If you’re depressed, you may feel stuck in how to move forward… just the thought of moving forward may leave you you feeling overwhelmed and confused.
You may even know what you need to do to improve your wellbeing, but it may seem too hard or pointless.
However, with depression recovery, usually just taking that first step makes it easier to take the next step, which makes it easier to take the next step, and so on. With every step, you not only feel better, but the pathway to your “old self” becomes illuminated, and your confidence in your ability to ‘get there’ improves.
So, what is the first step to depression recovery?
Well the first real step is go to your GP and/or a psychologist to get professional support. But after you’ve done that… what’s your first step towards depression recovery?
Before I mention the first step, I have to preface it with a warning; unfortunately, the first step is the most confused and misused concept in psychology… well, at least that’s my opinion!
In fact, you may even roll your eyes or worse yet, stop reading, as you’ve heard the concept before, and it feels unattainable! However, rest assure, this article will leave you with clarity and assurance that you can take this first step.
Ok… so the first step to depression recovery is SELF-CARE.
As mentioned earlier, self-care is one of the most misused concepts in psychology!!
Common misconceptions include:
Self-care is about having “me time”.
Self-care is about taking time out and doing something you love.
Self-care is about practising mindfulness everyday.
Self-care is about having a massage, getting your nails done, reading a book, going to the movies.
Don’t get me wrong, these things are important. In particular, if you’ve been depressed for some time, a really helpful strategy to immediately improve your mood can be to do something you enjoy (or previously enjoyed). In psychology, we call this ‘behavioural activation’, as the behaviour itself can activate a happier, more hopeful mindset. When you see a psychologist they will help you plan something enjoyable, such as going to the movies or meeting a friend for dinner.
However, self-care is actually a more basic and intuitive concept than the above misrepresentations. Self-care is, as the word describes, self-care. Self care is doing the necessities to care for yourself.
- Washing your hair when it’s ready for a wash.
- Showering once a day, preferably in the morning, because it gets your day off to a good start.
- Putting on deodorant.
- Cleaning your teeth once in the morning, once at night.
- Washing your clothes regularly, so you have fresh clothes to wear.
- Maintaining a sleep routine. This means getting up by 9am (latest), which can be a massive struggle for some people. To stop you from hitting “snooze”, move your alarm as far away as possible from your bed, so you’re forced to get out of bed to switch it off. Also, make sure to shower straight after waking up, so you can transition quickly from zombie to human. As well, go to bed at a decent time the night before, so you get proper sleep.
- Eat some nutritious foods. The reason I say “some” is that when you’re depressed, it’s overwhelming to think of overhauling your probably “not so healthy” diet. Aim for just adding in nutritious foods when it feels easier to do so. For example, you may find breakfast is a meal you can make nutritious with relative ease. A good breakfast gets the ball rolling for the rest of the day.
- Stay away from drugs and minimise alcohol consumption. Bring life back to basics and keep things simple for now.
And that is self-care in a nutshell. Obviously, you can grow on self-care to include things like exercise, eating better, taking vitamins etc. However, for the sake of immediately improving your mood, starting with basic self-care will make a HUGE difference and is the FIRST step to depression recovery.
Why is self-care important in depression recovery?
The main benefit of self-care is not what you’d expect! Of course, you’re looking after your body, and by association, your mind too. However, the main benefit to self-care is that the behaviour itself reinforces a sense of self-worth. In other words, if you show yourself respect, you in turn feel more worthwhile. Test this out yourself – how do you feel when you leave the house with a “i’ve just rolled out of bed” look? Versus, when you’ve spent some time and effort getting ready?
The other main reason that self-care helps in depression recovery is that it gives you a routine. Routines make us feel more purposeful, motivated and energetic, and improve our sleep.