Self-care has become a bit of a buzzword online recently, and although it is quite annoying I genuinely do think that a lot of people could benefit from a go-to routine for taking care of themselves when they feel mentally or physically worn out. Since being diagnosed with depression and generalised anxiety disorder 4 years ago I’ve had to find ways to calm down, relax, get motivated… to basically try and bring my energy either up or down depending on where my head’s at. It’s not easy, so I’m sharing my tips for showing yourself some love on days where the world seems like too much to deal with. Please bear in mind that this advice should not be used in lieu of medical help but is simply based on my own personal experience with depression.
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you’ll know I have a complicated relationship with food. On my low days I stereotypically avoid eating all day because I associate it with guilt and being overweight. Bad idea. This inevitably ends up with me overeating in a monumental fashion late in the day, usually in the form of ice cream, chocolate and an assortment of baked goods. Aaaand cue more guilt. Not a good state of affairs. To stop this cycle I’ve learned to try and start my day with a well balanced meal containing protein, carbohydrate and fat e.g. Cheese and onion omelette with a side of porridge oats, or full fat Greek yoghurt with berries. I try not to restrict foods on my bad days because chances are I’ll get emotional and this is a trigger for me to binge on unhealthy foods. If I allow myself a few treats throughout the day as I crave them this seems to keep my emotional eating at bay and avoids the blood sugar roller-coaster I seem to go through when I deny myself things like carbs and fat.
Take it slow
My husband truly deserves a medal for handling me on a bad day. He is so good at letting me take my time, and he has made me realise that the worst thing I can do is to rush myself on these days. If I think about all the little things that need done – taking a shower, washing, drying and straightening my hair, putting on make up, finding an outfit – I feel totally overwhelmed and just hide under the covers until it’s dark again. Without sounding patronising, my advice is to only think about the task you’re doing that very moment, and to take it in baby steps. The biggest hurdle for me is always getting in the shower. Pre-wash I feel like I will crumble at any moment and can’t string a sentence together. I’ll cry all the way through the shower and by the time I’ve washed and conditioned my hair I’ve exhausted myself enough to stop for a breath. Somehow after a good ‘shower cry’ the world doesn’t seem quite so horrendous. Also, I need to point out the importance of washing my hair when I feel this depressed. Beforehand, the task seems monumental but when I’ve done the deed I honestly feel born again when I have clean hair. It’s a key part of my regime, not to be overlooked. If I need to lie around for 2 hours before I consider make up and hair styling then so be it. In fact, sometimes it’s more helpful not to attempt it at all and just enjoy a make-up free face and a loose topknot. If I can find time, I also like to do another beauty treatment like a face mask or painting my nails just give myself that little bit of extra attention.
This might seem like an obvious thing to do, and you’ll probably want to succumb to sloth-like behaviour when you’re feeling low but it’s worth considering how you can truly feel rested in body and mind. When my brain is in overdrive, thinking about all the things I have to do and how crap I am as a human being I find if helpful to work off some of that nervous energy to allow me to ultimately feel more relaxed. I personally really enjoy the gym so if I feel like I have enough energy to do a light workout then I will, and I like the feeling of achievement that comes from doing that. On the other hand if I was planning a workout and I woke up feeling incredibly low, I’ve learned it’s OK to change my plans and do absolutely nothing. Obviously you don’t have to go to the gym if that’s not your thang, but sometimes a walk round the block and some fresh air will help tire you out enough to get a good sleep. A lot of medical professionals say you shouldn’t sleeping during the day when you have depression because it creates a unhelpful sleeping pattern but when I’ve hit a bad one and look like a zombie, an afternoon snooze is impossible to avoid. It works for me once in a while and I try not to make a habit of it.
What are your tips for self-care?