 things you're grateful for today?
  15. What is your proudest accomplishment?
  16. What do you value about yourself?
  17. What are 3 good things that have happened in the last week, no matter how small?
  18. Who is always there for you no matter what?
  19. What music makes you want to dance?
  20. What helps calm you down?
  21. How do you engage in self-care?
  22. If you're feeling down - how would a more optimistic person describe your situation?
  23. What's something little you can do today that will help make tomorrow easier?
  24. How do you reward yourself?
  25. What are you grateful for today?

This Too Shall Pass

Depression episodes are periods of sadness and hopelessness that persist over a period of time longer than two weeks, usually triggered by life changes of some kind.

Learning the signs of depression episodes can help you be prepared to cope better. You should look out for symptoms like lowered mood, loss of interest in activities, and sleep disturbances.

Journaling is a great way to get negative thoughts out of your head and into words so that you can more easily let them go without feeling overwhelmed. Remember to check out the Jour app for more journal prompts that can help support you no matter what it is you're going through!