I’ve been dealing with depression for the last 15 years, at the very least. At first, I didn’t know what to call the deep feeling of sadness that I lived with every day, no matter the circumstances. In fact, I don’t think I really even realised that what I was going through wasn’t normal. I probably just thought that everyone felt that life was immeasurably sad. But eventually, the dam walls broke and the sadness flooded my life. At the age of about 20, I was hospitalised for depression for the first time and my journey to feeling healthy and happy started.
It wasn’t a quick fix and it took me a few years to get to a point where I could go for even a couple of months at a time without having depressive periods that left me feeling not just extremely sad and lonely, but often very guilty and sometimes actually quite confused. Through a combination of medication and learning to recognise when I’m heading towards a hole I won’t be able to climb back out of, I spent 2017 and 2018 without spending a series of days in bed crying.
Read: Talking about depression
When you’re in the thick of it, trying to get out of a depressive episode can feel impossible. Like, literally just not something that you would ever be able to do. But I promise you, it’s not impossible. And you will be able to do it. Combined with the right medication or therapy, things like exercise and spending time with friends can help you get your head above water so you can breathe again. But anyone who has ever experienced depression, knows that “going for a run” or having dinner with your friends is just not realistic at a time when you are scared to even leave your room.
So I have put together this list of 10 things I do, when I’m trying to deal with my depression at times when things get really dark. They are small and they won’t “cure” your depression, but honestly nothing will. These are 10 easy to do things that will help you manage your depression, get you out of bed, get you clean and if nothing else, make sure a friend knows you’re suffering.
10 Things You Can Do To Feel Better When You’re Feeling Depressed
1 Have a shower and wash your hair
I know things are really starting to spiral for me when I find myself putting off basic things like washing my hair or flossing my teeth. Washing my hair, blowing it out and seeing myself in the mirror looking clean and presentable is something small that helps me to feel more in control. If I really can’t get myself to do the job, I’ll go to the salon.
2 Eat one healthy thing
Another basic thing I give up on when I’m depressed is taking care of my diet. I could easily just eat whatever is cheesy, carby or nearby, which is a total waste because I find no pleasure in it anyway. So consuming just one healthy thing, like a green juice or even an apple, helps me to kind of get perspective and also just not feel quite as gross and guilty.
3 Make the bed and tidy your immediate space
Being in a messy space really adds to my feelings of not having control of my life and being overwhelmed, so making my bed, hanging up my towels, and packing the dishwasher helps me feel like I have power over at least my immediate surroundings. Open the curtains and light a candle. It may sound superficial, but light and a nice smell really help me feel less pressed.
4 Make a list of easy to achieve tasks and tick them off one by one
One of the worst things about being stuck in a depression is feeling like a loser. It’s really easy to feel like you don’t deserve the good things you do have if you can’t even be happy about them. It’s also very easy to feel completely overwhelmed by everything from answering your phone to opening your emails. So I will physically write down a list of small, easy tasks with a pen on paper and then I’ll tick them off as I go. Make the bed – tick. Wash your hair – tick. Reply to one friend – tick. This really helps me to feel like I can actually manage being alive.
5 Be honest with a close friend
I have a couple of friends who I can be honest with and say “I’m not doing very well” and who know how to be there for me. If you don’t have anyone who knows how to help you, it’s worth talking to your closest friend about what you go through when you’re depressed, and what the best way is for them to be there for you. Personally, I feel very guilty about not being my normal bubbly self and so I tend to isolate myself and not want to be around people who normally think of me as outgoing. It’s really helpful when a friend just comes over and spends time with me, helping me cook or watching a movie. It makes me feel like I’m worthy even when I’m not trying to be fun.
6 Cancel any plans you need to
Like, physically cancel. When I’m depressed, it’s so tempting to just not pitch. But that only adds to my feelings of guilt and it makes the next time I see the people I cancelled on really awkward. Even if it’s just a text, reach out and cancel. And yes, it’s acceptable to say you’re having a medical emergency. You are.
7 Immediately stop feeling guilty
Would you ever hold it against a sick friend for being a “downer”? No you wouldn’t, so stop holding your own sickness against yourself. Feeling guilty about not being your normal, happy self (many people with depression are actually typically known as the life of the party or the funny person around any table) and just give yourself time.
8 Schedule an appointment with your medical practitioner
Whether that means refilling your prescription, seeing your doctor to increase your dosage or seeing your therapist, get on the phone and make an appointment. That actually tends to make me feel about 15% better immediately. Maybe it’s a placebo effect, or maybe it’s just taking a step towards being in control, but the effects are immediate for me.
9 Get out of the house for at least 30 minutes
You’re going to need groceries at some stage anyway, so get dressed and take your clean hair out of the house for at least 30 minutes. Often the idea of meeting a friend really makes me anxious if I’m depressed, but taking yourself for a coffee with a podcast or a book is good too. As long as you’re not locking yourself indoors for 48 hour periods, which is only adding to your feelings of being weighed down.
10 Do one thing that normally brings you joy
Sometimes the fact that things that normally make me happy leave me feeling numb during a period of depression actually add to my sadness, but doing an activity you love is almost like muscle memory. It can still have the same effects, sending some good juices to your brain, even if you’re in the depths of despair. Take some pictures, spend some time with a dog, or go see a movie. Anything that you know would normally make you feel happy.
If you’re feeling depressed right now, remember that you are normal. Your life is meaningful. You are important. You will get out of this. You are going to be happy again. Life is not just a random mess. We’re going to be ok.