What Self-Care Looks Like During a Depressive Period
This time of year is always hard for me and I am someone who really struggles with seasonal depression (also referred to ‘Seasonal Affective Disorder’) during the January-April months. If you aren’t familiar with seasonal depression, it is defined as a mood disorder characterized by depression that occurs at the same time every year, usually in climates where there is less sunlight. Symptoms of seasonal depression can include fatigue, depression, hopelessness, and social withdrawal. Because I live in Colorado, I spend a lot of time during the winter months inside which I think plays a critical role in my seasonal depression and with my son and daughter being born during winter months, I experience a cocktail of both seasonal depression and post-partum depression which can make it really difficult for me to practice consistent self-care.
Now I say all of this not because I want pity, or because I am trying to scare you, but to hopefully raise more awareness around mental health and give you some tips that have really helped me during my darkest times. Even though conversations about mental health are more common compared to previous decades, there can still be a lot of guilt/shame around depression and anxiety and if it is something that you struggle with as well please remember that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Depression can come in many forms and affect people in many different ways which means that treatments can vary as well. If you feel like you are struggling The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) https://adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/ask-and-learn/resources is a great online resource that raises awareness, promotes research advancement, and provides referrals for children and adults who may be struggling with mental health. Here are some ways that I practice self-care during a depressive episode.
- Showering EVERYDAY
I know, this one sounds weird but when you’re depressed something as small as a shower can feel like an uphill battle. Whenever I am in one of these episodes, I make a promise to myself to shower, relax under the hot water, take deep breaths, and try to be aware of my body, my senses, and my surroundings.
Sometimes if I am needing a little extra, I will take an extra 5 minutes to use a nice body scrub, shave, or maybe a hair mask to give myself a little more care.
- Putting on My Favorite Outfit
Like a lot of people, I have really struggled in the past with body image and body positivity and being postpartum certainly makes it more difficult for me to feel good about myself which not only affects my mood but my productivity as well.
Don’t get me wrong, I LIVE for my sweatpants and being comfortable, but there is something really empowering about putting on my favorite pair of jeans, a cool t-shirt, or even my favorite pair of sneakers. It is much easier for me to feel sluggish and sad if I am consistently wearing my sweatpants and frumpy shirt so switching it up and putting on a good outfit can be an incredible mood booster. Even if you don’t have a reason to be productive or have the day off, try throwing on your favorite t-shirt and or those pants that make your butt look amazing and see if that helps.
- Reach out for Help
It wasn’t until 2020 that I finally reached out for some professional help regarding my mental health. Not only was I emotionally drained from how I was feeling but I started to notice myself venting to my partner so much that it was emotionally draining for him as well.
Seeking outside resources has made an incredible shift in my mental health and thankfully with the power of social media, finding a practitioner who you can connect with is easier than ever before. There are definitely difficult elements of therapy and sometimes re-visiting old traumas can be really hard, BUT the healing and closure that therapy can provide is something that has been extremely beneficial for my overall growth and happiness.
- Doing Things I Enjoy
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE me some Tik Tok, but it can become really easy to get sucked into mindlessly scrolling the internet, especially when/if you are depressed. Disconnecting from social media and doing something else creative that you enjoy can really help re-center you and spark some joy into your day.
Whether its music, art, journaling, cooking, whatever, try and find an activity that can get you away from your phone and keep your mind occupied on something else more happy that you enjoy. Whenever I am having an episode, painting has always been something that has been incredibly therapeutic for me and lets me express my feelings/emotions through a different outlet.
- GO OUTSIDE
Like I mentioned earlier, the Colorado weather is something that really sets off my seasonal depression because I spend more time indoors due to the cold weather. Less time outside means less sunshine which can really take a toll on your overall mood.
Exposure to sunlight is thought to release a hormone called serotonin which is one of our mood-boosting hormones. Sunlight also affects some important functions in the body specifically Vitamin D. Vitamin D helps our bodies reduce inflammation and modulates cell growth. It can be really difficult to get enough Vitamin D through diet alone so try and get 5-15 minutes of sunlight a few times a week and/or incorporate a Vitamin D vitamin to help improve your mood.
- Give Yourself Grace
This is a big one. If you know me, you know I am always preaching “don’t be an asshole to yourself”. Whenever I am experiencing a depressive episode it can become really easy to criticize and be mean to myself.
Sometimes I like to remember that we are all just tiny little organisms floating on a rock in space and not to take myself or my problems too seriously. I also try and remind myself that NOTHING productive will come from me bullying myself and if I want to heal, I need to show myself some grace. If you find this difficult during an episode, I have found journaling to be an incredibly effective tool and is something that I ALWAYS feel better after I do.
I hope you know that it is okay to struggle with self-care, especially when you are going through a rough period in your life. Please remember to be compassionate towards yourself, reach out for help, practice self-care no matter how big or small it may seem, develop a routine that works best for you, remind yourself that you are worthy and deserving of ALL things good, and remember that you deserve to love yourself and you deserve to heal.