Depression is a part of my story and has been for many years. Here are some ways I’ve learned to love and care for myself through depression. I hope these simple practices and ideas can be of help to you or someone you love. If you’re struggling, please know that you are not alone.
1. Get a light therapy lamp.
This is the one I use and I’m so grateful for it. It was a gift from a family member who has been a nurse in a VA hospital for many years and this is one tool they use to successfully help patients with depression. It has been healing for me to sit next to my lamp and have my morning cup of coffee. Then I’ll sit in front of it again throughout the day while I drink some tea or water, read or watch a little tv.
2. Surround yourself with things that spark joy.
One way I’ve done this is by cultivating a place in my home that feels like a “warm hug”. The place where I sit and do my daily light therapy not only has my lamp but also plants, candles, fairy lights, books including my Bible, photos, a cross, art work that inspires me, my guitar and my stereo ready to go with favorite cds (yes, I’m a little old school). These things spark joy for me so this is where I find the most peace in my home and where I like to relax. Start by picking a place in your home where you like to spend time and then create a cozy, relaxing spot surrounded by things that calm you, inspire you, remind you of loved ones and the things that you love to do.
3. Open the curtains (or blinds) every single day.
When you’re depressed it’s easy and sometimes even comforting to sit in the dark and hide from the world. I encourage you to let the light in, even on cloudy days. It will help you to feel more connected to the world outside when you are feeling alone and empty.
4. Find a lotion that you like and moisturize your skin with it.
Sometimes you have to the bring the spa to you. There’s something about massaging a cool, nicely smelling lotion into your hands and legs that can instantly lift you a bit. It’s also incredibly relaxing and can be very grounding too. My depression tends to hit in winter when my skin also happens to be drier. For me, upping my lotion game is a win win. If motivation is lacking, keep the lotion where you sit and watch tv, or on your nightstand.
5. Practice good hygiene and self care.
If you do nothing significant today it’s okay but at the very least brush your teeth, floss, take a warm shower and put on deodorant. If you don’t need to leave the house or you’re a stay at home mom or work from home, get dressed anyways. Feeling clean and put together will help you to feel better and to be more productive and motivated.
6. Put on your makeup and give yourself a mini makeover.
If wearing makeup makes you feel more pulled together when on the inside you feel out of control, then go for it! I tend to focus on my makeup more when I’m depressed. Feeling a little extra beautiful on the outside helps me to feel more confidant when I have to be out of the house and I’d rather be in my bed. Treat yourself to some new products and change up your beauty routine. It will feel like a mini makeover. A new eyeliner, shimmery powder, eyeshadow palette or tinted chapstick just might spark enough joy, encouraging you to get up and ready for the day. I feel my best when my hair is curled, my makeup is on and my nails are painted so I try to keep up with that, especially when I’m depressed and doing so makes me feel better.
7. Wear clothes that make you feel good.
I personally love to wear soft, stretchy, cozy things when I’m feeling down. Leggings, soft long sleeved tunics with thumb holes, light, baggy sweaters, aloe socks or memory foam slippers; these are all things that make me feel comforted and calm. Depression tends to bring out aches and pains, from muscles and joints down to your tummy, so soft and stretchy clothing can make you a littler happier when you don’t feel great. The more clothes feel like pjs, the better. Help yourself be more comfortable by wearing things that make you feel good throughout the day. If you need to dress up for work or otherwise, wear fabrics that are calming to you. Perhaps you’ll trade out the high heels for a memory foam flat, or pair a silky blouse with some fleece lined leggings. The more comfortable you feel, the easier your day will feel.
8. Ditch the alcohol and trade it in for something good for you that tastes great.
A glass or two of wine can definitely take the edge off and help you feel less sad, but it can also push you into a deeper depression or into a dependency situation. So fight through the desire to rely on alcohol during your depression and treat yourself instead to some nice, good -for -you teas or other drinks you enjoy. Try something new! I especially love kombucha. Gut health is important and kombucha is a great way to improve yours. It tastes great, there are so many flavors and brands available and the light carbonation is very satisfying.
This is my favorite
9. Cut back on caffeine.
There’s pretty split research out there on the affect caffeine has on mental illness and overall health. But my take on it is that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to cut back a little. Cutting out caffeine completely, especially during a bought of depression, especially when we feel extra tired, isn’t a good idea. It’s also tempting to load up on extra coffee on overcast winter days, when the moody blues have taken over and the yawns won’t stop coming. Instead of a 3rd or 4th “Cuppa Joe”, try adding in a cup of green tea instead. Then after a while try replacing that cup with a decaf tea you like. You’ll be pleasing your tastebuds, will still have that sensation of being warmed by what’s in your mug but won’t be trading too many cups of coffee for a 1am bedtime. Plus, the antioxidants in the tea are an added bonus!
Here’s my favorite green tea
And this is my favorite “coffee” replacement. Why? Because it has a subtle coffee flavor and the vanilla is super tasty!
10. Drink water.
And then drink more than you think you need. I struggle to drink water anytime of year but it’s especially hard remembering to stay hydrated when I’m depressed. Keep a large water bottle with you and refill it throughout the day. This is my favorite cup to carry around the house and on the road. I can use it for cold or hot drinks. Water stays cold and ice stays frozen for hours! Plus it’s really cute!
If you’re worried you still won’t remember to drink it, try an app for your phone. There are apps that will go off regularly, some even sound like running water to remind you to drink, drink, drink!
It sounds so simple but remembering to eat or even wanting to eat can be difficult while depressed. Suppressed appetite and depression often go hand in hand, so if this happens to you, it’s important to be intentional about eating. Keep simple, easy to prepare foods stocked. Bananas, apples, citrus, pasta, prepared frozen meat, canned beans, fresh and frozen veggies, sandwich ingredients are all good options. I love to keep some quinoa and veggie cups like these stocked away for hard days.
Foods that you can just open and eat and are healthy too, are great options. No cooking required and I’m still getting protein and nutrients to help me along. When I can’t muster up the energy to cook breakfast, a banana and some cereal or microwave oatmeal does the trick. I also love to keep precooked rice on hand and bags of frozen broccoli, peas and spinach in the freezer. I’ll just put a little of everything in a bowl and microwave it. When that’s all I can do, it’s better than nothing. The point is, keep foods around that are easy to eat and prepare. On the occasional days when cooking brings you joy, make sure to prepare enough for leftovers that way you can easily put plates of food together for a couple of days.
12. Make shopping easier.
Do your shopping on the Walmart app, choose your pickup time, drive up to the designated area and an employee will come out and load your groceries into your car. It’s a free service that Walmart offers and it’s absolutely wonderful. You don’t even need to get out of your car. Hey, go in your pjs if you must! Tipping is not accepted but employees do ask you to give them a good rating in a quick survey that Walmart emails to you upon pickup.
From Walmart to Instacart to Amazon, it’s easy to simplify life when everyday tasks feel really hard.
13. Have a bedtime routine that includes taking care or yourself.
Be intentional about what you do before bed and wear pjs that make you feel calm and relaxed.
I love this face cream
Rubbing it onto my freshly washed face at night, makes me feel really good. Self care is important, especially when you’re depressed. So whatever you can do at night, that is good for you, and also makes you feel good; do it.
14. Make lists.
Brains get foggy and overwhelmed when you’re depressed. When you have a thought, write it down. If there are tasks to be done, even the simple things like take a shower, drink your water, make dinner, call so and so; write them down. Keep your list out where you will see it regularly throughout the day. Keep a notebook nearby to jot things down. There are few things more satisfying then crossing items off a list.
15. Know that you are loved.
You were created for so much more than this. Understand that your feelings of disparity are temporary. Know that God loves you. Pray. Open your Bible. Study His word. Lay your burdens at the cross. Jesus will meet you in the painful places.
I love this song
16. Do creative things.
What creative thing feels therapeutic when you do it? Are you a writer, a crafter, a musician? Do you like to paint? Color? Sketch? Crochet? Make jewelry? Write poetry? Does baking or cooking spark joy for you? Creative outlets can be healing. They’re productive ways to pass the time, keep your mind active and can be very calming. You don’t need to have professional level skills to have a creative outlet. Do something that excites you, even in the smallest way.
17. Don’t hide your depression.
Tell the people around you how you’re feeling. People are often afraid to talk about it or feel shame when it comes to depression. Help lift the stigma by telling others that you are not okay right now. Let your loved ones know what you need. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you tell someone you’re depressed and they shutdown or avoid the situation, find someone who will listen or help. Google therapists in your area if you need support outside of your family of friend group. Speak to your pastor if you have one or look for a support group. Many churches have support groups for all kinds of things. Understand that not everyone who loves you will know how to handle this type of situation with understanding and compassion. Some may just be uncomfortable. Do not feel rejected in this instance. There are people in your community who can help you and though you may feel broken, know that you are not a broken person. You’re just going through a hard time right now and there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
18. Go to therapy.
It’s really helpful to speak to a professional therapist about your depression. Sometimes the ability to vent without the burden of fear that you’ll be dragging down your loved ones, is beneficial in lifting the weight. Therapists are trained and ready to help you through this rough spot and can help you to lead a proactive life, equipping you with tools to face this hard time and the next. Some people find medication helpful and getting into therapy can get you one step closer to finding the right, individualized care plan for your unique situation and self.
19. Take supplements.
Especially if you aren’t eating regularly or eating well, supplements can be a great way to make sure you’re getting the vitamins you need.
Please speak to your doctor before starting any new supplements.
20. Be grateful.
“Enjoy the simple things” is a favorite sign I keep displayed in my home. It’s a reminder to be grateful for little things, little moments and to appreciate more.
One way to practice gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. You can use a simple notebook or you can write things your grateful for on pieces of paper, fold them up and toss them into a basket or jar. Maybe you already have a journal where you can keep track of what you appreciate each day. You could even write it into your calendar squares. Or, perhaps writing them down is too much. Instead, just thank God for something every day. It’s been proven over and over again that being thankful sparks joy and humility. An inner joy that no material item could ever provide and a humility that can quickly do wonders for a bad mindset. Gratitude won’t cure clinical depression but being grateful for even the small things may give you a sense of some of the weight starting to lift.
21. Get moving and get outside.
Depression will cause you to want to hide under the covers or lay on the couch all day. I know it’s hard and I’m preaching to myself here too, but get moving, even in short bursts. Walk on the treadmill, walk up and down your stairs a few extra times, walk a couple laps around the house, take a walk around the block, park far away from the store, put on a favorite song and dance around the living room with your kids, take an exercise class, do some jumping jacks, or if you’re feeling motivated enough and love to swim or ride your bike, do it! Excerise can be a great way to lift your mood and energy level. Do a little bit every day if you can. And get outside! Even on an overcast day. Even if all you do is sit outside for a little bit. Vitamin D will be really helpful. Have a trail or walking path nearby? Get a walking buddy and enjoy some nature. It will be good for your soul!
Depression is hard and never invited. True depression can’t just be turned off with happy thoughts. Depression is not a sign that your faith isn’t strong enough. Depression is lonely. Depression is REAL. There is no shame in taking medication prescribed by your doctor to help you feel better. There is no shame in telling someone you’re depressed. There is no shame in going to therapy. If you’re in the midst of a struggle or know someone who is, be kind to yourself and be kind to them. Treat depression like any other illness where you would rest, heal, or care for the person who is sick. Invisible illnesses are tough because on the outside you may look fine when on the inside you could be numb, physically hurting, struggling, weary, and may have lost hope. Please speak up if you need help.
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*I’m not a doctor or a professional authorized to treat patients. Any advice given on my blog is not medical advice but rather tips I share based on my own personal experience with mental illness. Please seek counsel of a doctor and or therapist and get the help you need. Please do not stop medications without speaking to your doctor. Please be aware that some herbal teas and supplements are not safe with all medications so it’s important to speak to your doctor first. If you are in crisis, please get help now.*