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Figuring out how to take care of yourself when you are depressed and struggling mentally is hard and here are some tips for learning how to.
*disclosure: I am not a mental health professional, just a girl who has been through it and shares her experience with others.*
Why is it So Hard to Take Care of Yourself?
Honestly, you’re probably having a hard time taking care of yourself because you are depressed.
I know when I’m going through a depressive spiral, taking care of myself is just about the hardest thing on my to-do list each day. Showers become far and few between. Drinking enough water doesn’t happen. I’m snappy and emotionally a wreck. Brushing my teeth even seems like too much.
Life is heavy.
If you’re like me and know the feeling all too well, it might be easy to recognize when you’re going through an episode. But if you’ve never felt this way before or you’re not sure if you should talk to someone, here’s an example of what depression feels like from someone who has been through the wringer.
What Does Depression Look Like?
Depression looks like pain. Everywhere. In every aspect of your life. Or at least, that is how it has felt for me. It feels painful to do the bare minimum. It feels painful to work. It feels painful to get through the day. Mentally, emotionally, and physically.
For me, depression feels like an ache in my chest. It feels like I’m being forced down by weights on my shoulders. My brain feels like a cloud. It takes everything I have to get the bare minimums done and that’s all I do. It’s sleeping a ton but also not being able to sleep.
There might be moments in the fog that feel like light, but they are short lived. The depression is still there until it magically begins to drift away and I’m able to pull myself up. Man, is it a fight. Learning to take care of yourself through something like that is a damn power skill.
Common Depression Symptoms:
Again, I am not a medical professional, but according to the Mayo Clinic, common symptoms of depression include:
- Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness
- Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
- Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies or sports
- Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
- Tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort
- Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased cravings for food and weight gain
- Anxiety, agitation or restlessness
- Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-blame
- Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
- Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide
- Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches
If you’re feeling a handful of those symptoms, odds are not only are you having a hard time taking care of yourself but you should likely seek help from a professional. If you don’t have the time for in-person therapy, Betterhelp online therapy is a great option! You can even text your therapist. I really enjoyed using the service when I was at my lowest.
The Self Care Downfall
One of the first things you’ll see suggested for helping yourself take care of yourself is probably the most annoying thing. Self care. While I am a major self care advocate, it is just not helpful to suggest to practice self care when you’re literally struggling to survive.
That is my take anyway.
Self care is great. It helps you keep yourself balanced and cared for. But when you’re struggling to make it through the day? No. No thank you.
Why is Self Care so Hard?
Okay, but why is self care so hard when you’re struggling to take care of yourself?
Well, honestly it’s just ANOTHER thing to add to the list. Some people would argue that self care is how you get yourself out of the pit, but I don’t think the self care suggestions they offer are self care at all. Brushing your teeth, bathing, changing your clothes, getting through the work day, and eating regular meals are basic practices for survival and in my opinion, that doesn’t make them “self care”.
Sure, technically you’re still caring for yourself, but I think self care is more about the extras. The things beyond what gets you through the day on the most basic level.
So, anyway, that is my hot take for the day.
Let’s dive into my tips on how to take care for yourself when you’re drowning!
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How to Motivate Yourself to Take Care of Yourself
When it comes to figuring out how to take care of yourself when you’re struggling beyond belief, the first thing you have to figure out is how to motivate yourself.
This is the hardest thing, as you likely already know.
I know that, for me, forcing myself through the mental block of getting into the shower when I’m going through a depressive episode is hard as hell. It might seem so simple to someone who is not mentally struggling, but to someone going through it, that mental block is HARD.
Here is what has helped me learn to motivate myself to take care of myself:
I have found that the only way I am able to make things happen when I am depressed is to focus on the step instead of the whole staircase.
You’ve probably heard that before, but it’s true. It helps. So much.
Showering, as our example for the day, is hard for me when I am depressed because I am too busy spiraling about all of the steps that need to happen to get to the end result and it feels overwhelming. But if I take a step back and just focus on step one: picking out clothes, step two: pulling out a fresh towel, step three: finding a good water temp, and so on. I push the rest of the list out of my mind and focus just on the step ahead of me.
How to Get Better at Taking Care of Yourself
Getting better at taking care of yourself takes time but it IS possible! Start with the one step at a time thing. One single step at a time. They can be steps as small as you want them to be. Remember, it’s just gotta work for you. Screw what anyone else says (even me!).
Baby Steps for Taking Care of Yourself
Here are my best baby steps for taking care of yourself when you’re not feeling it:
- Start with one small step at a time
- Write three things on your todo list each day and focus on getting those done
- At the end of the day, write a “what I did today” list and include absoutely everything you accomplished that day including every bare minimum item
- Use timers for yourself. Focus on working on a task in timed intervals and give yourself breaks inbetween
- Buy ready made meals and drinks so there are as little steps as possbile to fuel up
- Focus on the must do’s until you can handle those, then slowly introduce one “extra” every other day or so
- When you’re feeling up to it, read this post about self care ideas for bad mental health days
I hope this post gave you some good tips to better take care of yourself when your mental health is not doing so great. For more mental health support, make sure to follow @twinsandcoffee on socials!
I am excited to share that I am one of Google’s paid early testers for their Thank with Google pilot program. Thank with Google is a new experimental feature that allows you to thank me for a post that you have found helpful on my site. You are able to gift virtual stickers to show your support if you choose to do so! I love that it gives me yet another way to easily connect with you and that it gives you a way to connect with me!
There is an assortment of stickers for you to choose from (both free and paid) which you can leave a little personal note when you send a paid sticker. For me, these virtual stickers are a great way to support the work that goes into creating for you!
You can find the Thank with Google feature in multiple places on my site. If you try it out, let me know what you think! Thank you so much for your support!
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