Dealing with depression, in a word, sucks. On the worst days, when the loneliness and hopelessness seem crushing and unendurable, it's difficult to do anything other than lay in my room and cry. Even on the relatively good days, depression lurks in the back of my mind like a nearly forgotten nightmare. It drones on and on, making the days blur together and draining the color and vibrancy from life. It is more than sadness; it's an unending exhaustion, sapping all creativity and motivation from an otherwise productive person. It is a weight on my chest, pushing me down and making it impossible to get out of bed.
It sucks, okay.
But it is something that I, and many other people, have to deal with. There's no easy way to get around it, and no amount of yoga and exercise will magically cure depression. Therapy and medication does wonders, of course, but even then, the goal for most people is living with depression, rather than getting rid of it completely.
Coping with depression isn't easy, but it is doable. Self-care isn't just about feeling good; it's about making depression more manageable. Feeling good is important, of course, but people must be mindful that their "self-care" isn't really just avoidance. Watching Netflix instead of doing homework feels great in the moment, but later, when your assignments are due, not only will your grade suffer, but the resulting guilt and anxiety will make dealing with depression even harder.
The best self-care tips add structure to your daily life and pave the way for you to have small victories: both are incredibly important when dealing with any mental health issue, especially one that zaps away your motivation and self-worth. Self-care won't look the same for everyone, as everyone has different abilities and needs. That said, I've tried to outline my tips to be as general as possible so that anyone reading this might benefit, even a little.
1. Clean your living space.
When getting out of bed is an undertaking in and of itself, trying to clean up your living space can seem almost impossible. But trust me, it's worth it. Having a messy room can worsen any bad mood you're having and make productivity more difficult. You don't have to clean everything all at once, but focusing on small, important tasks, like cleaning the dishes and doing laundry, can really help. Your living space will be cleaner, you'll feel more motivated after having done a few, necessary tasks, and you're setting yourself up for success later on, when you'll need those clean dishes and clothes.
2. Don't spend the day in one spot.
This one is especially important for anyone who's out of school, unemployed or on break. When I'm home and not on campus, I tend to spend my entire time in my room. Even if I clean it and make it look nice, spending all my time there in my pjs can make me feel trapped after a while. If you feel the same: take a shower, put on clean clothes that are not pajamas, and spend time somewhere you don't usually spend time at. This could be your living room, the kitchen, a park or the closest Starbucks. You still might just be watching Netflix or scrolling through Instagram, but wearing clean clothes and doing things in a new space can make your day seem more eventful and better your mood.
3. Record you life.
A symptom of depression that most people don't talk about is how it affects your perception of time. For many, including myself, depression can impair our ability to create long-term memories. We may only be able to recall particularly negative experiences, if we can recall any at all. Our days blur into each other, creating the impression that our life is dull, sad and uneventful. Some people are unable to recall months or even years of their lives due to depression. To counteract this, take pictures of any positive thing you encounter: a cute animal, a nice flower, a good grade, a party you went to. This helps remind you that you are experiencing your life and all the positive things it has to offer.
With depression, it's easy to isolate, especially when you feel like you don't deserve others' companionship. Don't listen to the voice saying you're not worth it: you are. If you haven't seen someone in a while, call a friend or family member and make plans. Engage with others online: comment on their selfies, respond to their posts. Cuddle with your pet. Make a counciling appointment. One of the worst aspects of depression is the loneliness, and connecting with other people is vital.