This post on self-care for depressive episodes was kindly written by Nyxie’s Nook. For full details for her blog and social media channels please check below!
We’ve all been there at least once in our lives. We work so hard and move so quickly towards the next goal that we forget to look after ourselves in the process. Our lives and the people in them take priority over our own health and, suddenly, we’re struck down. For some, this might mean getting over a period of chronic stress. For others this could mean a temporary or life-long battle with mental illness. Whether it’s burnout, anxiety, depression, or something else. All are equally as debilitating. It’s at these times that we suddenly need to learn how to practice self-care; an area the majority of us are lacking in. We’re constantly being taught that we need to get to the next goal, to be humble, to be polite and kind. But we’re never taught that we need to remember ourselves among the whirlwind.
Prior to 2019, I wasn’t aware that self-care was anything more than the norm. Eating properly, exercising, going to work, and sleeping, the first of which I was severely lacking near the end of 2018. I had stopped feeding myself correctly partially because of a relapse into anorexia, partially because chronic stress had ruined my gut and partially because I simply didn’t have the time. Everything was moving too fast, my pills hadn’t worked in a long time and I was falling deeper and deeper into a complete mental breakdown.
Then my grandmother was diagnosed with terminal cancer and my world came crashing down. I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t eat and I couldn’t even sleep. There were nights when I would lie awake feeling the ache in my stomach and heart as I imagined a world without her. There was nothing akin to self-care in my routine anymore, and when I was inevitably signed off work to get help, I pretty much stopped practising the basics I needed to lead a reasonably normal life.
During a depressive episode, self-care activities feel like more of a chore.
Doing all the things I usually do to make myself feel better begin to feel like climbing a mountain. Mindful colouring? Nope. Video games? Forget it. Light yoga? Are you joking?! All I want to do in those moments are sleep and hope the world will feel better when I wake up. It’s during these times that we need to step back, breathe, and take it back to basics.
Self-Care for a Depressive Episode
Instead of fighting against depression and pushing yourself to the limit, it’s best to accept it. I don’t mean allowing yourself to become completely overwhelmed by it. You should still work to fight against it but remember that even the strongest people suffer from depression. Fighting is getting up the next morning and trying again. Accept that you have depression but remind yourself that it’s not a sign of weakness or a reflection of your self-worth.
Having depression means that we have to accept that we might suffer from a depressive episode from time to time. We might get burnt out and exhausted much more easily than those who don’t suffer from such disorders, and that’s okay. Look after yourself in those moments. Speak kindly to yourself and remind yourself that with medication, therapy, and perhaps some lifestyle changes, depression isn’t a death sentence.
Track Triggers & Symptoms.
It can be easier said than done, but keeping track of your triggers and symptoms can help us understand what influences a depressive episode. This enables us to catch the signs and counter them before it escalates. You can begin to track known symptoms and triggers using a diary or the notepad on your phone. Some even track their moods over the course of a month, rating them on a scale of 1 – 10 which can help them manage episodes in the future.
While experiencing a depressive episode this may seem like a bit of a chore. Therefore I suggest starting a log when you’re feeling mentally stable.
Allow Yourself to Rest.
If you’re feeling low on energy and have the option, allow yourself to take a nap. Don’t feel guilty about feeling exhausted!
Note: Become aware of where the exhaustion is coming from. Is it mental, physical or emotional exhaustion? This can make a big difference to what needs done in order to shift it! Naps, although helpful, can become a coping mechanism in themselves and that’s where self-care shifts to self-soothing.
Reach Out for Support
Reach out to your partner, friend etc. for support. Even if it’s just letting them know you’re feeling crappy. Because sometimes we just need someone to listen to us. Talking to others can help rationalise what we’re feeling and give us the support we need to come out of a rut. Make sure that you have a trusted friend or family member that you can call on in times of need (and vice versa).
Failing that there are various helplines available with volunteers ready and willing to help you through it.
Keeping in contact with loved ones is especially important during the current pandemic. COVID-19 has thrown a lot of us off our game and has caused quite a bit of upheaval. For those having to self-isolate, it can be the breaking of their recovery. As hard as it might be, make sure you keep in touch with your loved ones from a safe distance. Us the technology that the 21st century has given you and call your bestie for a virtual coffee!
Remember the Basics!
Eat. Shower. Brush your teeth and, for goodness sake, remember to drink your water! It can be hard to make ourselves participate in the basics such as these but they’re essential to getting ourselves back on the right track.
Although it easy not to eat or simply migrate from the bedroom to the living room without so much as brushing our teeth, indulging in such behaviours can easily lead us further into the depressive state.
*A quick note on stimulants.
Coffee is the first thing I reach for when I’m feeling low, not just mentally but physically. Although it may be easy to reach for stimulants like these, they can actually have the opposite desired effect. Although it may keep you awake and alert, coffee can actually increase the levels of anxiety in our bodies. Therefore, when experiencing a depressive episode, it’s best to avoid overindulging in caffeine.
For more posts about self-care check out:
Do you have any tips or tricks for self-care when things are hard? We’d love to hear them so let us know below!