Between the Earth’s inevitable tip away from the Sun, a tangible atmosphere of anxiety and helplessness permeating the world lately, and my regularly scheduled programming of bipolar unpredictability, my depression has been in hyper drive. But when you work full-time, go to school part-time, have bills to pay, and need to lose 30lbs by the end of the year to avoid needing medication again, there is no room to give into episodic mental/emotional paralysis.
I identify as someone living with mental illnesses, not a person who is their mental illnesses. While I’m not always capable of rising above and beyond a low cycle, there are a few tips and tricks I’ve been implementing the last few weeks that have helped me immensely in making sure I’m not falling behind in my responsibilities, and staying on track with being a functional human being.
1. Dry Shampoo
I’m a firm believer that whoever invented dry shampoo suffered from crippling depression. It’s the best tool in my arsenal for those days where just the thought of showering is enough to dissolve me into tears. For best results, start small, and work a little at a time into your root line. Brush it out with your fingers to avoid clumping, and towel off any excess to avoid dandruff-looking residue. While I’m mostly familiar with Oribe Gold Lust because that’s what comes in my Birchbox, retail value is about $44 a bottle. However, brands like Suave and Herbal Essence run for a fraction of that cost, offer a wide selection of fragrances and hair control.
2. Greens & Beans (No Potatoes Or Tomatoes)
I keep a bag of baby spinach and arugula on hand always. Sometimes the energy required to cook is all but nonexistent, but throwing a few handfuls of salad into a bowl with a splash of dressing and some almonds is easy peasy. Beans like garbanzo, edamame, and pinto are great brain and mood boosting foods. They crush that starchy craving that sometimes comes up with depressive episodes, and you can spice them up however you like. Eat them washed or roasted, blend them for dip, or and you can throw them into salads for a protein kick.
3. Make The Bed…Even If You’re Just Going To Sleep In It
This is probably the best habit I’ve gotten into, but possibly the weirdest when you consider on my days off, I sometimes don’t even have the energy to get out of bed. But it gives you a sense of accomplishment, and – at least for me – makes me feel like I have a little more control on things. It’s the sense that even if I physically/mentally/emotionally cannot handle anything else in my life for that day, at least I got that one thing under my belt…and with depression, every little victory counts!
4. 1:1 Rule
The first hour I wake up and the last hour of my day before I go to bed I have a no electronics rule. I work a job that requires copious amounts of screen time, go to school online, and most of my writing these days is electronic in some form or another. This adds up to a lot of my day putting strain on my eyes and my brain, so making this conscious effort helps immensely in setting me up for success. In the first hour I wake up, I don’t engage in social media, meaning I have a full 60 minutes to register where my mood is sitting for the day before I throw in any social stress. In the hour before I go to sleep, I’ll enjoy a facemask, get a little further in the book I’m determined to have finished within the next month, and also allow myself another 60 minutes to let go of any residual stress from the day. Eventually I’d like to make this time for meditation, but for now, self-care will have to do!
5. Pay It Forward
This is one of my favorite habit hacks, especially when I’m not low cycling. If you’re feeling up to it, try and incorporate doing at least one random act of kindness into your routine. I started small – sending my mom a text to let her know I was thinking about her – and now I’ve managed to work up to making care packs to carry in my car for when I come across folks in need. The positivity it sparks – whether it’s a grateful mom or a hug from a stranger that doesn’t have to worry about their next meal or water for the day – is infectious, and even though it takes a little invested effort on your end, the payout is tenfold.