How Self-Care Can Help Treat Depression
Updated: Aug 18
You may be feeling down in the dumps or a bit sad or depressed about yourself and your life lately. The feeling doesn’t seem to be going away, and you’re not sure how, or even if, you can feel better. Your sleep and eating habits may have changed, such as waking up several times a night and then feeling exhausted during the day, or you’re eating much more junk food than normal and fixing dinner seems to be just out of reach. Perhaps you are crying more than usual at things that just don’t make sense, or your motivation level to do things, even basic chores around the house, is not there anymore. These are all depression signs and symptoms. The good news is, you can do things to turn yourself around and feel better again.
What is Self-Care?
I’m going to show you how to incorporate self-care into your daily routine to help combat feelings of depression. What is self-care? Self-care is anything that we do intentionally to take care of our physical, mental and emotional health. The types of things you can do for your own self-care are infinite, and meaningful self-care can be different for every person. I’ve broken down self-care into four main categories, each one being essential to help you treat depression symptoms. Practicing good self-care takes time and energy, but if practiced regularly it can have a profound effect on your daily mood.
Components of Self-Care
The way I view it, there are four basic components of self-care. These are also often the first areas that tend to go by the wayside when you’re feeling down and unmotivated. By attacking each of these areas when you are beginning to feel bad, you may be able to turn around your mood and other depressive symptoms before they become worse.
High quality sleep is essential for your body to perform at the level you expect it to. An early sign of depression is often a change in sleeping patterns, such as difficulty falling asleep, sleeping too much, or waking up often in the middle of the night. Working hard to getting your sleep back on track will help you have more energy to fight other depression symptoms, and will help give your mind and body the rest it needs and deserves. Some simple tactics for getting sleep back on schedule:
Go to bed and get up at the same time each day as many days of the week as you can
Make sure you are in bed for at least 8 hours, trying to sleep
Implement a “bedtime routine” that is the same every night and starts 30-60 minutes prior to actually getting into bed. This may include turning off electronics/TV, not looking at your phone, reading, petting an animal, getting into your PJs, etc.
No caffeine past noon daily
These tactics, or methods, of helping you sleep are called sleepy hygiene. Practicing good sleep hygiene can help you get your sleep back on track.
Another early sign of depression is a change in eating habits. Sometimes you may forget to eat and go down to 1-2 meals per day. Or you might binge on unhealthy junk food. When you are depressed, you don’t have any extra energy to put into cooking and eating healthy. Here are some tricks to back on track with your eating:
Schedule yourself to eat 3 meals per day, and try to eat at least a little bit, even if you’re not hungry. Just getting fuel into your body will help you feel a better.
If you’re binging on unhealthy food or eating more than normal, limit the types of foods you have access to (yes, that might mean tossing out all your chips, or ice cream, or whatever).
Stock your house with easy-to-eat meals and snacks.
There is a direct correlation between what we put into our bodies and how we feel, and changing up our eating habits will make a dent in your depression.
One of the first things to go when you feel depressed is likely your exercise routine. Your activity level often slows down significantly, because it is so difficult to motivate yourself to work hard when you are feeling tired, lethargic, and like you don’t want to do anything. Try these quick tips to get back on track:
Modify your exercise routine. Instead of running 3 miles, maybe you set a goal to take a walk around the block.
Schedule exercise into your daily calendar, even if you’ve never needed to before. If you put it down as something to do, it’s more likely you’ll do it.
Find a workout buddy, that will help keep you accountable for exercising daily.
Even keeping up your exercise routine a little bit can make a significant difference in your mood and depression.
Often when you get depressed, you start to forget your faith, lose meaning in your life, or stop doing creative things that usually feeds your soul. You may start to question God, or wonder why you are here are earth. You even stop cooking, crafting, building, or singing, because all of that takes mental as well as physical effort. Knowing when you having stopped doing things you care about, or when your faith or spirituality is wavering, is an important first step before you can work to bring it all back. Here are some suggestions to help you bring back meaning into your life:
Talk with someone at your church about your questions and concerns, or work with a friend/partner to get back in touch with your spirituality.
Get a buddy to do creative things with, or start scheduling a creative activity into your day.
Rediscover what gives you and your life meaning, perhaps by journaling or talking it out with someone close to you.
The sooner you realize these things are lacking in your life, the sooner you can start to bring them back.
These four pillars of self-care are so important to help you combat feeling down in the dumps. When you lose these important things in life, you will start to feel out of control, burnt out, or depressed. Getting back on track with your mood and depression involves being intentionally focused on the basics of life. If you work on your sleep, eating, activity level, and spirituality, you will be able to make significant changes in how you are feeling. If you do continue to have depression signs and symptoms even after incorporating these self-care tips into your routine, you may want to consult with a professional such as a doctor or therapist, for further treatment. See below for more information
Looking for more helpful information?
We know that you are always searching for high-quality tips about emotional well-being and how to stay healthy and take care of yourself. Because an important aspect of staying healthy mentally starts with your own self-care, we want you to have a FREE copy of our Daily Self-Care Checklist so that you can start your journey towards your emotional health today:
How We Can Help
If you are interested in therapy for depression, or if you would like to talk to someone more about how we can help you, follow these simple steps:
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Other Therapy Services Available at Catalyss Counseling:
Therapy for women can meet many of your counseling needs. But, we know that is not all you might need. So, we want to meet all of your counseling needs in the Denver area. Our supportive therapists provide depression counseling, therapy for caregiver stress, grief and loss therapy, stress management counseling and more. We also have specialists in trauma and PTSD, women's issues, pregnancy and postpartum depression or anxiety, pregnancy loss and miscarriage, and birth trauma. For therapists, we can also provide clinical supervision! We look forward to connecting with you to help support your journey today.
Shannon Heers is a psychotherapist, guest blogger, and owner of Catalyss Counseling in Englewood, CO. Shannon helps adults in professional careers manage anxiety, depression, work-life balance, and grief and loss. Follow Catalyss Counseling on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.