by Mattias Sommers
It can be challenging to find the time and energy to put into taking proper care of yourself. Not to mention when depression is involved, it is twice as hard to do. Depression has a way of making you feel so run-down and tired that all you want to do is sleep or lay down, but this can only perpetuate the depression. It is vital for those suffering from an episode of depression to fight to find the motivation to engage in activity that makes them feel better, although initially, it seems impossible to do. Taking time for yourself is an essential part of maintaining good mental health, and there are various ways we can achieve that. Keep reading for tips and information on how you can practice self-care even when your mental health is at a low.
What is Depression?
Depression is a mood disorder that includes feelings of intense persisting sadness that manifest as feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and worthlessness. To meet the clinical criteria for depression, one must exhibit five symptoms outlined is the DSM-5 for at least a period of two weeks Source. These symptoms are depressed mood, lack of energy, hard time focusing or remembering details, sleep too little or too much, lack of interest in activities once enjoyed, thoughts of death or suicide, anxiousness or irritability Source. It is important to note that depression differs from sadness as sadness is experienced by everyone from time to time, but depression is a persisting sadness that affects day to day living. It also can physically manifest as aching and pain.
What Exactly is Self-Care?
Self-care can be defined as taking action necessary to maintain or improve one’s physical, mental or emotional health. Between working, education, caring for children or any other demands that life brings, it is hard to put self-care at the top of your to-do list sometimes. Self-care looks different for everyone as people find comfort and improvement in various actions and activities. It is an active choice that one must plan to incorporate into their daily or weekly routine to do for themselves and their overall health. For it to be considered healthy self-care, we must ENJOY doing the activity we choose. If it is stressful or does not bring us joy, then is it really self-care? No, it’s just another activity that we are performing that is bringing us down instead of lifting us up. Self-care looks different for everyone, so while your friend may find relief and happiness in taking the time to walk around the block every morning, maybe you find comfort in cooking yourself an excellent nutritious meal for dinner on certain days. It is absolutely fine for your self-care ritual to differentiate from others, as everyone has different interests and reactions to various activities.
What are the basics of maintaining proper self-care?
Some things are necessary for us to do to live a balanced and healthy life. Starting with the basics of self-care is the first step to achieving a healthier and more stable life. Some of the basics include:
- Spending time with friends and family and maintaining relationships: Support from loved ones can do wonders for your mental health and help you to stay uplifted. It is a great way to feel motivated to fight the lows of depression and avoid isolation, which only further exacerbates depressive symptoms.
- Maintain a sleep schedule that allows you 7 to 8 hours of rest each night: For those that are prone to depression, sleep has more of an effect on your mood than you might realize. When you are tired and lack energy, this might trigger depression. But keeping yourself alert and ready to take on the day’s activities is a great way to keep yourself from falling into an episode. It is also necessary for our brains to function effectively, and to keep a schedule is always a great way to stay healthy.
- Eat a healthy diet: We have been being told since we were children that vegetables and fruits are necessary and useful for us. But there is a science behind all that fuss. If our bodies are taken care of and being given the nutrients they need, then our brains will have more energy to ward off low moods and give us the power to take on whatever life throws our way. So to put it simply, eat healthy and your mind will reward you!
- Exercise: This might be the last thing you want to do when you are experiencing depression, but the endorphins released from exercise have shown to improve mood and maintain better overall health physically, mentally and emotionally. Just like when we provide our bodies proper nutrition, taking care of the body will help you take care of the mind. It is also a great way to prevent falling into an endless cycle of not being able to get out of bed, which is probably all we want to do with depression, but I promise you this will only hinder your abilities to get better.
- Make sure you are maintaining medical check-ups: Going to the doctor or your therapist can sometimes be the last thing we want to do, but it is always essential for us to be sure that we are on the right track with our health. Many health problems can trigger depression, so it is still best to rule out any medical possibilities and give yourself peace of mind that you are on track health-wise.
- Make sure you take the time to engage in at least one activity that brings you pleasure each day: Taking time to make yourself experience something that brings you happiness is more important than one might think. It helps you realize that there are things out there that you can find some joy in and that life is not just all stress and hard work. It really is the little things that matter.
Examples of self-care activities that you can do
Depending on what you enjoy, the following may be something you can use to incorporate into your self-care plan.
- Spend some time outside each day, walking or exercising. This does not have to be long, sometimes fifteen minutes is enough.
- Find a new hobby to practice (woodworking, painting, writing, cooking, yoga, sports, etc.)
- Keep a journal and make a new entry every morning or night.
- Get a planner and plan out your days if you like organizing.
- Spend some time watching a favorite tv show or new movie and relaxing.
- Set up a relaxing environment and listen to some music for a set amount of time.
- Take a bubble bath (I LOVE doing this to relax and wind down).
- Cook a nice meal and spend time with your friends and family for some time.
- Do some crafting (knitting, sewing, DIY home projects).
- Call a friend or family member and have a friendly chat.
The options are endless, and if it is something that makes you happy, then it is something that is helping you improve your mood and overall mental and emotional health!
Although depression might be telling you to crawl back into bed and sleep away the day, routine and self-care is a way to fight your way out of a low mood. We have to remember that depression is always trying to trick us into not living life, and the only way through it is to fight it by taking care of our health and engaging in things that help us relax or bring us joy. So rip those covers off, pull yourself up, and be kind to yourself and your body. You will be rewarded in the end and your mental health will thank you.
About Mattias Sommers
Mattias Sommers is a Mental Health Advocate who’s a strong supporter of the use of cannabis and CBD to treat mental health. Leading with empathy and understanding, Mattias hopes to educate others to help those struggling to overcome hardships live a more fulfilling life. Mattias’ self-care routine includes art, poetry, photography, and caring for her dog Josie.
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