You probably see lots of people talking about self-care on social media. Especially now that various advocacy groups like mine, the Mental Health Awareness Project, are raising more awareness of mental health and mental illnesses. But do any of their suggestions actually help you, or are they realistic?
I truly hope you’ve found some things that work for you, but in case you haven’t, here are my top five self-care ideas that actually work and help ease my depression, even if only for a short time.
1. Take a bath or shower
Listening to music while I take a warm shower is one of my favorite things to do when I’m experiencing a depressive episode. While it sometimes takes me a few days or even over a week to muster up enough energy or motivation to get off the couch or out of bed long enough to do anything other than use the bathroom or grab a drink from the refrigerator, I always feel better after I follow through with a shower. Always.
I know what it’s like to be unable to get out of bed some days. There have been times I experienced a severe depressive episode and wasn’t able to bathe for over two weeks. It’s okay if there are days you can’t manage to take care of yourself. If you’re struggling with this right now, my best advice for you is to make a plan to bathe tomorrow, and do your best to follow through. If you’re unable to follow through, don’t feel bad, because all you can do is your best. Just keep making a plan to bathe, and keep doing your best to follow through.
Tip: Use a face sheet mask after you bathe. This isn’t a tip for just ladies. This goes for all genders! I use a face sheet mask after I take a shower and it’s incredibly relaxing. I buy the ones that moisturize, but they have a few different types. I usually buy mine from Walmart (they’re $2.50 each), but Sephora and Ulta have them, too. It’s not much, but it’s a little something I do to pamper myself.
2. Brush your teeth
It may not seem like a big task to accomplish, but brushing your teeth might help you feel better during a depressive episode. Especially if you haven’t been able to take care of yourself lately.
There’s something about brushing my teeth with a mint-flavored toothpaste that helps me feel a little better. Sure, the effects won’t be long-lasting, but if you’re like me, any break from the darkness helps.
3. Draw or paint your feelings
Drawing or painting is a great way to release your emotions and feelings in a productive, healthy way. Try creating a piece of artwork based on how you feel, whether it’s just colors and shapes, stick people, or a specific image.
Take a moment to think about how you feel. What comes to mind when you think about your mood? Certain colors? A severe storm? A wilting flower? Draw it out! Paint how you feel.
The image to the left is a photo of some of my drawings on the folder I received while I was a patient at our local inpatient facility for suicidality. On the first day, I drew my name and storm clouds, and then later I added the bird and trees.
4. Complete a household chore
Chores are one of the first things I neglect during depressive episodes. Because who gives a shit about some dirty dishes or soiled socks when you feel so poorly, right?
See the picture to the left? That’s a real, far from staged, photo of my kitchen sink. You aren’t alone.
Ironically, I start feeling guilty when the dishes, laundry or trash pile up, which has a negative effect on my mood. To tackle it, I use the same technique I mentioned in number one. I make a plan to complete something, do my best to follow through, and if I’m unable to, I simply try again the next day.
Your goal doesn’t have to be a huge task. Set simple, achievable goals so you don’t overwhelm yourself and risk making the situation worse.
For example, one day I may set a goal to wash the dishes in the left side of the sink. If I’m able to do it, great! Depending on how I’m feeling, I might try washing the dishes in the other side of the sink. If I’m not able to wash any of the dishes, I do my best to not beat myself up about it and try again tomorrow. Because honestly, that’s all we can do: our best. For many of us, simply getting out of bed to stand up and stretch for a few minutes is a huge achievement.
5. Remove negative or toxic people from your life
Removing negative or toxic people from your life can be challenging, but it’s very healthy and empowering. There’s so much negativity in the world, so the more we can avoid it, the better.
We all have a right to do whatever we feel is necessary to protect our mental health. If someone you know brings negativity and toxicity into your life, you may want to consider reducing or severing contact with them. This includes social media! Ever gone through your follow list? It feels so good to unfollow, unfriend, or block people you don’t care to interact with.
Self-care is an extremely important part of recovery. Life, even. But there’s no cookie cutter techniques or methods that work for everyone. What works for me may not work for you. And that’s okay, because we’re all different.
These are my top five self-care ideas because they always work for me, even if I sometimes have trouble following through. I really hope they work for you, too.
If you have trouble following through with self-care, please don’t give up. You may not think that self-care is a big deal or that you don’t deserve it, but it is and you most certainly do.