Life isn’t half a ball-juggler; the responsibilities weigh heavy and even when well, many of us struggle to stay on top of all the jobs we have to do. Our to-do lists rarely ever have an end point. Every time we tick one thing off, we find ourselves adding three more!
When we have depression, staying on top of life can feel harder. We have no energy to do anything. We have limited concentration. Our brains can feel like sludge. We often have next to no motivation. Even if we do manage to muster up the energy and motivation to do something, it can take six times as long as it might if our energy wasn’t so limited.
We understand that a balanced diet can help with our energy levels, and overall health, but it can be hard to muster up the energy to cook each night, especially when depression steals our appetite. Meals also require lots of micro decisions which can be draining when we just don’t have the brainpower to consider our options. There are some things we can do to make cooking (and eating) a little easier.
We can batch cook and prepare, or ask our friends to prepare meals for our freezers. If we’re making one meal, we might as well make four and freeze three. That way, on days when we don’t have energy we just have to re-heat a meal. If we can afford to, we could buy pre-prepared veg. and pre-grated cheese.
We can ease the pressure, and keep it simple. Some meals are easier to cook than others. Doing a jacket potato and beans in the microwave takes less thinking than making dauphinoise potatoes. Cooking some pasta with a jar of sauce and a bit of grated cheese takes much less time and energy than creating a lasagne from scratch. Having some simple, easy meals that we can default to on our non-functional days can eliminate some of the stress of cooking.
Cleaning up after ourselves can take as much energy as the cooking itself. Stacking the dishwasher, washing dishes, putting things in the bin, and wiping down the sides as we go (or whilst things are cooking) helps to avoid a big task at the end.
Cleaning can feel like an insurmountable task, and it takes energy – energy we don’t have. Doing a small amount, often, can help to break it down so that it feels more manageable. Doing little things while we wait for something else can help it to feel even more doable. For example, we could empty the dishwasher while we wait for the kettle to boil. Or we could wipe down the windowsill in the bathroom while we clean our teeth.
When we spill something and are already feeling rubbish, it can often make us want to sit on the floor and cry with sheer frustration. Accidents make us feel clumsy and can often add to the library of evidence we hold in our heads as to why we’re all manner of negative things. It’s easier said than done, but initiate self-kindness mode by not beating yourself up and cleaning the spill away quickly so it’s out of sight and not serving as a reminder for longer than is necessary.
Consider cleaning the shower while you’re in it. This one might sound strange, but washing down the shower walls/doors whilst in the shower, can stop products drying onto them. Making sure all the suds are washed away at the end of our shower, can stop products building up on the floor/in the bath. It’s much easier to do that than to scrub at layers of stuck-on product.
Keeping a mat by any doors leading outside can help to minimise the amount of dirt trekked in. We could also have a ‘no shoes’ rule, which can minimise how much mopping/hoovering we need to do.
Wet wipes or disposable cleaning wipes. These are not the most environmentally-friendly or wallet-friendly items. But they can be a lifesaver when we’re struggling to stay on top of cleaning.
One of the most overwhelming bits of life admin can be dealing with the seemingly never-ending piles of paperwork. It can build up over time and begin to feel completely impossible. Added to that is the anxiety some of us experience surrounding opening the post, or answering the telephone, due to financial struggles.
Insurance: car insurance, home insurance, contents insurance, pet insurance… it can all build up. Renewal dates are often different for each one which can become a bit mind-boggling. Writing all the dates down and sticking them somewhere safe can help us to stay on top of them. We could also add reminders into our phones or diaries a few weeks before to make sure we renew them in time.
We get a lot of junk through our doors. We also get a lot of important things in the post. It’s all too easy to throw all our post on the table as soon as it arrives and leave it there until we have a small mountain to climb. Trying to sort it the day it comes through our door can avoid this, as can asking for help with it if the pile has grown into overwhelming proportions. We don’t need to reply to everything there and then, but even sorting the junk from the non-junk can make a difference.
It’s so easy to forget someone’s birthday until the day it happens, and then have to send a very rushed and late, apologetic present. It can make us feel as though we’re a bad friend/loved one. Writing people’s birthdays down, along with reminders to get a present/card and a reminder to post it in time, can help us to avoid this happening. You can also sign up to places like Moonpig, and automate the sending of cards.
Money matters can be tricky. Navigating the benefits system, or forcing ourselves into work, can be draining. Trying to create and stick to a budget can help. We can also lean on outside agencies such as Citizen’s Advice Bureau if we need more help.
It can be so hard to remember important things when depression clouds our memory. Having reminders can help. Some of us might find it easiest to pop them in our phone (perhaps with an alarm). Others might work best from a diary. Some of us might prefer lists, or post-it notes. Writing everything down can help when we’re unable to rely on our brain.
Sticking important things on the fridge means that we don’t lose them, and we’re reminded of them multiple times a day. This could be things like a printed list of which bins we need to put out and when. It could include crisis numbers. It could be things like reminders of which medication to take and when.
It’s very easy to lose our phone, wallet, and keys. Keeping them in the same place, whether it be our bag, our coat pocket, a peg on the wall, or somewhere else, can mean that we reduce our risk of losing them. It takes some of the stress out of leaving the house and can prevent the escalation of negative and scary thoughts that can come with losing something important.
Once we’ve used a towel, tea towel, or item of clothing, it’s much easier to add them to our floordrobe than it is to hang them up. Hanging these things up as soon as we’ve finished with them (or putting them in the wash) is a thirty second job, and can save a mass-hanging session at a later date.
Be Kind To Yourself
It’s really hard to manage keeping up with life on top of depression. Anything we do manage to do is a real bonus. We need to try and prioritise the tasks that matter to us so that we can do them before we run out of energy. It can also help to pace ourselves – do things little and often rather than all in one go. Additionally, there is absolutely not shame in asking for help and delegating things. There will be people we live with, friends, family, or organisations, who are more than happy to help us.
We’d love to here about your hacks and hints for managing chores, in the comments below.
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