When I began struggling with anxiety and depression I often heard about the importance of self-care. The ideas I read at the time seemed frivolous, silly and unhelpful to me. Activities such as taking a bubble bath, getting my nails done or a night out was often suggested.
That’s fine in theory –
However, when you’re in a battle for your mind, taking a bubble bath isn’t an answer, it’s an unnecessary to-do that you don’t have the energy for.
I desperately wanted someone to take my hand and walk me through the strange, fogged out mental state I found myself in. Thinking straight was difficult enough, let alone actually DOING anything productive. I was constantly forgetting everyday things and at my worst, felt incapable of taking care of myself or my family.
I would love to tell the person that is deep in an anxious or depressed season –I seemed to go from one to the other in rapid succession – to take a vacation or go for a night out on the town. But in reality, this may not be possible or even desired.
With anxiety and/or depression steering the rudder, it’s the everyday things that are the most difficult. Therefore, every day is where we need to begin.
Anxiety and Depression Series – 9 Practical Self-Care Tips
Every Day To-Dos:
Get up and make your bed.
As I’ve mentioned before one of the main symptoms of my anxiety was insomnia. For a long time, the easy thing to do was lay around and not make my bed or do barely anything when I was so exhausted. At some point during my struggles, I decided to make my bed every day, no matter what. Even on days I barely slept I would force myself to get up out of bed and make it. Something about the act of putting all of the pillows and blankets back on my bed each morning made me feel as though I had a do-over, a fresh start. Over time I made my bedroom into a soothing sanctuary rather than a place where I felt anxious about sleeping… or lack thereof. Maybe it’s not your bed for you, but I would encourage you to find that one thing that you can do each day that says to yourself, “Today is new, yesterday is gone.”
Brush your teeth, wash your face, shower and do your hair.
Some days of depression can leave you feeling as though brushing your hair is the most exhausting task in the world. Cleaning up and caring for your body each day sends a signal to your brain that you are still living and you are worth it. I’m not talking about getting dressed up and doing a full face of makeup. (If you can, great!) I’m talking, clean teeth, clean face, clean hair, clean clothes. If only one out of all of these is accomplished – that’s ok. But when you’ve done it, you’ve accomplished something and this sends an affirming signal to your brain.
It’s hard enough taking care of yourself, throw a bunch of kids into the mix and you’re left feeling incapable. I’m going to pause here and tell you mom-to-mom (or dad, if this is you) It’s ok to not give them their perfect nightly bedtime routine, I promise THEY WILL LIVE! We are so darn hard on ourselves – throw in anxiety and depression and every mistake becomes a”10,” when in reality, it’s not a big deal at all. Write out a reminder to do those important things for your kids and family, whether that be brushing teeth, bathing or homework. Maybe put a pop-up on your phone or a note where you look every day.
Anxiety especially can wreak havoc on a digestive system. There were times I could not physically keep food down because of the anxiety I felt. I had to learn how and what to eat during these times. I would suggest having healthy, easy to eat options around. No sugar added applesauce was a go-to for me. I love that now they have little squeeze packs. Yes, they’re for kids, but they should totally be marketed to people with anxiety! There are great options that contain veggies and fruits now. Other foods I found helpful were oatmeal, scrambled eggs, and mashed potatoes. Making sure to get protein is important. Smoothies that have protein in them are a great option as well. Try your best to steer clear of unnecessary sugar and caffeine.
Talk to your doctor.
Whether it’s getting on an anti-depressant or getting blood tests for deficiencies, this step is an absolute necessity. It’s also a great idea to bring a loved one with you to the appointment, they can be your voice when you can’t find your own. Which brings me to #6:
Ask for help.
It’s so hard going through anxiety and depression alone. You are carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders and still need to take care of yourself, family and possibly a job as well. Do not be afraid to reach out to family or friends that you trust to help. If you have the money to do so, hire a house cleaner or get a service that delivers meals. Anything that relieves the pressure. *On the flip side, if you have a friend or family member suffering in this way, PLEASE help them. Bring a meal, watch their kids, hang out with them. DO NOT shy away.
I know, I know… who wants to exercise when you are anxious or depressed? Trust me, your body and your mind NEED this. Even if it is only a walk; strap on your shoes and go outside. It is proven to stimulate all of the feel goods inside your body. Even on days I struggle with sleep or feel really down, I force myself to do my workout and without fail, I feel better. So go out and walk, run, swim, bike, swing or take your dog out for a walk – speaking of:
Spend time with pets/kids/family & friends.
Our greatest problem is that we forget to get out of our own heads. Begin that process of stepping outside of yourself for a moment and really listen to someone or something else. I love sitting with my dog and just petting her when I’m anxious or talking with one of my kids and listening to their day. It’s a win/win because I feel lighter and they are happy because they are getting my undivided attention.
Get rid of all unnecessary to-dos with a brain dump.
I remember one particular day, I was having a really anxious time and my mind wouldn’t shut up, I was sure I had failed at life. I decided to write out my to-do’s to organize my thoughts. When I did, I realized that really only 2 of the things on the list needed to be done and the rest were unrealistic expectations I was putting on myself. There are days you will not have it in you to do the big things. Be okay with that and let it go for a day when you do have the energy. When the unnecessary to-do’s pop up again, remind yourself that you wrote it down and it’s not for today.
And last but not least: Remember, you are going through something very real, Give yourself time to heal and give yourself grace…
Your body is reacting to everything going on in your mind. Taking care of yourself is your job right now.
Put your to-do list somewhere where you can see it every day and congratulate yourself for everything you accomplish. It may seem silly to be proud of brushing your teeth but it’s not. You are taking care of yourself and your family, against all odds. You overcome a little more every day when you choose to actively participate in your life, in spite of the anxiety and/or depression you feel.
A necessary disclaimer: I am not a doctor, I am not a professional with letters after my name. I am someone who has lived with anxiety and depression for over 20 years. Read about me here. I may have life experience and insight… But I would suggest you seek professional help if you feel you need it.