Self-care is essential for our well-being, yet typically it’s something that those of us with depression find difficult to prioritise. We might not believe we’re worthy of self-care (we are!) or we might not know where to begin (we created our free self-care starter kit to help with that).
There’s also a misconception that self-care isn’t for everyone. Self-care often comes with connotations of being very girly and fluffy, but it doesn’t have to be all sparkly bath bombs and wool-based creations.
In fact, sometimes achieving the basic elements of day-to-life counts as self-care. Here are some examples:
1. Cleaning ourselves
When we’re depressed, it can be difficult to find the motivation or energy to wash ourselves. When the tough times strike, it’s handy to have a few ideas up our sleeve to make the process of cleaning ourselves easier.
Wet wipes can be a lifesaver. They’re not too expensive to buy, and can really help to give us that ‘clean’ feeling without going to the effort of jumping into the bath or shower. Dry shampoo is another wonderful product – a liberal spray a day can buy us a few extra days of clean looking hair. Cleaning our teeth can be another challenge for many. Chewing gum isn’t a perfect replacement for teeth-cleaning, but it can help to protect our gums and teeth between meals, and if it’s minty it can also help our mouths to feel fresh. Mouthwash is also a quick-stop to fresher breath.
2. Getting a Balanced Diet
It can be a struggle to have a balanced diet at the best of times, but never more so than when we have zero energy or motivation to cook. As much as chocolate can be just what we need at times, there are certain foods which can help to boost our mood, and others which can hinder.
If we don’t have the energy for a supermarket shop, many supermarkets do online deliveries, for a minimal (and sometimes no) cost. Even better – once we’ve done one shop, we can save items we buy regularly as ‘favourites’ and have less to think about in the following weeks.
There’s also a lot of food subscription boxes on the market that many find extremely helpful as they take away the decision-making process that so many of us with depression find difficult. Some boxes are packed with ready-made meals, others come with recipes and all the ingredients we need to make them, while other specialise in delicious (and healthy!) snacks. There are also many companies who deliver fruit and veg boxes to our door, which makes getting our five a day that little bit easier.
3. Set a routine
Not everybody likes routine – some people hate it. But having a vague sleep routine can help our bodies to know when we need to sleep, and when we need to be awake.
Having a routine each morning and night can take the stress out of a busy few hours, and help us remember to do certain things (like cleaning our teeth). If depression affects our memory, writing down these routines and displaying them somewhere prominent can be very useful.
4. Cleaning our home
When we’re really low it can be a struggle to keep things clean and tidy. If cleaning our entire house feels impossible, focusing on just one room a great place to start. Not only will it help us to feel productive, but it creates a much nicer environment to sit in – and having one clean room means we can shut off the rest of the house, and relax.
Anti-bacterial wipes can be a great investment. Rather than having to pull out our entire cleaning cupboards, and work out which spray we’re using for what, they’re easy to pull out and wipe down a side of appliance almost without thinking. We can also cut corners (half done is better than not done!) – for example by just throwing bleach down the loo, rather than getting down on our knees to scrub it.
Meeting up with people can be challenging when we aren’t feeling great. It can be hard to know what to do or say. It can be particularly tough if the environment we’re meeting up in is noisy or busy.
If we want to spend time with people, but don’t want to go out, and don’t feel like having people in our house, we could try doing things ‘together but alone’. For example, watching the same TV programme at the same time as a friend, and messaging each other about it as you watch it, or playing games online together. Although not the same as seeing a friend face-to-face, these activities help us feel more connected, without the usual pressures of socialising.
6. Letting the outside in.
Nature can be great for our mental health, but sometimes we just don’t feel up to getting ourselves outside. On days when a stroll or bike ride feel like impossibilities, it can be good to open the curtains or blinds and let a little light in – or, if we have a garden, have a five minute potter outside. Sunlight can improve our vitamin D levels, which can really help our mood. It can also be nice to open the window and let a little fresh air into our rooms.
Exercise can help to lift our mood. However it can feel like a big effort at the best of times, and near-impossible when we’re ill.
We shouldn’t put ourselves under unnecessary pressure to exercise; however if we do want to do it there are different options we can consider. We could try joining a team so we have a whole bunch of people keen to see us which can make getting out a little easier to go out. Some leisure centres even run sessions specifically for people with mental health problems.
If we don’t want to join a team, we could see if any of our friends would consider being an exercise buddy – that way we can help motivate each other. If getting out of the house is a problem, or if cost is an issue, there’s a huge range of free exercise videos on YouTube
8. Let it out
Sometimes, we just need to let it out. Different people will want to do this in different ways.
For some it could be kicking a ball repeatedly against a wall until we are completely exhausted, or throwing a ping-pong ball around a room as hard as we can. Others might find comfort in writing, drawing, or scribbling. Those of us with more nervous energy might find things like fiddle-toys, helpful.
We share more ideas for ‘letting it out’ in this blog post.
Sometimes we need time out from everything going on in our lives. If we’re up to reading, books can be a wonderful escape; if we’re not, we might be able to get lost in TV, or films. Some of us might enjoy creativity and could switch off and paint, or take our camera for a walk. Others might prefer something more physical like running, or driving to places we’ve never been before to see what’s there.
All of these are excellent examples of everyday self-care – no bath bombs or wool required!
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