Self-care is a crucial aspect of maintaining well-being and attending to your fundamental physical, emotional, social, and mental needs. It’s also about prioritizing the things that bring fulfillment and nurture you. But for those of us who may experience depressive symptoms, self-care can feel impossible. Add to that the isolation due to COVID plus frigid Chicago winters? You feel drained and unmotivated. Caring for yourself may feel like a wholly unattainable and foreign concept.
When Self-Care Feels Impossible
It’s important to recognize that this is not due to laziness or weakness—there is a neurobiological reason for the lack of energy you feel. Depression affects the frontal lobe area of the brain, which is responsible for executive functioning. When you live with and manage depression, it may be increasingly difficult for you to perform certain skills such as problem-solving, attentiveness, decision-making, planning, and prioritizing. Because of this, it makes sense that self-care would be challenging.
10 Gentle Steps Towards Self Care
The good news is that our brains are adaptive and that new neural pathways can occur! Here are some tips in gently cultivating a self-care routine in the midst of depression to help recover your executive functioning.
1. Start small
Validate the fact that the symptoms of depression will make self-care difficult. Set small goals for yourself, such as getting out of bed or taking a shower. Give yourself permission to focus on just one task, and know that you may need to break that task into even smaller tasks. This segmentation or “slicing it thinner” may help reduce some of the overwhelm from all of your responsibilities by allowing you to concentrate on smaller, specific steps.
2. Activate your senses
Depression can leave you feeling numb and empty. Activating your five senses will help combat fatigue and awaken an invigorating sensory experience. Try to pay attention to what you see, hear, taste, smell, and feel. Not only is this an excellent grounding technique, but it will also help stimulate your frontal lobe functioning.
3. Accept your feelings
Although it’s natural to want to avoid any uncomfortable or distressing feelings, the more we suppress our emotions, the more intense they become. Escaping our true feelings can bring on guilt leading us into a shame spiral, which is never helpful. Allow yourself to take some time to identify your emotions. Feel them, accept them, and remind yourself that it is temporary. Honor whatever is coming up for you without judgment.
4. Joyful movement
Physically moving your body (in any way that you are able) releases stress. Whether this means taking a virtual yoga class, going for a walk with your partner, or doing some in-bed stretches, finding a way to move your body will benefit you.
5. Stay hydrated
Drink water throughout the day. This habit helps flush out toxins and keeps our bodies optimally functioning. Start your morning with some warm lemon water as a peaceful way to begin your day. Keep a water bottle by your side as a visual reminder to stay hydrated.
6. Do something you like
Write out activities and hobbies that you enjoy. And if it feels like nothing makes you happy anymore, think back to other times in your life and what has previously brought you joy. Try to spend some time each day engaging in one of these activities, such as watching your favorite movie or painting.
7. Light up your life
Especially during the winter, a lack of sunlight can contribute to some substantial mood changes. Sit outside or near a window for a few minutes each day, or get a vitamin-D lamp to simulate the energizing effect of the sun. This small change can make a big difference!
8. Connect with social supports
Limited social interactions due to the pandemic make living with depression even more isolating. Schedule phone calls and virtual hangouts with loved ones for added support during these challenging times. Let your friends and family know how you’re doing so that you don’t feel so alone.
9. Take vitamins and nourish your body
Our physical and mental health are directly connected, so ensure that you are providing your body with the nutrients it needs. Grocery shopping and cooking nourishing meals may feel so overwhelming – if that is the case, ask for help or order grocery delivery. Focus on eating one nutritious meal per day and build up from there.
10. Speak to a counselor
Times are tough. Reaching out for help from a mental health professional can help boost your self-care routine. A counselor will not only listen, empathize, and validate (which are all crucial for healing!), but they will provide practical tools and skills to help you feel more like your best self.
Connect with us at Pure Health Center today! We’ve made it super easy to sign up for your first session, and with virtual appointments, connecting with someone who can help has never been easier.