But first read –
0. Depression is a serious, biochemical disorder that needs both a pharmaceutical and therapeutic response. Nothing here can even start to substitute for a GP appointment and anti-depressants are important for stabilising the condition. If you are experiencing suicidal or self-harming thoughts, contact the Samaritans or Pieta House immediately.
OK, so now that’s out of the way, here are some quick ways of administering self-care that might help with a depressive spell if you are in a hurry and can’t wait for meds to kick in. Your mileage may vary.
1. Take a shower. It’s quick and simple. The sensation of pounding hot water on the skin and hair is cleansing both physically and psychologically. Enhance with your favourite shower gel. Spend a nice long time there and moisturise your skin with lotion if it’s dry afterwards.
2. Uninstall social media from your phone, such as the Twitter app and Facebook, and avoid news sections of papers. I find that 90 per cent of my emotional setbacks come from the constant bombardment of bad news that comes from Twitter particularly. People leave them in your timeline like dog droppings on your doorstep and it’s fine for them – they don’t have to clear up the psychic mess left over. They seem to be able to go about their business. You’re not weak if you can’t. It’s borderline abuse, sometimes. I now find Twitter almost unusable, for this reason.
It’s very possible you might feel that you need to know what is happening because ignorance is a dereliction of duty to fight for what is right environmentally, politically, socially. But again in 90 per cent of cases, there is absolutely nothing you can do, so you are in a horrible limbo where you are culpable, but unable to remedy the ill. Plus, people are more likely to comment on something going wrong than something going right. So you also are affected by confirmation bias.
You are allowed not to feel guilty all the time for being alive, for taking up space. You are allowed to live, and to take your place in society, and you are allowed to feel joy. Act small and local to do justice.
I replaced it with medium.com and filtered it by interests, so I would receive more thoughtful, positive, in-depth essays. And of course I read some fiction 🙂
3. Head down to your nearest garden centre and buy a plant. Preferably one that promotes biodiversity. Even if you have the green fingers of King Midas, the act of nurturing and watering the plant, of fostering that life, is an investment in nature and in the future. “Plant seeds, even on the day of judgement”, sez Islam, and it’s on to something there. Also, they’re very cheap 🙂
4. If you are able-bodied enough, get on your bike. Lots of people recommend walking, but I find it hard to get rid of Thoughts just by walking. But when I commuted to work by bike, I found it cleared my mind and helped me get ready for the day. If you have small children, they can sit in a trailer/sidecar
Take a walk. But with the following proviso: that it’s up a hill. The activity will increase exercise related endorphins and also the act of physically cresting the top will have psychological echoes that will resonate. Better still, accompany it with your favourite motivational book / novel / podcast on Audible or somesuch medium. Make it a gift to yourself and a treat. I know that constant nagging to take walks has poisoned this idea for depressives – but you are not doing it for people with sanity privilege. Eff them. Do it only for yourself.
5. Open water swimming (but not if point 0 applies, obviously) can be such a glorious shock to the system that the depressive bugs are chased away by the massive endorphin surge of plunging into the sea or lake or river (be sure the water is safe, no currents etc!) I recommend it.
6. If you write, complete a flash fiction story, and upload it to one of those sites that do a weekly competition, or one with a recurring deadline, or an online community that is focused on offering positive reinforcement. (Criticism, too, has its place, but maybe not right now.) A finished creative work out doing stuff for you is something that will boost serotonin and self-esteem.
Having it a finished work is important. Depression saps energy so it’s hard to write a longer-form work. That said, if you don’t even start, you might sink further. Alternatively, if you are interested in a particular show or characters, would you consider writing fanfic? Check out Archive of Our Own for fanfic on every book or TV show imaginable.
7. If immediate fulfilment of any of these – or something else you would enjoy – is not possible, go to your calendar (or, if you prefer, buy yourself a beautiful moleskine journal and a pen) to make an appointment for the earliest opportunity. Better still, make it a recurring series called “Self Care” and fill with ideas so that you will always have something to look forward to when hitting a dark phase. Again, this is not to edify other people’s privilege or enable their stupid bromides about mental health. It is to you, from you, a gesture of self-love and respect.
If anyone has any other suggestions, please feel free to add in the comments box…but beware! under no circumstances will any preachy nonsense of the “why not do some volunteering work” ilk be let through. This is not a space for implying MI people are selfish. But I think you know that 🙂 Thanks all!