As promised in my previous post, I am now going to talk about self-care that's not so much fun. This kind of self-care involves things we know we NEED to do in order to take care of our bodies and minds, yet often we don't WANT to do them. This kind of self-care encompasses healthy habits and coping skills. It's not as easy as some may think. For those of us with depression, falling into old, negative habits and unhealthy coping mechanisms is rather tempting, and sometimes we give in to that temptation. (This from the girl who stayed up until 1:00 this morning scrolling through Facebook and Instagram.) So, what are these not-so-fun self-care things we should be doing? And is it possible to make them more fun, or at least bearable? Let's talk about it.
- Eat healthy foods. I'm going to admit I have not been doing this the past couple of months. I can feel it, too, in both body and mind. I've been busy, stressed, and overwhelmed. I haven't felt like menu planning or cooking. My teens have been busy. One is working long hours. The other will be looking for a job soon. They don't alternate cooking with me too often these days. I have a daughter with significant special needs who is home for the summer. I have major depressive disorder and some days it really kicks my ass. We are on a TIGHT budget. I've had so many excuses or reasons or whatever you want to call them, but I'm menu planning TODAY. I will be putting healthy food on that menu. I have done it before and stayed within the budget, and I can do it again. My fellow depression warriors, listen to me. I know it's hard. There are days I likely wouldn't get out of bed if I didn't have to take care of my daughter with special needs. Depression is like that. (And, yes, I'm on antidepressants and have a therapist, too.) But we have to take care of our bodies. We make things much worse on ourselves if we don't. I have been doing this lately, but I refuse to feel guilt over it (another lovely feeling depression likes to pummel us with.) Start small. Have fruit for dessert rather than something not so healthy. Add more vegetables at dinner and cut the bread. Eat more fresh food and less processed food. Make small changes. We can do this.
- Move your body. This is another thing that often feels impossible for those of us who have depression. There are days when I sit in a chair or on the couch, moving only when absolutely necessary. It's like I'm weighted down. It feels almost painful to have to get up and do anything. I am numb. I'm sure my readers with depression know what I'm talking about. Some are probably wondering how in the hell they're supposed to get up and exercise on days like that?!? Relax. I didn't say the word exercise. I just said move. Sometimes that might mean walking to another room. It might mean getting out of bed. Again - small steps. You might open your door and step outside. Eventually, you might decide to take a walk. I've had seasons where taking a shower was my accomplishment for the day, and then I've had seasons where I exercised 45 minutes a day 4-5 days a week. Depression is not predictable. Healing is not linear. Do what you can when you can. Movement helps; it truly does. Maybe it's not so fun, but it's self-care that we need. And, let's face it. We've made it through much harder things.
- Get adequate sleep. Yeah, okay, I failed at that last night. I'm feeling it today. I'm pumping myself full of coffee, Coke Zero (which I don't regularly drink), and likely I'll be bouncing off the walls soon. In my defense, though, I typically go to bed around 10:30 and get up around 6:30, so I'm practicing what I preach (usually.) Now, since Depression decided to bring a little friend with him named Anxiety when he came to live in my brain, I got a bonus of racing thoughts and issues with insomnia to go along with my melancholia. Nice. Well, because of this, I have to take a prescription at night so I can sleep. If you need medication, there is no shame in that. You must have sleep in order to manage and cope with your depression. Other than medication, some other things I do to help me prepare for sleep are to drink (caffeine free, of course) chamomile tea with lavender before bed and burn lavender incense (BEFORE I fall asleep.) I also turn off bright, overhead lights and read by lamplight. Create a soothing nighttime ritual that you can stick with.
- Make and keep appointments. I am not the best at making appointments, other than to see my psychiatrist and therapist. I know I do not need to miss scheduling or attending those. But other appointments? I'm overdue for my mammogram, my eye exam, and I'm sure something else, too. I will make those appointments this week. I promise. You all can hold me accountable. But back to the psychiatry and therapy appointments. My followers with depression, please make these appointments and then show up for them. And when you're there, be honest about what you're feeling. If you're struggling, say so. If you're having suicidal thoughts, tell your doctor or therapist or both. If you keep quiet or lie on the questionnaire, you are hurting yourself and possibly those you love. If you're afraid telling the truth is going to get you put in inpatient again, that's a good sign that you probably need to go back to inpatient. Look, I know how miserable it is in there. I've been there, done that. But if it keeps you safe, you need to do what you've got to do. Maybe it's not fun, but there are worse things. You feeling me?
- Take your medications. Finally, if you're on antidepressants, take them as your doctor prescribed. They are not medications that you can stop taking when you feel better. I've actually known people who did this. The result was not pretty. Antidepressants do NOT work that way. Don't change the dose yourself. Don't try to wean yourself off. Don't add more. Just follow your doctor's instructions. I care about you. I don't want to see you do anything to harm yourself. *On a side note, some people see taking medication, especially for depression and other mental illnesses, as weak, but many people, myself included, need medication in order to be able to function. That's just the way it is. If you have any questions or comments about mental illness and antidepressants and weakness, contact a psychiatrist. They are doctors; likely you are not.* Okay, back to my strong and brave fellow depression warriors. If you need medication, take it as prescribed. Doing so is an important part of self-care.
*Note for ignorant, pill-shaming individuals*
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
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