March 23, 2016

How I Help Ease Depression With 5 Self-Care Steps

My 5 Self Care Tips For Depression

Depression. It may not be the most upbeat topic for a lifestyle blog and it's a far cry from sugar-coated tutorials and styled photoshoots, but talking about mental health is high on my agenda, which, if you're a regular reader, you already know.
It wasn't a conscious decision to delve into my own struggles or to even bring up mental health, but it's something that is at the forefront of my mind and ends up spilling into my writing. I want to be able to share any steps I've made that have actually helped ease my depression.

If you live with depression, or indeed any other mental health problem, self-care is a term you may be familiar with. The way I see it, self-care is basically intentional actions to help maintain stability and good mental health. Sometimes, self-care consists of small favours I do for myself when I'm in the midst of an episode and the goal is not so much maintenance as it is survival.

I wanted to share 5 self-care steps for depression that are helpful to me when I'm going through a low point and/or need to practice a little self-care...

1. Do Something

If I don't have plans for the day (I only work part-time and do other work from home usually) I'm more prone to falling into a negative thought pattern. I know that I like to feel useful and engage my brain - if that's not happening, my mood can deteriorate throughout the day. I try to have something planned, not necessarily with other people or a social event, but something as simple as walking into town and sitting in the coffee shop for a little while (it helps that my pal works there). The exercise, fresh air and human interaction does wonders to lift my mood. Granted some days this feels impossible and I can't think of anything worse than leaving the safety net of home, which is when my next point comes in to play.

2. Get Clean

On those days where there is more chance of me running for Prime Minister than leaving the house, I either run the bath and throw something bubbly in or get in the shower and scrub myself head to toe, including my hair. There is no better feeling than being squeaky clean and, more often than not, it helps takes the edge off my mood. It just makes me feel somewhat productive when I don't have the mental capacity to do anything else. Plus, a bit of grooming/TLC always makes me feel better. I'll exfoliate and moisturise my body, maybe tint my eyebrows and file my nails. I do prefer baths for the relaxing aspect - I can put my phone on the windowsill and pop a podcast on and just be still for an hour. Cleaning also applies to my house. I get super stressed by mess and clutter, so we keep on top of housework, especially laundry and dishes. I always make the bed on a morning and keep the bedroom tidy because it's my favourite place to be.

3. SLEEP

If you didn't guess from the last point, I'm big on sleeping. Bed is my safe place. I soon notice the effects if I've had a broken night's sleep, or a few late nights in succession. I become irritable, teary and find it hard to function. I'm sure this can apply to anybody, but if you have depression, poor sleep can multiply the intensity of low moods and the feeling of being unable to cope. If this rings a bell, make good quality sleep a priority. Establish a good nighttime routine and be in bed before 10pm if you can. When I'm finding it hard to get to sleep, I limit screen time, soak in the bath and read a book once I'm in bed to help me wind down. As a counter point to this, getting out of bed early (or pre-8am) is also a good idea. I feel like it helps set my intentions for the day, If I wake up and laze around in bed I end up feeling slow and unproductive.

My 5 Sef-Care Tips For Depression

4. Get Creative

Speaking of productivity, I have never thought of myself as creative, but it's worth remembering that creativity takes on different forms for everybody and doesn't apply to only artistic efforts. Writing, embroidery, fashion and photography are all aspects of creativity. Nothing beats the satisfaction that comes from completing a project, but I know firsthand that when I'm going through a dip, the last thing I want to do is be creative, start something new or research a project. I'm able to recognise my good days and try to use those bursts of energy to plan ahead or make a start on something. Even when it comes to writing this blog - I have tonnes of drafts with different ideas and posts that I work on as and when the inspiration takes me, rather than trying to force one particular subject. I find this method really helps now that I'm back on track with blogging regularly and planning ahead. Whatever your creative endeavour, it's likely that you can pick it up and put it down when it suits you - having something to hand that's ready to be worked on is a great way to escape your head for a while. It's also a good way to learn something new, whether through taking a class or following a Pinterest tutorial.

5. Move

I feel like The. Biggest. Hypocrite including this point. I don't exercise nearly enough and go through phases of sticking to practicing yoga every day, to finding it the hardest thing to face, BUT there's no avoiding the fact that I do feel better when I exercise regularly. It is something I'm trying to include as a routine, rather than something I 'need' to do. I try to increase my activity levels overall - things like walking 30 minutes into the city centre via the canal rather than taking the bus. I find I am generally more active in spring/summer as we go on walks and try to make the most of any free time outside of the house (everything is better in the warmer months, right?). It's worth remembering that exercise needn't be intensive or gruelling, as long as you're moving, hell maybe even sweating - it all counts. Don't compare yourself against people who are regularly running 10k and doing spin classes when you feel exhausted just walking to the shops.

Obviously mental health issues are complex and vary so much from person to person. It's difficult to be in control of mood fluctuations, but I prefer (or try) to maintain good mental health rather than dealing with things when I'm already in a bad place. There's days where all of this is pretty far from my mind because things are going well, but sometimes I just have check in with myself and take some time out.

I hope this has been somewhat helpful and not condescending, which is my fear. Above all, please remind yourself that living with a mental illness naturally saps a lot of energy and even the small achievements are huge victories. I'm not advising you to sell yourself short or stop challenging yourself, but I know that I prefer to listen to my needs and take each day at a time.

What's your top self-care tip? Is there anything here that you absolutely cannot face doing when you are low? How do you celebrate your victories? I love hearing from you and welcome your thoughts - feel free to leave a comment below, the form is open to everyone x 

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11 comments

  1. Such a heartfelt honest post. I'm with you on sleep - I don't get nearly enough and for me that's what can help or break a situation ❤️ Looking forward to reading more from your blog x

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    1. Sleep is so important. I find that I'm jittery and unable to cope with usually mundane things and it has a knock-on effect. I hope you can find ways to squeeze more sleep in! Thanks for your kind comment, Jules x

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  2. Such a good post. I have been around people who struggled with depression (and suicide attempts) my whole life, which has had an impact. I wouldn't say I feel like I have ever needed to seek medical help, however I do feel like it has had an impact upon the way I manage things emotionally.

    I find that getting enough sleep (and napping if I can) plus regular exercise (I try to go to the gym 5-6 days a week as it keeps me sane - I can plug in a podcast/music and shut the world out while lifting heavy things!)is the best form of self-care. After working overtime continually for the last 3 weeks and not sleeping as much I have noticed a huge difference in the maintenance of my mood/positive attitude.

    Lovely post Katie - your blog is so multi-faceted which is a nice breath of fresh air.

    - Nicola x

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    1. Thank you for the kind words, Nicola. Good on you for trying to keep on top of things, I know how hard that can be x

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  3. Your heart is in the right place to write this, but depression is where you stop caring to care for yourself. You don't see the point in doing or cleansing, creating or moving and perhaps you sleep too much or not enough but it's something you feel is out of your control.
    This might be a trendy blogpost but it's a misnomer to think you can 'care' yourself out of depression.

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    1. You're talking to a person who has lived with depression for 10+ years - on the very day she's finally been able to see a psychiatrist for an assessment re: a diagnosis because it's clear she isn't just experiencing reactive depression or generalised anxiety.

      This isn't just a 'trendy' blog post. It comes from my experiences of how I cope with depression on the days I'm able to do so - the days I have enough energy to look after myself and my mental health. Self-care is a relevant and positive thing, when you're able to practice it.

      If you're assuming that, because I can write something intended to be helpful, there aren't days where I can't leave the house due to crippling fear, days where I don't brush my teeth, days I can't even look at my reflection, days I can't interact with anybody... Well, you're wrong. You've filed me under 'trendy' because I've chosen to be open about my struggles and tried to make it into something positive for a change. From another perspective, my mother is bipolar - I had to grow up with the very real and very damaging effects of what depression is.

      I don't think your heart was in the right place when you decided to go out of your way to criticise and embarrass me without having considered my experiences.

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  4. Hi Katie,

    This post resonated with me and it doesn't come across as condescending in the slightest - never mind 'Anonymous' above. You've made it clear that these are your self-care methods for your better days, so thank you for sharing them.

    I particularly agree on the sleeping/making/doing front. I'm a florist and I'm fortunate that my job is a form of creative therapy most days, when I'm not dreading having to interact with other humans!
    Swimming too - although I tend to go at 6.30am before work to minimise lane sharing (with said humans)! Worth the early start for the calm that follows. Not to mention freshly cleaned changing rooms and showers!

    Keep posting and thanks again flower xx

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    1. Thank you so much, Sofia. Your kind words mean a lot to me. Your job sounds incredible - definitely therapeutic! It's good to hear about the things that help you. I need to get over my fear of swimming - I mean, I can swim and I love water, but I hate the idea of exercising around people! x

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  5. Katie I was wondering if you had ever listened to any of Brene Brown? I am massively into self help books and she is pretty much the Queen. It is about vulnerability and shame and I found it really great. I think you are brave to share and put yourself out there xx

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