I’ve battled depression for as long as I can remember. I’m clinically diagnosed with bipolar type 2, but it comes with some serious lows. If I’m not proactive in my mental health, these lows become increasingly easy to succumb to. The familiarity of this place is almost comforting and my coping tools that used to help, no longer serve me. This is why it’s vital for me to continue working on my mental health regularly. I’m going to attach my list of things I do when I first feel an episode of depression approaching, as well as one for my absolute lowest of lows.
For when depression begins to strike…
- I do one thing a day that I do not want to do that I know will make me feel better. For example, if a pile of laundry has been bothering me for weeks, I force myself to do at least one load. Or if I don’t feel like socializing, I will call someone for a quick chat or schedule a lunch date. You can make this your own.
- I get artistic. I color, paint, read, write, draw, etc. Anything to get me out of my head for a while. This may not seem like a productive use of time to some, I personally really struggle with that, however doing things to better your mental well being so that you may be a more efficient person all around is extremely productive.
- I watch a sad movie to let my feelings out in a way that is not self destructive. That does not mean watching something you may find triggering; it means viewing a film that invokes strong enough emotions to have a good cry. Crying releases stress hormones and contrary to societal portrayal of crying, it is healthy to cry sometimes.
- I set a time limit on how long I’m allowed to feel angry or sad and I stick to it. So within a 15-30 minute time frame, I allow myself to be as upset or pissed as I need to be to fully release the emotion. Once that times up? I do something positive right after. I refuse to wallow in those emotions, but I still dedicate time to letting myself feel what I need to feel.
- Journal. I journal out every minuscule thing I can possibly think of that has been bothering me. This usually guides me to the source of my depression and or shows me how many things have been piling up to send me snowballing into a low. This enables me to see which areas of my life I need to prioritize and work on.
- Try something new. If you’ve never written, try writing a poem or story. Draw. Even stick figures, who cares? Anything new to you to break the routine rut you may find yourself falling into.
- Create a self care box. Mine personally contains a comforting fuzzy blanket, some warm socks, tissues, a coloring book, colored pencils, a list of my favorite upbeat songs, a notebook and pens for writing, a snack, etc. Make it yours and make it a safe place to go to when you’re struggling.
- Perform a random act of kindness. Write someone a letter, visit a shelter, donate a dollar to a good cause, clean up some trash outside, whatever can help someone or something else. Helping others never fails to make me feel better.
- Make a doable to do list and check off the hardest item first. Getting stuff done, especially nagging tasks, is incredibly daunting initially but so relieving to cross them off the to do list.
- Make a list of things that make you smile, laugh, feel happy, songs you love, etc. Jot down some positive things that make you feel good. Gratitude lists are always a great choice.
For lowest of lows…
I know sometimes self care feels impossible. I too have sat in bed, crying my eyes out or feeling numb, and too depressed to move. Yes people, this is a REAL THING that happens to people who lack particular chemicals in their brain that are supposed to manufacture happiness. And it truly sucks. This list is for when things feel impossible. My first list helps me avoid reaching this point but sometimes “the drop,” as I call my deep lows, just happens. And it’s okay; you’re never back at square one because you’ve gained wisdom or learned more about yourself.
- Wash your face. Seriously, even with just makeup remover wipes, this can help you wipe away that yucky I’ve-been-in-bed-forever feeling. It keeps you proactive in your hygiene.
- Try stretching while in bed to get at least some movement going. Even if it’s a simple arm stretch, something is better than nothing. Always.
- Keep a healthy snack in a bedside drawer, such as dried fruit or almonds. Please, try to eat something. I know how hard it is to care enough to eat, but you matter and your body needs nourishment.
- Dry shampoo your hair if you haven’t showered in a while. Powdered face foundation or baby powder (when used lightly) can help sop up any oil too. This gives you a sense of cleanliness and maintenance without the exertion of a shower. Again, some is better than none.
- If you can, try to put on an intense show that will not be triggering. It might be engaging enough to help pull you out of that dark place so that you can proceed to try other things too.
- Remember to take it one baby step at a time. Recovery isn’t linear, it isn’t an on and off switch and it’s okay to have bad days.
If you are in crisis, please call 911, text Hopeline 741741, or call the Suicide Hotline 1-800-273-8255.