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Managing Depression With Simple Self-Care

The phrase self-care has been thrown about frequently in the past few years. At a surface level, the phrase has come to be commonly associated with bubble baths and the occasional slice of chocolate cake. True self-care is much more complex, and for those with depression, caring for yourself becomes significantly more difficult.

When living with depression, having extra energy for even the most basic of tasks can be a challenge. This has nothing to do with motivation or lifestyle, but everything to do with the neurobiological structure of the brain. The symptoms that accompany depression make it difficult for those living with it to feel a normal sense of energy, motivation, and appetite, to name a few.

Learning how to incorporate self-care during depression is imperative for your health and well-being. In this article, we’ll go over some self-care ideas on how to manage depression, how to practice self-care and help you on the way to healing.

Signs of Depression

To start, let’s first take a look at some of the common signs of depression that you may be dealing with.

Signs of Depression Include:

These signs and symptoms can manifest differently for each person, so it is important to note with your doctor all of the symptoms that you or your loved one are specifically experiencing. In addition, your doctor will be able to rule out if the symptoms correlate with a health issue separate from depression.

Different Types of Depression

Left unchecked, the symptoms of depression can bring about health complications and long-lasting effects on your quality of life. According to the American Psychiatric Association, almost 1 in 6 people will experience depression at some point during their life.

The following types of depression occur due to a variety of factors such as genetics, environment and location, or brain chemistry:

Certain types require more immediate therapies or care, but regardless of the type of depression, each of these has one thing in common: depression is hard. Living with it takes a toll on individuals, families, friends, and co-workers.

The good news is that depression is a treatable diagnosis.

Self-Care for Depression

We know that depression affects the health of the brain. The neurotransmitters in a brain dealing with depression lack proper signaling. One way in which brain health and uneven chemistry can be regulated is by practicing self-care.

By following these few self-care checklist items, you’ll make room for new neural pathways to form and executive functioning to work at a healthy level.

1. Talk It Out

One of the hardest things to do when you’re struggling with depression is to talk about it. It can be incredibly difficult to open up and talk about what you’re feeling, even with loved ones. Shame is often a feeling associated with depression because of the stigma associated with it, but it doesn’t have to be.

Opening up and telling someone what you’re going through can be a huge first step toward feeling better. You don’t necessarily need to tell a whole group of people, you may just need one to start with. If you can find someone who is trustworthy and supportive, the easier it will be. By merely starting the conversation, you’ve already opened yourself up to a new perspective and support.

The best you can do is try, and if confiding in someone is not yet an option for you, don’t worry. You can start by writing out how you’re feeling and what you would say. Organizing your thoughts on paper may help them feel less overwhelming.

2. Speak Kindly to Yourself

When you’re feeling low, it’s so easy to get caught in a negative cycle of speaking to yourself. Words have power, and repetition of negative words only perpetuates that cycle. From that same line of thinking, repetition of positive words can make an impact.

If you catch yourself talking to yourself in a negative manner, try flipping the switch. Talk to yourself as if you’re speaking to a loved one, family member, or even a friend. Self-talk impacts our emotional state. By showing yourself compassion and love via speaking kindly, you’re handing the positive power back to yourself.

How can you implement this when you’re not feeling your best? For example, stop using words like “should,” “have to,” or “must.” “I have a great job and family, I shouldn’t feel so sad.” You’re placing unnecessary and harmful blame on yourself by saying this. Instead, it’s perfectly okay to say “I’m grateful for what I have, but I still feel sad.”

That’s okay. Your emotions are still 100% valid. Next time, try speaking kindly to yourself as if you were speaking to a friend.

3. Give Yourself the Present of Presence

Mindful meditation is one way in which you can show kindness to yourself and help manage your symptoms. Mindful meditation teaches you that your thoughts and feelings are valid, and to pay attention to them without harsh inner criticism. Meditation can also help you recognize when these negative thought patterns start to show.

You can then employ some of your self-care techniques to keep from spiraling into a typical, negative pattern. You can start doing this by building in one small act of mindfulness to your day wherever you can. Starting small is a great way to begin.

Try 30-seconds of mindfulness while you’re having your morning cup of coffee. Be present and notice what it is you’re feeling. If you’re feeling overwhelming sadness, note it and remind yourself it’s okay. What you’re feeling is valid and you are valid. Take in what it is you’re seeing or sensing next. Is the room cold? Is the light hitting your house plants just right? Note it all and do the same thing tomorrow.

Whatever you can do to make it easier on yourself to start means you will be more willing to stick with it for the long term.

4. Give Yourself a Break

In today’s society, the grind is glorified. However, when you’re living with depression, the grind can be incredibly detrimental to your quality of life. After all, one of the main symptoms of depression is low motivation. How are you supposed to show up fully as an employee, boss, mother, friend, or father, if you’re constantly exhausted?

Here’s the thing…you can’t. Burnout and overwhelm can exacerbate symptoms of depression. By taking a break, you’re taking care of yourself. By recognizing that it is healthy to take breaks, you can start to schedule them in.

If you’re someone who gets wrapped up and hours go by at work, set yourself a reminder on your calendar to get up and stretch, listen to music, or grab a snack. In terms of larger breaks, be sure to take restful time off of work. Take that vacation if you can, or take off an hour early on Friday.

5. Morning Routine

Establishing a morning routine is a crucial self-care practice. Or a nighttime routine for those of you who aren’t early birds. By having a structured schedule, you’re less likely to fall back into old habits that may be detrimental to your mental health.

Establishing a morning routine may be difficult at first, but the benefits of a structured routine first thing in the day allows you to practice self-care right out of the gate before the day starts to creep in.

A few examples of what you can add to your morning routine to help combat depression:

Take it one step at a time so that it’s not overwhelming initially. Maintaining a regular morning routine, whatever that may look like for you, can help you manage your depression and live more fully.

6. Take Ten

By taking ten minutes out of your day to clean the environment around you, you’re contributing positively to your mental health. In fact, clutter and mess can have a direct impact on a person’s mental health.

Having visible clutter quite literally triggers your brain to become stressed and anxious. By taking control of your environment, you’re helping create focus and improving your mood at the same time.

No need to start a big overhaul – tackling an entire project can be overwhelming. Instead, take ten minutes and choose one thing you’d like to clear up or clean. Cleaning your kitchen table today? Great start! Pick up your clothes from the floor tomorrow? Perfect. Those little acts will have a snowball effect and you’ll eventually notice a shift in your mood.

7. Food is Fuel

This one can be tough as the thought of making 3 meals a day, 7 days a week can be incredibly daunting. It’s time-intensive and tiring, let alone when you throw depression into the mix. However, it is worth noting that feeding your body healthy food is one of the biggest acts of self-care out there.

You are what you eat is a cliche for a reason. Proper nutrition helps the body fight off inflammation, rest adequately, and regulate emotions. If these are out of balance, depression can worsen.

Some examples of foods you can incorporate to help combat depression:

By choosing to fuel your body with good, healthy foods, you’re choosing self-care over convenience.

8. Get Moving

When you’re deep in the throes of depression, the last thing you want to do is get up for a rigorous workout. However, any amount of exercise is better than none. Simple options such as gardening or walking are beneficial in raising the body’s endorphin levels.

If you’re having a hard time getting started, try finding an exercise that you can habit-stack with. For example, if you enjoy photography, bring your camera with you and head out for a walk around the block. If you’re not quite there yet, try to make some simple changes such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

Any movement is good movement. Your body and your mind will thank you.

9. Get Outside

When you’re feeling low, it’s so easy to get caught in a negative cycle of speaking to yourself. Words have power, and repetition of negative words only perpetuates that cycle. From that same line of thinking, repetition of positive words can make an impact.

If you catch yourself talking to yourself in a negative manner, try flipping the switch. Talk to yourself as if you’re speaking to a loved one, family member, or even a friend. Self-talk impacts our emotional state. By showing yourself compassion and love via speaking kindly, you’re handing the positive power back to yourself.

How can you implement this when you’re not feeling your best? For example, stop using words like “should,” “have to,” or “must.” “I have a great job and family, I shouldn’t feel so sad.” You’re placing unnecessary and harmful blame on yourself by saying this. Instead, it’s perfectly okay to say “I’m grateful for what I have, but I still feel sad.”

That’s okay. Your emotions are still 100% valid. Next time, try speaking kindly to yourself as if you were speaking to a friend.

10. Schedule Therapy

One of the best depression and self-care ideas you can implement for yourself is to schedule time with your doctor or a therapist. While it can be daunting to reach out, these professionals are there to help you.

Reaching out for help is one of the most straightforward ways you can show yourself love and reduce your symptoms. You deserve a happy, healthy life. Therapy can be an important step forward, and there are many different forms of therapy available today to fit your specific needs.

Happiness is Possible

When living with depression, making positive changes in your life can feel impossible. The energy to be compassionate toward yourself may feel like a distant dream. However, it is possible to feel better.

Practicing self-care takes time, but by starting small, you can develop a set of skills that can help you effectively manage your depression over time. And remember, never hesitate to reach out when you need help. Our staff at SoCal Mental Health is here to help you reach your mental health goals.

Please feel free to contact us today – we’re here to help you achieve long-term recovery.

Sources

  1. Koskie, B. (2020, June 03). Depression: Facts, Statistics, and You. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/facts-statistics-infographic
  2. Torres, F., M.D., MBA, DFAPA. (2020, October). What Is Depression? Retrieved September 24, 2021, from https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/what-is-depression
  3. Yale Medicine. (2021, June 17). How Depression Affects the Brain. Retrieved September 24, 2021, from https://www.yalemedicine.org/news/neurobiology-depression
  4. Gordon, S. (2021, February 23). The Relationship Between Mental Health and Cleaning (R. Goldman PhD, FTOS, Ed.). Retrieved September 24, 2021, from https://www.verywellmind.com/how-mental-health-and-cleaning-are-connected-5097496
  5. Bruce, D. F. (2020, February 18). Exercise and Depression: Endorphins, Reducing Stress, and More (S. Bhandari MD, Ed.). Retrieved September 24, 2021, from https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/exercise-depression