When depression creeps its way into our lives, we can sometimes struggle to maintain our day to day routine. The dishes go unwashed, laundry sits in piles on the floor, we forget to wash our hair or brush our teeth. And all of these things that we just simply can’t get ourselves to do compile to make us feel even worse about ourselves. So, how do we maintain our routine and productivity while suffering from depression?
It can seem impossible. And honestly, some days it is. Some days you just can’t get motivated. And I’m here to tell you that it’s okay to have days like that. Sometimes you need a day to just mold into the couch cushions and watch Netflix. On these days it is essential to tend to your emotional needs. Take the day to be with your depression. Let yourself feel down and unproductive and when you start to feel horrible about not doing anything, remind yourself that you are giving yourself the day to do nothing.
Clear your schedule. Cancel previous obligations. Let them know that you just need a mental health day. Nothing is more valuable than your mental health. Everything else can wait, even if you feel that it can’t.
I felt a depressive episode coming on last week with my bipolar and I knew that I needed some extra time to take care of myself. I took a few days off from work and spent one full day laying on the couch napping and watching tv. I made sure I drank a few glasses of water, I showered, and I ate a few small meals throughout the day. But I never got out of my pajamas and I never left the house. I knew that there were more productive things I could have been doing but I knew that I needed to dedicate this day to just feeling my feelings.
The next day I took the morning to clean the house, do my laundry, and wash my car. I stayed busy and distracted trying to get my living space back together after two weeks of feeling too exhausted to take care of any of it. That small bit of productivity helped improve my mood.
And I wrote. I wrote in my journal multiple times a day. Journaling while you are depressed will help you to regain your control of your reality. It helps to process the emotions you are feeling. You express them on paper and can begin to work through the underlying causes. Maybe you feel unsatisfied at work, are having relationship issues, going through a breakup, processing loss, or simply don’t know why you are feeling depressed. When we write down truthfully what we are feeling, the healing can begin.
When you feel intense depression or feelings of worthlessness and anxiety, write your honest emotions down. Then when you’ve gotten all of those bad emotions out, begin to write about something good. Write about the accomplishments you’ve done. Write about all the good things that you still have in life. If you are unsatisfied with your job, remind yourself of the skills you have and what you’ve gained from your current position. Jot down some ideas on how you can improve your situation and what you would need to do to get to that point. Distract yourself with research on how to improve your situation and change where you are.
If you are dealing with loss or a break up, remind yourself of the strength you possess to carry on. It’s the closing of a chapter and there will be incredible memories that you shared. And understand that only time will heal the pain. Healing from loss has no time limit but it requires time. Don’t try to push yourself to get better. Allow yourself to mourn and feel the sadness. You have to accept the reality of the situation and understand that allowing yourself to feel these emotions is absolutely normal and necessary. It may feel like you won’t ever be able to recover but you will. Oftentimes when we experience loss, we think about all the things that we won’t be able to experience again with that person. But we need to not look at it as such. We need to hold gratitude and love for being able to experience those moments in the first place.
When my mother passed, I went through a heavy depression. I was consumed with thoughts that I would never have my mother there for moments in my life again. But as I went through the motions of grief and learned to be grateful that I had so many positive and incredible experiences and was so lucky to have such an incredible parent in my life, it made it easier to hold gratitude in my heart instead of grief. I was so lucky to have that experience and someone that incredible in my life.
Depression consumes us with negative thoughts and the only way to keep our heads above water during it is to acknowledge reality and to remind ourselves that this won’t last forever. Often times depression will make us lose touch with reality and that can cause overwhelming thoughts of despair, worthlessness, anxiety, and even lead to thoughts of suicide. To navigate a depressive episode safely, we need to be present with our emotions. Don’t think of the past. Don’t think of the future. Stay in the present and take care of yourself the best way that you can.
If you need a day, take a day. Accomplish small tasks throughout the day to give yourself something to be proud of, even if it’s just a shower and a decent meal. And continuously acknowledge and accept how you are feeling. Be real with yourself. Don’t deny your depression. Accept it and work through it.
As always, if you are experiencing intense emotions that you cannot handle on your own, reach out. Call a supportive friend, speak to your therapist, or reach out to an emergency hotline. I have personally used emergency hotlines and they have saved my life on numerous occasions. These hotlines are especially helpful if you do not have a personal support system with someone who understands depression and mental health.
A quick google search will provide you with numerous hotlines that offer free phone calls, chatrooms, and even text options. The most important part of handling a depressive episode is to make sure you get through it safely.
As someone who deals with these ups and downs frequently due to my bipolar, reaching out to these hotlines in moments of distress have saved my life. And after each time I reach out and protect myself, I feel a small amount of pride for doing what I needed to do to take care of myself. It’s okay to need help, especially when we don’t know how to help ourselves.