Practicing self-care when you're dealing with depression can seem downright impossible - symptoms like fatigue, a lack of interest, feeling numb, or having trouble concentrating can mean that even the simplest acts of caring for yourself can seem like too much. That being said, self-care can be an important part of managing your depression. We've put together a list of self-care ideas for depression that go beyond bubble baths and mani-pedis!
We're sure you've heard many times that exercise is helpful for depression symptoms. That being said, we're not asking you to sign up for a marathon! If there's a physical activity that you enjoy or feel up to doing, embrace it, but if the whole notion of fitness seems insane, that's okay, too. Just incorporating a little more movement into your day and, eventually, chaining these little bits of movement together, is a great act of self-care. Maybe you spend a little more time walking around your house, take a few minutes to stretch, or try out a 7-minute yoga routine.
Make a List of Small Things You Find Beautiful
All of us can easily get so caught up in our day-to-day lives that we often overlook the little things in life that are pretty awesome. Not to mention, depression has a sneaky way of making these things even more difficult to appreciate. Creating a routine where you write down 3-5 things everyday that you found beautiful, that made you smile, or that you were grateful for not only gives you a wonderful list of special things to look at when you need a reminder, but it also helps to train your brain to notice the good things in the everyday.
Allow Yourself to Be in Nature
Nature has been shown to have a TON of benefits for both physical and mental health. Making it a priority to spend some time in the fresh air can be a wonderful act of self-care. If you're able, a walk can be a great way to get some exercise and experience nature. If you're not, heading to the park and taking a seat on a bench or standing for a couple of minutes in your backyard is awesome, too. If leaving the house is out of the question, opening the window, caring for an indoor plant, or treating yourself to some fresh flowers are great ways to experience nature.
Take a Shower and Put on Fresh Clothes (or Clean Pajamas!)
Sometimes self-care looks like taking care of your personal hygiene, and it totally counts, too! If it's been a few days since you've had a shower or bath, we encourage you to make getting cleaned up a priority. If you're into it, use some smelly products and warm your bath towels up in the dryer so you're cozy when you get out. Change into some clothes that you feel great in, or just opt for clean pajamas - either way, you'll feel a little bit fresher.
Reach Out to Others
Depression tends to make you want to isolate yourself and, while saying "no" to things that drain you is totally okay, human connection is pretty important. Reaching out doesn't have to be something huge - it can be sending a quick text to know you're thinking of someone, or writing a letter. If you're feeling isolated, volunteering, connecting with others on Instagram, or joining a Facebook group can be helpful in developing that connection.
Keep Track of How You Feel
Monitoring how you feel is important to know when you might need to slow down, incorporate some more self-care practices, or ask about making changes to your treatment plan. Whether you keep track in a bullet journal or planner, create your own mood chart, or opt for an app like Stigma, tracking your mental health and keeping note of any physical symptoms can provide helpful information to both yourself and your doctor.
Do Something Creative
Doing something creative without any expectations can be a great way to express yourself, to feel present in the moment, and to experience something new. Maybe you try following a painting tutorial on YouTube or perhaps you opt for something more repetitive like an adult colouring book.
Take any Prescribed Medication or Suggested Supplements
Although it's definitely #boringselfcare , taking any prescribed medications or supplements suggested by your doctor is an important way to take care of yourself. If you're having trouble remembering to take your medication, try setting a timer on your phone or use an app to ensure that you're taking your medication as prescribed.
Play With or Cuddle a Pet
Free of judgement, pets can provide a seriously comforting presence. Curl up with your pup in bed, or let your cat sit on your lap. If you don't have a pet, offer to pet-sit for a friend or, if you've got a bit more energy, offer to walk dogs at your local animal shelter. If nothing else, remember that there's a wealth of adorable dog and cat videos on the internet - watching a few might not be the same as cuddling with a bundle of fur, but it might bring a smile to your face.
Make Yourself a Quick Meal or Snack
If it's been awhile since you last ate, your best self-care might look like having a quick snack or a bit of meal. We suggest pancakes, protein-rich Greek yogurt, a brain-boosting smoothie with a sprinkle of flaxseed, trail mix, or a homemade chia pudding full of omega-3's! If you've got a little more energy, batch cooking meals that you can freeze like soups and pasta can make it easier to get a good meal in you on days when you're not able to cook.
Make a Playlist
We all know that music is such a powerful force - but it's also really individual and dependent on your mood. We love creating playlists for different ways that we might feel, or for different times of the day. Maybe you're into an energizing playlist that makes you want to dance around, or maybe what you need is something that you can listen to when you're needing a good, releasing cry. Or perhaps who brings you comfort is songs that put into words how you're feeling. Whatever songs you choose, having a playlist loaded on your Spotify makes in easy to turn on whenever you need a moment of easy self-care.
Ask for Help
Asking for help often seems really intimidating, but it is a wonderful way to lean on those who love you and want to help while also taking some of the burden off you. Maybe you could use some help getting groceries, an extra set of ears at a doctor's appointment, or just someone to watch Netflix with. If you're having trouble getting the support you need, consider looking into support groups or seeing a new doctor. The act of asking for help is both one of the strongest things you might ever do, as well as an incredible act of self-care.
Create a List of Things That Make You Feel Cared For
We're all individuals - and our experience with depression as well as what is helpful for us is just as unique. As you try different acts of self-care, make sure to note which ones make you feel cared for or that you find comfort in. This will give you a list of ideas to try when you're in need of self-care, and a great resource to reach for on bad days.