This is not a post about how to cure depression long term.
It is a list of things to do TODAY to help you feel at least a tiny bit better TODAY. It includes reasons why these things are helpful.
Feeling depressed is an awful thing. It can be super hard to take action to do the things that will help you to feel better, which can make it sort of a circular problem.
Combating this means taking itty-bitty steps just to move in the right direction of feeling an itty-bitty bit better. The important thing is to aim to do something that is manageable enough that the depression doesn’t stop you from doing it.
If you decide to follow this list, it’s not the sort of thing where you have to do all of the things or do them perfectly. Managing to do even one positive thing when you’re feeling bad can be a huge step.
There are reasons for the order these things are in. I’d recommend starting at the top of the list and working your way down. If you come back to it a different day, start at the top again.
That said, if something isn’t applicable to you or you don’t want to do it, just move on to the next thing. Or do them in your own order.
These are all things that you can do as little or as much as you have the energy or motivation for. Do what you’re able to do today. Keep in mind that it’s OK that how much you can do may be different from day to day.
Part of the idea here is just to develop the mindset that you are going to do what you can to feel better. This creates a small sense of empowerment and can be enough to feel just a little bit better.
(This is the part where I’m supposed to say something about talking to your doctor for medical recommendations and that I’m not liable or responsible if my advice turns out to suck. So, yeah, talk to your doctor for medical recommendations and I’m not liable or responsible if my advice turns out to suck and bad things happen when you take it.
I’m not an expert on this from a formal education stand-point. However, I do a ton of reading about all sorts of topics and I have a bit of personal experience here. This is what works for me.)
With all of that out of the way, here’s the good stuff:
Eat the healthiest thing you can manage. Drink two glasses of water.
If you haven’t eaten in the last 2-3 hours, this is the top priority. Low blood sugar does not help a low mood.
If the healthiest thing you can manage is ice cream, Burger King or a bag of Doritos, that’s fine. This is not the time to aim for the perfect diet. If you can manage something a bit healthier like a bowl of cereal, Subway or a PB&J that’s better. Something including vegetables and protein is ideal. If that’s too hard, don’t worry about it. Just do the best you can without stressing about it.
Do keep in mind that the goal of this is to nourish yourself. It is not to drown your feelings with emotional eating.
You can drink something else in addition to the water, but DON’T SKIP THE WATER!!
Bonus: Take your vitamins and any medications that you’re supposed to take.
Do something physical
Go for a walk. A long walk is good, but if all you can manage is to go around the block, that’s fine. Or put in a good solid workout. Or do a bit of yoga and stretching. Or a few pushups and jumping jacks. Or whatever your preferred thing is. If you don’t have a preferred thing, stick with the walk option- it’s simple and most everybody can manage it.
More is better -within reason- but a little is so much better than nothing. Connecting with the body helps one to get out of being so much in their head.
Also, don’t overdue it if the last thing you did was to take my advice about eating something.
Take a shower/get dressed
Take a nice shower. Groom yourself. Put on clean clothes if you’ve got some available. Things like this send your subconscious the idea that you’re taking care of yourself.
If you’re depressed and you’re still unshowered and in your pajamas at the end of the day, that is only going to make it worse.
If you’re tired, take a nap. Sometimes that’s all it takes to hit the ‘reset’ button and wake up feeling better.
If you don’t wake up feeling better, at the very least you will have passed some time unconscious which is much better than spending the time sitting around miserable.
Take some time to write about how you’re feeling. If there are specific things that you’re down about, write about those. Vent. Let it out.
Sometimes it can help to decide that you’re going to delete the document or send the page through the paper shredder so you feel like you can be really honest about what you write.
Once you’ve gotten through what’s wrong, write about things that you can do to make it better or to take care of yourself while you go through it. Write about your strengths and positive qualities that will help you cope.
Zoom out, think about the big picture and make a list of things that are right in your life. Think about what you’re grateful for… even if it’s just that today won’t last forever.
Talking to somebody else can really help. If you have somebody that you can talk to, call them.
If you don’t have anybody to talk to, go to the next item on this list.
Google about your problem or about depression. It’s important to know that there are other people out there that have felt like you do and that have been through the same thing. You’re not alone. Us humans are connected and there are other people out there that DO understand.
You might feel like you’re the only one, but you’re not. Google brings up 380 million results for depression for a reason: you’re NOT the only one.
There are tons of resources out there. There are also forums where you can write a post and get supportive feedback if you’re looking for interaction.
Clean or organize something. This is a way to instantly make something in your life better. The goal isn’t to do a lot and get overwhelmed. Just do the dishes or start a load of laundry.
Get out of the house. Go to the park or the mall or the woods or just go drive around. If you have a friend or family member you can go visit, that’s even better.
Or go to the theater and go see a movie. Or whatever else is your thing. Just go somewhere. Do something not at home.
Do something to improve tomorrow
Do something, however small, to prepare for tomorrow. This is an act of kindness for your future self. Feeling depressed makes it easy to have an attitude of not caring like leaving the dirty dishes in the sink for later or not taking out the trash.
The thing is that tomorrow will come and then you’re going to wake up to a pile of dishes and a full trash can. This won’t help.
Take out the trash or wash the coffee pot and set out the stuff you need to make coffee tomorrow or go to the grocery store so that you have food for lunch tomorrow or find something else to do for future you.
This will help you to feel like you’re taking care of yourself and also give you hope that tomorrow will be just a tiny bit better.
Work or hobbies
If you’re at all up to it, spend a little time doing a bit or work or a favorite hobby. Play guitar, draw a bit, or work on a craft project.
Do whatever you normally like doing, even if you don’t think you’re going to enjoy it.
Just commit to 10 minutes and if you don’t want to continue after that then stop. You may find you get more into it than you thought you would, and if not then you’re 10 minutes closer to being able to crawl into your bed and go to sleep.
This is the last thing on the list for a reason: one should try to be careful about using it too much. That said, read a good book, watch a movie, or read crap like this online.
Find something that you can use just to zone out a bit and take a break from being connected to your misery. For an hour or two. And then do something to make your life better rather than just trying to avoid the feelings about it sucking.
If you’ve made it this far, it probably means that:
A. You didn’t actually read it at all and just scrolled to the bottom of the post.
B. You’re just reading this and not actually doing the things
C. You read it AND did at least some of the things
Which in turn means that:
A: You kind of suck, but not nearly as much as the people who don’t visit my blog at all
B: You’re pretty OK.
C: You’re AWESOME!!! It’s HUGE that you’ve done a few things to help yourself feel better!!!
Hopefully it’s bedtime now and you can go brush your teeth and snuggle into bed feeling good that you took positive steps today. But if it’s not bedtime, you still feel awful and this list didn’t work at all, maybe try it again from the top? Who knows, it could be one of those ‘the third time’s the charm‘ sort of things?