If you live with depression, life can be easily divided in good days and bad days.
Currently, I consider I had a good day if I have done all or most of the following: gotten out of bed, ate, exercised, connected with another human being (even just with a text message), made sure the house is tidy and reasonably clean, engaged in mindfulness/meditation, got some fresh air.
I also have “middle” days, in which I can only manage a few of the above but don’t have the energy for all of them: in those days, I try to set the intention to accomplish one thing (clean the bathroom, take a walk), in order to give myself a task and hopefully a manufactured sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.
Then there are the bad days, days in which even reading the “good day” list is exhausting, getting out of bed is really hard, and the idea of eating is almost sickening.
I have had a lot of bad days in the last few months, and I have grown somewhat tired of lying down in front of them, so I have devised some acts of self care to combat them. I hesitated before writing down the words “self care”: the internet has somewhat trivialised and commercialised self care, insisting that your “depression” will magically disappear if you practice it. In my opinion, it stems from a misuse of the word “depression” to describe sadness, tiredness, a bad day, PMS, etc.
Depression is an illness, and a face mask isn’t going to cut it when it comes to curing it.
These are not magic fixes and I can honestly say that my bad days are still pretty shit, but these simple acts make me feel a little bit better, and reaffirm that I have some degree of control over how I deal with my depression, weakening its hold on me.
I can’t stop a bad day from showing up, but I can make it a bit easier on me, and that’s good enough.
1 – Wash your face and care for your skin
It seems like a silly thing to have to point out, but anybody who has ever dealt with depression knows that sometimes we need these reminders. I try to force myself to wash my face and stick to a simplified version of my normal skincare routine even on the worst days. The whole sequence (water, soap/cleanser, rinse, dry) down to sitting or standing in front of the mirror to apply products or just a slather of face cream, reconnect me with me and reaffirm that I love and care for myself, even when I don’t feel it.
2 – Stay away from the news
if I am having a really bad day, my head and my heart have no space for more negative thoughts and feeling. I get very emotional when I read bad news, and unfortunately the world out there has more every day.
Does this seem selfish? Sometimes you have to be selfish, even if you are an otherwise caring person. If you are already drained and oppressed by bad thoughts, you need some times and space to regroup. It’s ok to not read the paper for one day. Focus on yourself.
3 – Change out of your pjs / shower
We’ve established you’re unlikely to go out today. That’s ok. There is no shame in needing to stay home to look after your health. If you had the flu, nobody would be expecting you to go out.
You should still change out of your PJs and into some comfortable loungewear, some battered leggings and an old t-shirt, or even another pair of PJs.
If you can manage, take a quick shower before you slip into your day PJs. If you don’t have the energy for it, it’s ok. You can shower tonight before bed, or you can even skip it, maybe just wash the parts of your body you feel need to be washed.
I know some days even washing yourself feels like too much, but I encourage you to try if you can; once you’ve done it, you will feel even just 1% better, and you will avoid the trap of even more negative self talk because “you didn’t even wash yourself today”.
4 – Set a small goal for yourself
This can be anything that you can reasonably achieve, and will boost your mood. Only you know what your energy levels are, so only you can decide what you can manage.
These are some of my favourites, I generally pick one or two of those depending on how drained I feel: cook oatmeal, watch one movie, sit down in my beanbag with a colouring book, make a cup of tea, file my nails, moisturise my feet and put on big fluffy socks, put on a face mask, do 10 minutes of meditation.
5 – Stay hydrated
Some people forget to eat when they are having a bad day. It happens very rarely to me, and only on the absolute worst days. More often, I forget to stay hydrated: drinking less water is actually one of the ways I realise I’m not doing well. When life was easier, I was fanatical about both drinking enough water and sticking to an elaborate skin care routine. They are both self care things, and they tend to fall off when the days get worse.
Not drinking enough water has several negative impacts on your day, from headaches to dizziness and muscle cramps. You really don’t want to add that to an already crappy day, so try your best to stay hydrated. Sometimes I use a reminder on my phone that just tells me to DRINK UP, it doesn’t need to add a layer of complexity to your life with yet another app or a new gadget.
Maybe you manage all of these, maybe only one or two…or maybe you’re having such a hard time that all you do today is lie in bed.
That’s all right too. Do what you have to do to get through the day, and hopefully soon you will feel a bit better. You got this.
All content is my opinion as an individual living life with anxiety and depression. It can’t replace professional advice and help when needed. Please seek immediate help if you are thinking of hurting yourself or others.