If you’ve ever been depressed, you probably already know that, in this state, pretty much everything feels hard to do. Getting out of bed is hard. Taking a shower is hard. Talking to friends is hard. Basically, anything that falls into the realm of “self care“–an umbrella term that generally covers small things you can do for yourself every day to make yourself feel better–feels like a huge insurmountable challenge. But. You should do them anyway.
Obviously, the usual self-care tips like “drink herbal tea” and “do more yoga” can only go so far. There is nothing wrong with drinking herbal tea and doing yoga to combat depression, obviously–nor is there anything wrong with finding these things to be legitimately helpful when dealing with depression or anxiety, as many people do–but upholding them as methods of treatment that are as useful as, say, medication and cognitive-behavioral therapy is ludicrous. For many people, depression is something that never fully goes away, and requires lots of outside help to manage, so trying to “heal” it all on your own is an unfair (and potentially damaging) burden to take on all on your own.
Still, this doesn’t mean that you have to feel totally powerless. If you’re feeling depressed, you should look into some outside forms of help–therapy, counseling, anything–and then try out some of these things you can do to take care of yourself when you’re depressed:
1. Get some exercise:
If you have ever seen Legally Blonde, you will already know that endorphins–which come from exercising–make people happy. (You might know this from science, too.) This doesn’t mean that you should expect a single SoulCycle class to turn your whole life around, obviously, but doing anything that gets your blood moving–going on a bike ride, taking a walk around the block, and, yes, doing yoga–will most likely make you feel at least slightly better than you did before.
2. Write in a journal:
Some research has indicated that journaling is a good way to deal with depression. Even if you only write in your journal when you’re feeling sad or angry and never actually look at what you wrote down again, this can help you process your emotions and make sense of your actions and those of people around you that led you to feel this. At the very least, it’s a good means of catharsis (I have many, many journals filled with angsty, depressive bile that would not benefit anyone to look back on), so, if nothing else, you can try journaling to try and excise your thoughts.
3. Create a support system:
You might not want people around you right now, and that’s okay. But, if you can, try and tell people who care about you–friends, family, etc.–what’s going on with you. They might be able to offer ways to deal that you haven’t been able to think of, as well as help with basic tasks that you have to keep doing, like homework and work.
4. Light some candles:
If you’re in an environment that allows for candles (read: not a college dorm, not an area of dry brushland), try and light some scented ones. This sounds like a yoga and herbal tea-type self care method, and in many ways it is. But certain scents can help deal with depression, and flickering lights are nice, so, at the very least, lighting candles will be soothing.
(And if you’re an environment that doesn’t allow for candles, some fake candle votives and essential oils will basically do the same thing for you.)
5. Do a small, manageable task:
There is a lot to be said for crossing something off of your to-do list. If you’re able to do anything, do just one small, tiny thing you’ve been meaning to do for a while, like calling your grandma or vacuuming that weird pile of dust that’s collected in the corner of your room. You’ll feel some satisfaction from getting the job done, plus a sense of purpose.
6. Eat some vegetables:
There is no single vitamin that can cure depression, but, since your brain reacts to what you eat and drink, eating a healthy (or, at least, healthy-ish) diet is a pretty important way to manage your mental health. It’s easy to eat poorly (or forget to eat at all) when you’re depressed, so if you haven’t been eating anything except for Funyuns for three days straight, you shouldn’t blame yourself. Just see if you can integrate some protein, fruit, and vegetables into the mix.
7. But also eat a cookie:
Or, you know, any not-technically-healthy-but-still-good-for-the-soul food. Eating tons and tons of sugar won’t make you feel good, but neither will restricting yourself from things you want to eat. Eat your spinach, make sure you’re consuming protein, but also, like, eat some chocolate. Balance!
8. Take a shower:
Or take a bath. And wash your face. And brush your teeth. Basic human cleanliness is something that feels insurmountable when you’re depressed but, if you can manage to do it, you’ll feel better afterwards.
9. If you can, make your bed:
If you’re able to get out of bed (even if it’s just to move to the couch) try and make it. This automatically makes your room feel less cluttered, which, in turn, will give you a sense of purpose and make feel calmer overall.
10. Watch your favorite movie:
Sometimes, all you need to do is veg out with some comfort entertainment. If taking a break to watch Rent is the only thing you can fathom doing right now, go ahead and do it–in the long run, it’s worth it.
11. Or TV show:
TV is good too!
12. Read a book:
Sometimes, the best form of distraction is away from a screen–pick up a book, one you’ve read or otherwise, and try to read it for at least ten minutes.
13. Try meditation:
I do not like meditation, personally. I am bad at muting my thoughts and I am bad at sitting still for long periods of time and I am bad at not getting foot cramps, which means that meditation is not an activity in which I tend to excel. Many people do, however, love meditation, and say it is particularly beneficial for dealing with depression. If you want to give it a try, there are a bunch of free meditation apps that you can test out without feeling like you have to fully commit.
14. Get off social media for a little bit:
I am not a fan of faux-deep anti-social media platitudes like the one above. Choosing to not be on social media is not an inherent sign of worth, as some people seem to think. But removing yourself from social media, even if only for a little bit, can actually be a great means of self care if you’re feeling depressed–on pretty much any form of social media, you’re only going to see the shiny, shellacked veneer of your peers’ positive experiences, and none of their hard times. It’s not real (which you’re smart enough to know) but seeing constant couple pictures and new job announcements can make you feel even worse if you’re feeling down.
Getting off social media also doesn’t mean that you have to get off all forms of social media, either–maybe Instagram and Snapchat make you sad, but Tumblr makes you happy. Whatever the case, pick and choose what works for you.
15. Drink some tea:
Look, herbal tea is good. It won’t cure your depression! But it is good.
What do you think of these tips? Do you have some self-care advice for when you’re feeling depressed? Let us know in the comments!