Three Self-Care Lessons I've Learned Living With Depression
If you live with depression then you know some months with depression are worse than others. This past winter I got sick and spent the following weeks in a major low. I wanted nothing more than to binge watch Once Upon a Time and lie in bed. My body felt like my bones had turned to lead. The idea of getting up to make a bowl of cereal felt like the most epic of tasks.
Then you probably know it took a lot of work to slowly pull myself out of it (along with medication and counseling).
And there were a few lessons I had to relearn about self-care along the way. I want to share them with you because by maintaining them it’s been so much easier to reover from other lows.
Let's get started:
1. Being "lazy" makes things worse.
I know everything feels freaking impossible and it's easier, a relief even, to sink under the covers and zone out to mindless television. The thing is, this is like tying an anchor to your ankle and jumping from the safety of your raft. Is not doing this 1000% easier said than done? God yes. Is the effort it takes to pull yourself out of bed, take a shower and do some basic tasks to get yourself moving worth it? Yes, yes, yes.
Set up reminders and alarms on your phone to give you that extra nudge to get up and moving. I have alarms for when to be out of bed, when to start my morning routine and when to start working for the day. I also like to do the dishes and sweep the floors before I go to bed each night.
Experiment with what works best for you. Choose a handful of tasks that get you up and moving that are relatively easy. You want to give yourself some quick wins for the day. I find once I complete these easy go-to tasks I feel accomplished and ready to take on the more difficult tasks.
2. Self-care needs to be a priority.
I know, I know, DUH you've heard this one a thousand times over. It's pretty stinkin’ obvious. If you're anything like me you know it's a priority. You put it on your to-do list! But then depression hits and it falls further and further to the bottom of your list. I mean hello! There are things with actual deadlines. And these need to get done with what limited energy you have, right?
But listen, if this has been your line of thinking too then you've got it all wrong. Self-care has an even more pressing deadline like big red alarm bells and whistles going off. We've become incredibly capable at tuning them out. But they need to get done first.
Create a Minimum Viable Self-Care Routine. What that means is decide on a few self-care acts that help you get back up and running. Then choose forms of these that are so easy it's stupid to say you can't do it because you can... because it's THAT easy. And then do it first. Do it before anything else and you will feel so much better and be able to tackle your to-do list with more ease.
What your level of self-care will look like is up to you. For me, this is some "lazy" yoga where I do some simple stretches that don't need too much effort for at least 5 - 15 minutes. For you, it could be a run, a walk or something else more vigorous. But don't feel like it has to be. I have learned the hard way that this results in me dissolving into a pile of tears because it's too damn hard. This is about making it easy to care for yourself.
3. Music is everything.
When I'm depressed music is the first thing to go out the window. It becomes intolerable. But when I'm in a great mood it's the first thing I reach for. Pulling music back into my life makes all the difference every time.
Depending on your mood put on something upbeat, rhythmic or calming. The key here is to set the mood for yourself so, like, don't reach for the emo stuff okay?
At first glance a lot of this obvious. It certainly wasn’t new information to me. I had known this all along.
But what I (re)learned was HOW important it was. Hint: critical. When we go through a period of depression that is manageable it becomes so easy to let our healthy habits slip away one by one. But just like with a house, self-care needs a foundation to sit on so it can weather both the good times and the bad. And this is why reminders and recurring to-do items have become a staple in my day to day routine. It creates one less step to think about. It’s on the list and so it needs to get done. I've recently turned to ToDoist for this. I can create lists for each life sector and sort tasks by priority level. This makes deciding what tasks are most important a no-brainer. And yes, you can bet your butt I've set reading, journaling, and yoga as top-level priorities.
What are some of your ah-ha self-care lessons? Do you have that one lesson that you need to learn over and over again? Meet me in the comments and let me know to share your experience.