So much of depression can be linked back to forgetting to take proper care of ourselves. And the more depressed we feel, the less energy we have for anything beyond basic survival. What does taking care of yourself look like, particularly when you are depressed? While it varies from person to person, there are certain basic habits that help everybody, no matter who they are: drinking enough water, eating whole foods, getting 8 hours of sleep, etc. but people are individuals, and what works for one person won’t work for another. What is necessary for one person may only be nice (but entirely optional), or even detrimental for someone else. It’s up to us to figure out what we need and to make sure we get it.
Let’s start by listing everything that sounds remotely appealing to you. Toss in every possible way to take care of yourself – yoga, getting to the gym, eliminating caffeine, connecting with friends, meditation, drinking 8 oz of water…. really knock yourself out at this stage! Don’t worry, we’ll pare it down later.
First, eliminate everything from that list that you have never actually tried. Learning new ways to care for yourself is great, but let’s start by implementing things that you already know work. You can build on that foundation later.
Now, look at any item on that list that you dread, and ask yourself a very important question: has this been helpful in the past? This may be hard, since enthusiasm is the first thing to go when depression strikes. Try to think back to times you’ve been depressed before, and see if you can see any patterns in retrospect, or if that doesn’t work, think about what makes you feel better when you are not feeling depressed. The bottom line is, if something is on your list only because you feel like you “ought” to be doing it, cross it off.
Look for any themes that may tie a few activities together into something truly critical. When I did this, my list included reading, writing, and meditation, all of which can be categorized (for me) as connecting with spirit. While I do not need to read, write, and meditate every single day, I do have to connect with spirit every day. Those all became sub-headings under one activity on my main list.
If you still have more than 5-ish items on your list, then prioritize them – what items are most appealing, or seem most important to you? Try to listen to your gut instinct, rather than your rational mind. We’re looking for what will make you, personally feel better, not what will sound most impressive to other people.
Look at your list. These are your basic operating requirements for daily functioning right now. How many of these are you managing to do every day? I’m guessing not all of them.
Of the items you are not currently incorporating into your life, pick the one that feels most appealing to you. Now, I want you to sit down and figure out how you are going to incorporate that one habit into the next four days. You want something manageable, so start slow. If you want to start doing yoga every morning and you last did yoga 6 months ago, don’t try to start with a 30 minute practice every morning. Instead, pick one asana and do that every day for four days. Build from there, adding in new activities as the previous ones settle into habit.
As you add these activities to your day and start taking care of yourself, you’re going to notice that the mere act of taking steps to take care of yourself has an impact on depression. You will feel better. At first, it’ll just be when you are performing that activity. That’s great! The first step to reclaiming your life is to get yourself a break from the depression, not to eradicate it entirely. But if you can spend 5, 10, or 15 minutes without depression’s grip on your soul, then you have something to build from. read more…