Self care during difficult times
Recently I‘ve fallen down a weird hole of anxiety with a sprinkle of depression and a topping of existential crisis. Gotta love your 20s. Knowing how to cope was an important factor in slowly getting back on track again and I wanted to share the most essential ways of self care during difficult times here.
Getting enough sleep should be the most important thing to you for your health. If you sleep less than 7 hours, change that! Sleep does so much for your body and your mood and getting enough of it will definitely help with your energy levels. I actually tend to sleep too much when I‘m having a depressed phase of my life. Try to go to sleep at a reasonable time every evening and know how long you need to wake up. I‘m a snoozer, so I plan in almost a whole extra hour.
In a world that values productivity and money over health, it can be hard to realize that you don‘t have the energy or mind to work. Get rid of that pressure. If you can‘t do more than a simple task a day at the moment, then that is okay. This can be way harder when you live alone and have an unstable work environment, but it is definitely possible to shed the self-pressure for the hundreds of side tasks that sit in the back of your mind and slow down on everything that doesn‘t have a deadline.
Plan more breaks that work
If you are in a bad place at the moment you can‘t expect to work on top level. You can‘t pour from an empty cup, so fill it. Put only essentials into your plan for the day. For some, that means showering and loading the dishwasher. For others, it might be 3 important tasks for work. If you work outside of your own home you also don‘t need to shame yourself for taking it slower. Communicate it if you need to. Call in sick if you have a really bad day. There is no shame in putting your health over your work. I know that is easier said than done in some cases.
Anxiety and depression are both based in thinking about the past and the future. If you need a break from the neverending thoughts you should start practicing mindfulness. Being in the moment and letting your thoughts go by without judging them can be incredibly calming. You can also search up grounding techniques if meditation is too hard for your mind right now. If there is one skill of self care during difficult times that you should learn for the future, it’s this.
It doesn‘t matter if it‘s on a computer or in a notebook. I often write in my phone notes, add a date and then transfer it into a document on my computer later. What you write isn‘t important. It can be a whole essay of feelings, it can be a rant or it can be a mantra repeating itself over and over again. It also doesn‘t matter when you write. Some people really like morning pages right after they wake up, just to have stuff off their mind. Others journal in the evenings to go to sleep without circling thoughts and with the positives of the day in the foreground. Get it all out!
We aren‘t made to constantly worry and be nervous or depressed. Even if you are deeply depressed your feelings fluctuate. Treating depression like grief can be helpful. When we grief we let out our feelings, care for ourselves and then we distract. Distraction isn‘t a bad coping skill unless it is the only thing you‘re doing. Maybe you need to play a game right now, maybe you need a good book or you need to go an a little adventure with your friends.
Oh, part of distraction can also consist of creating something you want to get out of bed for in the morning, like a walk in nature or a trip to get ice cream.
Speaking of friends. Socializing is super important in bad phases of life. It seems hard but it is doable. If you are at rock bottom you can start with messages or inviting people instead of going out. The key is to not isolate yourself. That is a thing I‘ve personally been struggling with thanks to my years of isolation and little regular outings. It is, however, possible. If you have nice neighbors, invite them for coffee. If you wanna binge a show, do it with a friend. You need to vent? Call a friend. Taking the first step to ask for help or socializing feels hard but most people are happy to help. Nobody will be at your funeral one day and say „I‘m glad they never asked for help.“ Keep that in mind.
Understanding & Planning
You need to figure out where the root cause of your feelings is. Something must‘ve put you off your normal path. Those can be the smallest things. For me it was thinking of career paths I love but don‘t burn for (I‘m 21, gotta love making life decisions mid anxiety with a therapist calling you out on your bullshit weekly). Really dig into what fears you have and how to make them more bearable.
I found out that I‘m still very dependent on my mother thanks to my social isolation phase, that heightens the fear of being alone. Having that dug up helped me (and still helps me) figure out ways to calm myself and make a plan. Google really was my friend for over two months straight. I learned about small and big childhood traumas affecting certain skills later in life which I can now work on. Amazing and a lot of work that will be worth it.
You see, self care during difficult times doesn‘t have to consist of taking baths, working out hardcore or anything taking a lot of your energy. Remember that you will get through this and better times are coming (in small and big ways). I wish you well on your self care journey out of your bad phase and in case you need a little self care challenge to hold yourself accountable you can get my free self care challenge eBook here:
Self care during difficult times by Rabea