When you get diagnosed with depression, PND, anxiety or many other mental illnesses you might have heard or read the term ‘self-care’.
As a psychology graduate I was very keen on this notion and as the daughter of a dad with depression I was AMAZING (annoying) at giving out advice about how to care for yourself! However since beginning to struggle myself I have discovered just how difficult this is when in the pits or close to the pit of depression.
What does it look like? What can I do to care for myself when I can barely face the day ahead (sounds dramatic but is the truth sometimes)? For me how do I approach a day with a toddler with no energy?
Firstly, self care looks different for each INDIVIDUAL and secondly it is actually a really important part of keeping a healthy lifestyle for anyone regardless of whether you are ill or well or somewhere in between. So there are obvious ones here like:
- Eat well (I eat chocolate in large amounts and all things bad for me when down!)
- Try and go for a walk/run/swim
- Phone a friend or meet up with someone
However there will also be some other things that are personal to you, ways of feeling better even if it’s just a push through the morning or to get through that meeting or that phone call.
This post has stemmed from me finally taking my own advice this morning and putting some self-care in place to help me get through a tough morning! I am really good at telling people that I know when to take care better care of myself and what tactics I have but in reality that isn’t what it looks like. I have the knowledge but I’m not good at applying it! Too often a day can become a battle and by the end of the day, I feel like I’ve lost and depression has won, stealing a day from me.
This morning started out as a battle. Tigger arrived in our room at 5:53 (in the night I refuse to think of this as morning!) so I took her back to bed but then mostly lay awake and let my thoughts begin to take over. When Tigger reappeared at 6:30 (acceptable!) I was already a little anxious and down about the day.
T is definitely feeling the transition to a family of four at the moment as everyone we meet etc asks about the baby and asks her if she can’t wait to have a baby sister etc etc (lovely but tough for a 2 year old). As a result, there is a lot of whinging and quite a few more hissy fits etc.
This is how the morning went really, tantrum, whinge, break, tantrum, whinge etc. We were picking something up at 9:30 so that would get us out but the three hours can seem like a long time when you are struggling. By about 8:30am I was in tears, carrying on but through tears. Not much fun.
Instead of spiralling though I decided that I needed to take control. For me and for today that meant reaching out, I text my mum and shared I was struggling and that I might gate crash their house later on. I also text a friend who was coming round with her 2 yr old and baby and said I didn’t feel up to it today. Then I reached for my bible (I will talk about my faith and depression in another post) for me it’s a place of truth about me and the goodness of God and meets me in both the good times and the dark time too.
After collecting the things we needed I then decided to go to a very nice park bit further away from us, up north the sun is shining and spring feels close. This led to an easy 2 hours spent just watching T on the slide, pushing swings and meeting another nice mum. I felt 100 times better than I did crying in the bathroom at 830 and now we are home and having a bit of beebies time before tea and all that jazz.
Cancelling on friends is something I absolutely hate doing but I knew if I stayed in and waited for them and we stayed in and played I’d have felt terrible by the end of the day so it needed to be done. This is one of the first times I have actively sought to care for myself and it has really worked (I know, who knew??!!).
Why not try making a list of things that help you feel better? Not just in the evening when kids are in bed but also things you can do while they are up?
The following questions helped me today:
- Would seeing people help me feel better today or will it wear me out?
- Is there someone I can text/phone?
- What are the things making me worry or feel down?
- What could I do to lift my spirit?
I hope this post doesn’t sound patronising and I hope it’s helpful. I find it so hard and this is the very beginning of me applying the theory but let’s see how it goes?! After all, I’d love my spring to come as soon as possible.