One thing that not many neurotypical people know about mental health struggles is how hard it is to do regular, everyday tasks when one’s mental health is at its lowest. Even something as supposedly easy as getting off the bed can feel like a Herculean task for somebody who’s feeling extremely depressed for that day, let alone eating a healthy meal or taking a shower.
People who struggle with their mental health know how hard it is to care for themselves when their mental health is at its worst—when someone is going through a particularly challenging depressive season or episode. Here are some simple and doable self-care activities when your mental health is taking a dip.
Try one important task you’ve been putting off for a while
If there is one crucial task that you need to do but have been putting off for a while because it stresses you out or adds to your anxiety, now might be a good time to take a leap of faith. For example, if you know you need to apply for disability benefits, consider asking for help from specialists whose mission is to help those who need assistance in this area. The best part is that they don’t often charge a fee until their clients’ applications are approved, so you don’t have to worry about shelling out funds upfront. Another example is cleaning out your closet.
These tasks—or anything that can get you to work with your hands—can help take your mind off of things and can help you blow off some steam since you will be otherwise occupied with more important matters.
Monitor your symptoms and track your triggers
If you’re in the thick of a particularly awful depressive episode or anxiety attack, then we can infer that the trigger has already taken place. For now, what you can do is monitor your symptoms at least twice a day—for AM and PM. If you find that grabbing a notebook and pen is too taxing, you can look into apps that were developed for this task, like the following:
- Moodfit, which you can adjust according to your goals and how you want to track your daily progress
- MoodMission, which was developed by mental health professionals
- Talkspace, which offers the option to speak to a licensed mental health professional
- Sanvello, which provides the option to connect with peers who are also going through similar things
- Happify, which has other options for tracks that can help you focus on whatever specific area of life you want to keep track of
There is no shortage of apps in the market that can meet your particular needs and goals, so don’t hesitate to sort through the app store to find the one you feel will be most helpful to you.
Practice self-compassion and positive self-talk
If you haven’t reminded yourself in a while now, remember that depression and anxiety are illnesses. In the same way that we should never be hard on ourselves for coughing or feeling ill, we also need to be kind to ourselves when we are feeling the symptoms of our disease. That is depression and/or anxiety.
To drown out the mocking voices or lies in our head, consider writing down some encouraging notes and placing them in areas in the house where you can see them often, like the refrigerator, your work desk, the mirror, and other places you frequent in your home.
Meet your felt needs
There’s this story in the Old Testament where the prophet Elijah felt depressed and wanted to die. Instead of hearing condemning words from the angel that God sent, he was provided with food and water and was encouraged to rest and sleep. Sometimes, we underestimate the power of meeting our basic needs to make us feel better.
If you’re in the thick of a bad depressive episode, consider getting up to drink a glass of water and eat a small portion. You can also even try to sleep it off. If sleep is elusive, ask your psychiatrist or doctor if you can take an organic sleeping pill like melatonin—but don’t take drugs without their permission.
There is no denying how hard it is when our depression or anxiety is at its worst. It feels like no one understands. All of this is valid—it feels hard because it is hard. Just remember that you are not alone—send a message to your therapist, lean hard into the people who love you, and don’t ride out this wave in isolation.