Nurturing Your Mental Wellbeing: Self-Care Tips for Individuals with Depression
Depression is a significant mental health condition that impacts the lives of many individuals. It is a serious and often prolonged state of low mood and emotional distress, though some describe it as no mood – numbness – that affects various aspects of life.
This condition can bring about feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and lack of interest in previously enjoyable activities. Depression can make it difficult to function at your best, affecting your relationships, work, and quality of life. While it varies in severity, it is a condition that requires attention and care, and it is important to seek support when dealing with depression.
Depression can manifest in various forms, from mild to severe, and the impact on your overall well-being can be significant. While depression often requires professional input, self-care is a crucial aspect of managing this condition. In this article, we’ll explore self-care tips that can help foster mental well-being and improve your quality of life.
Acceptance and Self-Compassion: The first step in nurturing your mental well-being is to accept your condition and practice self-compassion. This involves acknowledging that depression is real and valid. It’s not a sign of weakness or a personal failing. Accepting your depression means understanding it as part of your life, just like any other illness. Although depression does not define you, it is part of your story. This acknowledgement reduces the burden of self-blame and helps you take the first step towards managing your condition effectively.
Self-compassion involves three core elements: Self-kindness, instead of being harsh and self-critical, be gentle and nurturing towards yourself. Replace negative self-talk with encouraging and compassionate words. Common Humanity, remember that you’re not alone in your struggle with depression. Many others share similar experiences. Recognising this commonality can reduce feelings of isolation and self-pity. Mindfulness, be aware of your feelings without judgment. This means observing your depressive thoughts and emotions with a balanced perspective. Mindfulness allows you to avoid feeling entangled in a cycle of self-criticism. When you show up for the full human experience with curiosity, difficult feelings can change to intriguing opportunities for growth.
Build a Support System: Depression may prevent you from wanting to leave your safest space to engage with the world, leaving you feeling isolated. Connecting with people you trust and feel safe with can provide a vital support system. Share your thoughts and feelings, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when needed. Building a strong support system provides emotional stability, encouragement, and assistance during difficult times. Click here to learn more about building and maintaining a support system.
Therapy and Counselling: Seeking professional help is essential. Therapy and counselling can provide you with tools to better understand and manage your depression. Although therapy isn’t always a cure for depression, it can help alleviate depressive symptoms. For example, low mood, sadness, hopelessness, and anxiety. A therapist will also help you with coping strategies to manage stress, identify triggers, and develop healthier ways of responding to challenges.
Therapy can enhance self-esteem and self-acceptance, so you view yourself more positively. In the UK, many people still view therapy as a luxury few can afford. If you feel that therapy is beyond your budget, contact a charity that will offer therapy at a reduced rate or in a different capacity. Therapy isn’t something that HAS to happen weekly. Although it is beneficial, if you’re in a situation where it’s once a month or not at all, the once-a-month option is always preferable. Trust and collaboration is the foundation of a healthy therapeutic relationship. It’s a safe and confidential space for you to express your thoughts and emotions without judgment. It is normal to combine therapy with medication prescribed by a psychiatrist, and depending on your personal preference, you can choose individual therapy, group therapy, or combine both.
Nutrition: There is a strong link between what you eat and your mental health. This article explains the link in depth. Sugar and the ingredients in processed foods can increase internal inflammation, which leads to low mood and mental health problems, in addition to a heap of other health issues. Avoid or significantly reduce your intake of processed foods and sugar, and focus on whole foods, such as vegetables, animal produce or nuts and pulses for protein, and whole grains for fibre.
Regular Exercise: Research shows that physical activity improves mood and reduces symptoms of depression. You don’t have to go for a run or exercise rigorously in the gym. Even a short daily walk has a positive impact on your mental well-being. As a hunter gatherer species, your body expects movement throughout the day. This contrasts to how most of us live. If life circumstances prevent formal exercise, take regular breaks throughout the day to have a short walk (even if it’s a loop of the office) and use the stairs regularly.
Sleep Hygiene: Depression often disrupts sleep patterns, and disrupted sleep can cause depression. My articles here provide more information on sleep. The simple truth is, sleep is seriously important. If it wasn’t, evolution would have worked it out of us by now. Blue light (found in any unnatural lighting, such as streetlights, house lights, car lights, screens – TV, tablet, phone, and computer for example), the food you eat (or don’t eat), alcohol, caffeine, the temperature of the space around you, and anxiety can all disrupt sleep. Check your sleep hygiene to give yourself the best chance for good enough sleep.
Mindfulness and Meditation: Mindfulness practices and meditation can help you become more aware of your thoughts and feelings. These techniques can improve your ability to manage stress and reduce the severity of depressive symptoms. Deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, and other relaxation techniques can help reduce anxiety and stress associated with depression.
Establish a Routine: Depression often thrives in chaos. Establishing a daily routine can provide structure and stability in your life. Depression can rob you of the ability to experience pleasure. Sometimes depression makes you say no to something you would enjoy. Put things in the diary and commit to them. Block out time in the diary to engage in activities you used to enjoy or explore new interests. Make diary entries non-negotiable, and ask someone in your network for support when this is challenging. You could even assign a member of your support team the role of buddy, ask if they’ll accompany you when you go out.
Limit Alcohol and Drug Use: Alcohol and drug use can worsen the symptoms of depression and interfere with treatment. If you’re struggling with substance use, seek help.
Nurturing your mental well-being while living with depression is an ongoing process. It’s important to remember that self-care is not a substitute for professional treatment, but a complementary approach to managing the condition. Always ask a friend, crisis helpline or mental health professional for help if you’re struggling. Remember that it’s possible to lead a fulfilling life with depression by taking care of your mental well-being.