I have rapid-cycling bipolar I disorder. That means I have at least four episodes per year, most of them are likely to be depression. Sometimes the episodes are short and sometimes they can last for months. There are days that don’t feel as bad and there are days when I can barely get out of bed. Through it all, though, I have found a few ways I can help myself feel better.
All of these may seem simple to people who have never experienced depression, but they are far from it. One problem with depression is that energy is depleted. You start to feel like you took the ability to get out of bed for granted. Another part of depression is the inability to experience pleasure. If something is not in the least bit enjoyable, it’s difficult to muster the little energy you have to accomplish it.
That said, here are five small ways I have found to help myself cope with depression.
Taking a shower is not just about saving the person next to you from having to smell your grossness. There are other benefits that help ease depression.
- It’s part of a good self-care routine
- It can help ease muscle and joint pain, which is common in depression.
- Showers can be relaxing, decreasing anxiety.
- Showering can help with sleep, which can be an issue during depressive episodes.
2 Taking a walk
Over time, consistent exercise helps increase the manufacturing of “feel-good” endorphins. This can be very beneficial to those suffering from depression. I don’t always have the energy to go to the gym, but walking is a nice substitute. It doesn’t hurt that I have a dog and no backyard so walking isn’t exactly an option, but staying at least a little bit active helps.
3 Going out to dinner
My eating habits during depression can be pretty bad. During bad phases I tend to lose my appetite but I eat anyway and what I eat is rarely good for me. Going out to eat not only gets me out of the house and my negative feedback loop, it also gives me the chance to eat mindfully and help repair my relationship with food. This can be done with someone (preferably who understands what I’m going through) or alone and it does not have to be super nice.
4 Completing a small chore
To-do lists do not magically go away during depressive episodes, but they become exponentially harder to accomplish. While I don’t have the energy to cross off all the items I would while not experiencing depression, I can choose one or two items that are simple to accomplish. This can be anything from filling out paperwork to cleaning a room. Then, not only does something get marked off the list, I also get a mood boost from a sense of accomplishment.
5 Let myself heal
I have to remember to make myself compare depression to a physical illness to give myself a break about giving myself a break. For example, if I had broken my arm I would need to take the time to let it heal. I would need to readjust my lifestyle and ask others for help. Depression is no different. Recognizing that the small stuff can now feel like monumental stuff is the first step. The real monumental may just have to wait until I’ve healed.
Image credit: Anne Worner