Depression is rough. When we’re in the thick of it, life can feel incredibly difficult. Even the simplest tasks can feel overwhelming, and the things we used to enjoy become meaningless.
While we can’t magically make depression go away (if only we could!), there are healthy habits we can adopt that might help ease the pain a little and reduce the severity of our symptoms.
At Blurt we like to think of these positive actions as our ‘Mental Health Toolkit’. When utilised regularly, they can bring more joy to our good days, and help us through our difficult ones.
HABITS THAT HELP
We are all unique. Just as our experiences of depression vary, so too will the habits that help us. Broadly speaking though, they fall with four main areas, which we will look at in turn.
1. LOOKING AFTER OUR BODIES
Our mind and body don’t work in isolation of each other. Research into the mind-body link has found many connections between our mental and physical health.
It follows then, that taking steps to look after our bodies can help our mental well-being. Granted, it can feel incredibly difficult when we’re unwell, but paying attention to things like our diet, exercise and sleep can have a positive affect on our mental health – even though we might not feel the benefits straight away.
IDEAS TO TRY
Here are some things members of our community keep in their Mental Health Toolkit to help look after their bodies:
Massage. Chiropractic. Meds. Relaxing Baths. Walks outside.
I keep easy to prepare food in the house or freezer to make sure I eat proper meals when I don’t feel up to cooking or shopping. Storecupboard basics are good too. Pesto, beans, rice, pasta.
Exercise classes help me loads, I do Zumba, Clubbercise, spin, pump and Pilates and they always give me the escape I need
Other things we might want to try could include: making time to relax, taking steps to improve our sleep, taking nutrition supplements, limiting our consumption of stimulants (alcohol, caffeine, sugar, etc), exploring complementary and alternative therapies.
2. BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS
Depression can be horribly isolating. When we’re struggling, seeing other people can feel like the last thing we want to do. However, making connections with others – feeling heard, seen and understood – is central to our well-being. Our relationships (if healthy) can provide us with much-needed support, comfort and solace.
That’s why we’re so proud of our community: even when times are tough – even when we can’t get out and about – we have the opportunity to connect with people who GET IT.
IDEAS TO TRY
Here’s how relationships help members of our community:
Asking for help: I find if I am honest and tell people how I’m struggling, they do rally round and that helps even if it makes me feel guilty!
I have also found that getting a dog has helped with my mental health because I have a new purpose in life and I feel safe/calm with her always by my side.
3. CULTIVATING A POSITIVE MINDSET
Yes, we know: the term ‘positive mindset’ can feel grating (if not down-right offensive) when we’re battling the blackness of depression. We don’t CHOOSE to feel low, and getting better isn’t simply a case of pulling our chin up and plastering on a smile.
IDEAS TO TRY
Here are a few things our community members find helpful:
Making myself be really ‘present’ in the moment, focussing on what’s around me and what I’m doing rather than thinking back or ahead.
Taking myself out in to the garden feeling the wind/air on my face like a caress, seeing the plants surviving against all odds… really helps me a lot
Speaking to myself kindly, resting when I need to
Other things we might want to try could include: challenging self-critical thoughts, practising gratitude, appreciating beauty, working on self-esteem and imposter syndrome, meditating, saying no (or yes!) more, setting goals.
4. PRACTISING SELF CARE
At Blurt we are ALWAYS harping on about self-care – and with good reason. It really can be life changing. Taking time to do the things we enjoy, that nourish, comfort and inspire us, that get us in that wonderful state of ‘flow’ can make profound changes to our well-being.
IDEAS TO TRY
Here are just a few of the things our community have in their self-care arsenal:
My MH toolkit includes snuggling up on the sofa with a fluffy blanket a Film or Netflix with a cup of Rooiboos tea and my crochet – for ultimate comfort and relaxation.
A nice bath and face pack
Reading a book
Walk in the sunshine
Listening to music
Cuddles with my son
Colouring in books with neon gel pens and crafty kits to make stuff. Also can’t forget my BuddyBoxes
I have a self soothe box of things that work for me. Inside I have photos of me with my friends, photos of our old cats, pictures of my fave dog breeds, soft toy hedgehog, tangle toy, stress ball, lavender oil, collection of nice stones, paper to rip up, elastic bands, sudoku book, soft hair scrunchies, friendship bracelets, temporary motivational tattoos, those metal puzzle things you get in crackers e.g. separate the ring from the coil by twisting, dark chocolate, cute cards I’ve been given, and my school yearbook with messages from friends/teachers
Other things we might want to try could include: attending our medical appointments, taking our meds, being creative, spending time in nature, escaping with a book or film, undertaking any activities we find absorbing, pleasurable or distracting, decluttering, taking part in Blurt’s #365daysofselfcare challenge.
It can take a long time to form new habits – even when we’re in good health. We musn’t put too much pressure on ourselves. We might want to choose one healthy habit to introduce into our lives, and work on it for a while before we introduce another. If we don’t get off on the best foot, we must be kind to ourselves: a slow start is better than no start at all.
TRY DIFFERENT THINGS
We may find that some healthy habits don’t chime with us, they may feel uncomfortable, like they’re not working – they might even upset us. If that’s the case we need to give ourselves permission to let go and try something else. We’re all different – so different things will work for each of us. Trial and error may need to apply.
WE DESERVE BETTER
Although we are all unique, one thing that unites is the fact we don’t deserve to feel the way we do. Depression is cruel and unfair. If there things we can do that alleviate our symptoms – even for a moment – then we must allow ourselves to do them, no matter how loudly depression may protest. We deserve better.
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