Three nights a week without fail my brother goes to his Taekwondo group and thoroughly knackers himself out. Sometimes he even does it on a Sunday. Personally, I can’t imagine anything more unpleasant (I loathe most forms of exercise) Why am I mentioning this?
Well as a famous (and adorable) meerkat says “Simples!” Self-care means different things to different people. For my brother, Taekwondo provides him with what he needs to help him with his depression.
For me, Taekwondo does not interest me at all. Because of this, I’d find it very difficult to inspire or motivate myself to do it. One of the biggest things I’ve begun to understand is that if you enjoy something then you’re more likely to keep on doing it.
Sounds obvious right? Well not to me. I always got caught up in the idea of what I should do and not what I enjoy doing. Nowadays I try and find an enjoyable way of doing things. Sometimes though self-care means doing things that aren’t really much fun (washing dishes comes to mind)
You know that doing them will make you feel better but as I said earlier it’s hard to motivate to do something when you don’t enjoy it. With what’s going on in the world right now it’s even more important that we take care of ourselves.
I wasn’t aware of just how much the current situation had affected my mental health until I got into an argument with my older brother. Neither of us normally let things get to that stage (we’re pretty good at talking things out) and I realised I’d stopped doing many of the things that helped me manage my mental health.
So while I use these things to get back on track I thought I’d share them with you (as well as ways I make the ones I don’t enjoy more fun) So for my top five self-care routines essential for managing your depression, then read on!
1# Getting the right amount of sleep
I’ve always had a dodgy relationship with sleep. For a very long time, I just assumed that it was normal to wake up every morning feeling like shit no matter how many hours sleep I’d had.
To a certain extent, this was true (I’m not a morning person) but after much trial and error I figured out that whilst I was sleeping a lot I wasn’t getting quality sleep. I’d be sleeping over 12 hours a night but because I wasn’t sleeping well (waking up repeatedly, tossing and turning etc) I didn’t feel the benefit of it.
Once I figured that out I began to develop ways of improving my quality of sleep. Things like making sure my room was calm and not cluttered, avoiding napping, turning off electronics such as my phone half an hour before bed and going to bed around the same time every night.
Looking for more info? The Mental Health Foundation has this awesome detailed publication all about sleeping better.
2# Eating regularly
One of my worst habits by far is forgetting to eat or Letting myself get so stressed that I just can’t face food. Not only is this really not helping me to lose weight but it also has a huge impact on my depression.
I used to get hung up on eating at what I thought was the right times to eat. But then I’d end up stressing that I couldn’t face breakfast so soon after getting up or that I was eating my dinner too late.
But while there are general guidelines for how long you should leave between meals or before going to bed, what actual times you eat will depend on your schedule. I try to make sure that I eat three meals a day or at least two if I can’t manage three.
Everybody’s different and only you know what works best for you. I can’t eat until at least an hour after I’ve gotten up for example. Any earlier and I just feel sick. The important thing to remember is to try not to leave it too long between eating.
3# Eating as healthy as possible
My diet is very much a work in progress. I’m slowly but surely undoing years of turning to food (specifically) sugar for comfort. This is why I say eat as healthy as you can. We all know that getting our five a day and avoiding too many processed foods etc is way better for us but that by no means makes it easy or achievable right now.
Regardless of whether or not you normally eat healthily, the stress of what’s going on right now is enough to affect anyone’s diet. Even before social distancing began happening I was avoiding supermarkets if I could. I find food shopping stressful normally never mind when it’s twice or three times as busy!
Between that and increased work stress I began eating stuff that I could just throw in the oven, or foods that comforted me but weren’t particularly healthy (such as pizza) and adding extra sugar to my tea and coffee.
This last week I’ve begun to get back to where I was before. But even though I’ve only been eating crap for a short time I’m still only changing it gradually. So if you’ve noticed your eating habits suffering then work gradually to bring them back to where you want them.
Reminding myself that I felt happier when I was eating better helps me too. I liked how I felt and I want to feel that way again.
4# Staying in contact with others
With self-isolating and social distancing happening everywhere it’s dangerously easy to become cut off from the world around you. Many of us (me included) rely on going to work or visiting friends or family for our social needs.
People need those connections. Even me who is jokingly referred to as the hermit by my family. I may like my own company a lot but that doesn’t mean I don’t need interaction with others. If anything this current situation has brought home to me how isolated I’ve become.
Thankfully these days it’s much easier to connect with others. Social media, chat sites and video calls all help us to stay in touch with our nearest and dearest. Making time to talk with others whether it’s on Facebook, skype (or whatever the newest social media app is) is really good for you.
It reminds us that we’re not alone and that we still have our support networks to call on. If you don’t have the internet or don’t use social media (yes there are still some of us out there. I’m still only on Facebook!) make time to phone someone. Or text…as long as you’re still connecting with others (safely of course)
5# Having an outlet for your stress
I’ve learned the hard way that bottling up your feelings and stress is really not good for you. I’ve done it for so long (over twenty years) that it’s taking prolonged therapy to help me learn how to let go.
This has meant that of all the challenges because of COVID-19 this one has probably had the biggest impact on my mental health. With all of the added stress, it’s been harder not to retreat back to hiding it all inside. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post I haven’t always managed to avoid that.
But because I now know the signs that I’m bottling things up I can work on them. The difficulty is finding an outlet, especially if what you normally do is not possible at the moment.
Unsurprisingly to anyone who knows me, one of my outlets is gaming. There’s nothing like immersing myself in a game to ease my stress levels! I’ve also discovered that cleaning to heavy metal music is surprisingly good at relieving my stress (surprising because cleaning used to be a chore I hated with a passion)
What are your essential self-care routines? Let me know in the comments.
If you’re struggling with your anxiety because of the pandemic then check out my post
How to manage your anxiety during the Corona Virus Pandemic where I talk about the steps I’m taking to manage my anxiety currently.