Depression Self-Care for When You’re Really Depressed
When you’re depressed, it can be hard to practice self-care. Self-care, though, is essential for beating depression.
Depression forces its own ways of thinking, feeling, and doing (or not doing) on people. Depression’s control is hard to resist, and giving into it comes to feel natural. Self-care for depression becomes increasingly difficult.
A decreasing ability to practice depression self-care has absolutely nothing to do with laziness. No one actually wants to remain pinned by depression. This is why self-care is so vital; self-care helps you begin to rise up out of depression. The following ideas for depression self-care will help get you started.
Depression Self-Care: WRAP It Up
Self-care is vital; unfortunately, depression can make people forget about caring for themselves or about knowing what to do for self-care. In The Depression Workbook (2001), Mary Ellen Copeland discusses the importance of having a written plan in place to provide guidance when you’re really depressed.
Copeland, along with people she’s helped, developed the idea of a Wellness and Recovery Action Plan (a WRAP). A WRAP includes such things as
- A daily maintenance list. Creating a list of depression self-care necessities makes it easier to take care of yourself. A check-list of actions such as taking care of personal hygiene, getting some exercise, eating regularly and well, and doing something enjoyable can help you break free from depression even when depression feels overpowering.
- Triggers to be aware of. Certain things tend to worsen depression. Triggers can be food-related (for example, processed foods can worsen mental health conditions like depression). Triggers can also be people-related (a well-meaning aunt who constantly tries to cheer you up by telling you to just stop being down and start enjoying life), or they can be related to situations or events. While avoiding people and things in general actually worsens depression, identifying specific triggers and creating distance from them is a powerful aspect of self-care.
- A list of steps to take when things are worsening. Having a list to turn to with people to contact, special things to do (reading a favorite book, watching a funny movie, snuggling with a pet) helps stop the downward spiral.
WRAPs are very individualized. What’s important is the concept of creating a personalized plan for depression self-care and to use it regularly.
Depression Self-Care Means Appreciating Yourself
Depression makes people extremely hard on themselves. It’s difficult to break from depression when depression tells you horrible things and causes you to describe yourself with negative labels. When depression makes you think things like, “I’m stupid,” “I’m so worthless,” “No wonder no one likes me,” “Why try, because I’ll just fail,” the idea of self-care can begin to feel pointless.
Depression self-care means countering such faulty, depression-driven thoughts with real things you appreciate about yourself. Make a list and carry it with you to review it often. Tips for making a self-appreciation list:
- Start where you are. Reflect on your current self, and identify strengths and positive qualities. What things, big or small, do you do well? What kind of person are you? Caring? Helpful? Persistent?
- Be aware of your own best self. In times when your depression is better, what’s different? How do you think, feel, and act? What successes have you had?
Appreciating yourself is an important part of depression self-care because it helps you regain a healthy, accurate perspective of yourself.
More Self-Care Ideas for When You’re Really Depressed
Self-care is a broad term that includes a way of being with yourself and a way of doing in the world around you. Depression has a way of making it hard to think of ways to practice self-care. This partial list of self-care ideas just might inspire your own ideas.
- Exercise or engage in mild-moderate activity (such as housework) daily.
- Create, and stick to, a sleep routine.
- Make time for play and laughter every day.
- Pay attention to small pleasures.
- Appreciate beauty around you and in yourself.
- Decrease the amount of time you watch television, play video games, and use social media.
- Get out into nature.
- Participate in neighborhood or community events.
- Have lunch or coffee with someone.
Create a list of depression self-care ideas and keep it handy. Then when you’re really depressed, you’ll already be prepared to practice self-care and start beating depression.
Last Updated: 15 October 2018
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD