A woman holding a cup of tea

The term self-care seems to be a common buzzword these days. It might even conjure up the image of people lying around with their feet propped up, sheet masks on their faces, while they eat ice cream right out of the carton and watch a reality TV show.

While this can sometimes be the truth, as I can absolutely attest to, sometimes self-care isn’t so extravagant— especially to someone with depression.

To many people, including some people with mental illness, getting out of bed and showering is an everyday occurrence. Brushing your hair, changing your clothes and making breakfast is often routine.

But for some people with depression and other mental illnesses, completing routine tasks can feel impossible. Even the thought of getting out of bed feels like a monstrous effort, never mind doing anything else. Maybe the dirty laundry is piling up and you don’t even want to think about the state of the kitchen. It’s not that anyone wants this to happen, but they can’t always control it.

What many people don’t always realize is that the act of simply getting up and brushing your hair can make a world of difference in how you feel that day.

It might not seem like much, but if depression is your mind’s way of keeping you stuck, doing such a simple thing for yourself can help get you unstuck, even just a little bit. It can sometimes be a little bit easier to feel better when you face the world with clean hair and clothes.

That is self-care – looking after yourself when your illness doesn’t want you to. It’s making the things around you just a little bit better, and getting up when all you want to do is crawl back to bed.

Of course, there will always be days when the thought of picking up a hairbrush seems completely impossible. That’s OK. But on days when things seem bleak and hopeless and stretch into nothing, maybe, just maybe, doing something simple for yourself can ease it and help you feel more in control. And maybe that will help you feel just a little bit better about yourself so you can tackle the rest of the day.

Let’s redefine self-care. We are more than our illnesses, and we can be strong enough to pick up that hairbrush.

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Thinkstock photo via ChesiireCat


Before you Google my name – I’m not famous. You might find stats from my U14 or U19 seasons in the Tier One Elite Hockey League. Maybe an article about when I committed to play (club) at Miami of Ohio or that time I made honor roll. My last name pops up a lot though. If you’re hardcore you’ll recognize it. I come from a hockey family. My dad and my uncles were always on the fringe of the NHL regular season roster. Dad was usually one injury away from making the team, so I grew up as a minor pro-athlete’s daughter. A minor pro-enforcer’s daughter. I was at my first game when I was 3 days old. I moved nine times before I started kindergarten. My life was measured in hockey games.

I’ve felt small town fame. In elementary school, I was only popular because kids wanted to say they came over to Topper’s house. He was a legend on the Illinois and Iowa border. I was 11 years old when he got his blood clot that became a pulmonary embolism. I understood that it could kill him, but I understood that retiring could kill him too. Things changed at home. I don’t think he knew what to do. I didn’t know what to do. All of a sudden my dad was home all the time. My parents fought all the time. We weren’t legendary anymore.

Now, my younger brothers are getting to the point where they choose their path. One of them went major junior, he plays in the WHL, but he’s an average player and sometimes thinks about college instead of trying to go pro. The other is only 16 years old, but is being asked to make decisions that would stress adults out. I try to talk with them about their options, but they say I don’t know what I’m talking about because I never did it. Not “for real.” So, I help them with homework and tease right back that they’ve never had to hold a “real” job like I have to.

I help them with their homework because I’m the student. In reality, I entered college a complete wreck, without any interests or clubs because all my life I had been a hockey player. I didn’t think I could drag nagging injuries through four more years of D3. It’s been three years now and sometimes I still accidentally say, “I have to go to practice,” instead of “I have to go to class.” I feel like I never left the sport — and so do my knees. As I’ve gotten older, hockey has gotten harder and crueler. The world has gotten harder and crueler. I’ve dated guys and played with girls who get cut from national teams, college teams and junior teams. I’ve dropped out of college. My closest friends have been forced to quit after too many concussions or because the real world is calling. The real world. We don’t even know what that is.

When I quit playing the game, my outlet for (at the time undiagnosed) severe depression and panic disorder was gone. My daily routine — when I ate, showered, slept, exercised and socialized — was all gone because the other team scored one more goal than us in a game on a late March, Sunday afternoon. I spiraled. Exercise was the first thing to go. At first I was too sore, then I was too sad. Socializing was next. Eventually I just ate and (barely) slept due to really bad nightmares. Nobody wanted to be around me, which was fine, because I didn’t want to be around anybody. I went from being captain of hockey teams and a social butterfly to shutting myself in a room. I wasn’t me anymore; I didn’t want to be. I remember saying one time to a friend, when in a really dark place, that I hope there’s hockey in Heaven and I hope I get to play again soon. Perhaps it’s not life or death for everybody else to be done with the game, but it was life changing for me.

Now that I’ve entered life after hockey, I worry mostly about my brothers and my good friends – -the ones who are still playing hockey when I’m working full-time and (should) be in my senior year of college. The guys who are up in the middle of the night flipping out over an injury or what to do next year. Next year. Personally, next year I want to be healthier with a better grip on my illness. I want to have let go of my pain and the grudge I hold towards the sport. I want simple things; simple things that are so different than a few years ago when all I wanted was to beat our rival, play a good game and hang out with my boyfriend afterwards.

I’m not famous, but I’m still a hockey player that the game chewed up and spit out. I’m still a daughter, sister and friend to people at a loss of what to do with themselves when the third period ends and there’s no next game. Hockey has influenced my life as much as it has anybody in the NHL. Maybe I’m exaggerating.

Either way, that’s why I’m here. I’m here because there are a lot more people reading this who’ve been in my position than in a professional athlete’s position. I’m here because sports are supposed to bring out the best in us, so what do we do when that’s gone or when it hurts? I’m now a big fan of Project Semicolon. It’s for people struggling. It’s a reminder that life can go on. A semicolon represents a sentence that the author could’ve ended, but chose not to. The author is you and then sentence is your life. I want to bring this to more athletes.

I know that there will be hockey in Heaven, but these days I hope I’m decades away from playing it again. Until then, I’ll cheer for the winners until their last game. I’ll be by their side when every weekend is an off weekend. Hockey was a game of good and bad bounces. Now I’m learning that so is life.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you struggle with self-harm and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

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Thinkstock photo via Purestock

Depression is real.

Depression is a serious mental illness that can be debilitating.

Depression affects millions of people around the world.

Depression is different for every person who lives with it.

Depression is not just being sad.

Depression is, at its most basic definition, a low mood sometimes marked by irritability and frustration that persists for at least two weeks or longer.

Depression is physically taxing as well.

Depression is like having a sinus infection or a bad head cold; your body aches in the same way.

But, instead of the headache, you feel frustrated. Instead of the fever, you feel angry. Instead of the nausea, you feel guilty.

But just like physical sickness — you’re easily fatigued, exhausted and achey.

Depression is sometimes being hungry but not wanting to eat because it takes too much energy to lift the fork to your face.

Depression is sometimes wanting to eat but nothing sounds good.

Depression is sometimes eating, but it doesn’t taste good and isn’t satisfying.

Depression is sometimes not bathing or showering for days, maybe weeks, because self-care is too draining, and you’re too weak to stand for the short amount of time it takes to shower.

Depression is a dirty house because you don’t always have the motivation and energy to even pick up a piece of paper.

Depression is wanting to do the things necessary to have a clean house and a clean body, but not having the motivation or energy to do so.

Depression is the negative voice that may often condemn you and make you feel guilty and worthless for not getting the everyday things done that many other people have no problem doing.

Depression is often not asking for help, because the things you need help doing are everyday tasks.

Depression is often isolating.

You don’t go out because you might smell.

You might not want to go out because just sitting up in bed uses too much energy.

You might not want to have friends over because you might not be able to handle being the host. Or you might think, “They don’t want to hand out with me anyways.”

You might not go out because they won’t notice if you’re there or not.

Depression is the voice that might tell you, “No one loves you. No one cares about you. See, they don’t even ask you how you’re doing. They don’t ask you to hang out. They don’t talk to you unless you talk to them first. They don’t care.”

Depression is often not asking for help because the things you need help doing are everyday tasks.

Asking for help for such basic things might make you feel worthless.

Depression is hiding how you really feel — putting up a front and pretending everything is under control, but it’s sometimes better than feeling like you’re putting on a show to gain sympathy.

Depression is wanting help, not pity.

Depression is often losing interest in everything you once enjoyed.

Depression is sometimes getting irritated, angry, or crying about things that typically wouldn’t bother you.

Depression is often being tired, achey, sad, mad — and then guilty, ashamed and helpless, because you might not know why and or how to change it. Even though you desperately want to.

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Thinkstock image via fcscafeine 

When you live with depression, sometimes starting the morning can be the hardest part of your day. When you’re fighting the fatigue, ruminating thoughts and feelings of hopelessness characteristic of depression, getting out of bed can be a real struggle.

So how can you fight the debilitating weight of depression when every morning it makes you want to retreat under the covers? Is it possible to get out of bed on days when it feels impossible?

We wanted to learn some tips for getting up when you’re struggling with depression, so we asked our mental health community to share one thing they do first thing in the morning to get themselves out of bed.

But you may not be able to get out of bed sometimes — and that’s perfectly OK, too. If nothing works, don’t be hard on yourself, and keep these tips in your back pocket for next time.

Here’s what they shared with us:

1. “[I] break it down into small increments. Starting the day can be overwhelming. I tell myself, ‘All you have to do is sit up.’ When that is done, ‘OK. Good. Now, just got to bathroom and brush your teeth.’ Breaking the whole getting ready routine into small, seemingly manageable chunks helps [so] much.” — Karen P.

2. “My kids jump on my bed first thing in the morning [and] tell me, ‘It’s wake up time, Mommy! It’s time to eat! Come on Mommy, I love you!’ Their smiles and laughter [are what] motivate me to get up. All four of them.” —Courtney N.

3. “I set my alarm to a song by Ed Sheeran, one of my favorite music artists. Hearing something I enjoy first thing in the morning helps to try to set my mind in a good place to get moving.” — Diedra S.

4. “I immediately go on my phone and talk to people. That usually gives me the energy I need to get out of bed. It’s still really difficult some days though.” — Dannii Y.

5. “I read a daily devotional, wake up to my favorite song and in my head, go though what I need to do. That helps me to prove to myself that I need to get out of bed to complete my to do list.” — Kaity J.

6. “[I] have my dog jump up (if he is not already there) and get hugs, kisses [and] wags. It reminds at least someone is ‘in my corner’ for today. If he loves me, then that’s a start. If everything goes to hell, I always have him there. [It’s] reassuring.” — Penn C.

7. “I think of at least five reasons why I should get out of bed. For example this morning’s list was: 1) I’m hungry. 2) I have school work to do. 3) It’s a beautiful day outside. 4) The kids I babysit are looking forward to seeing me. 5) I need to pee. They are small things, most very mundane, but it reminds me I’ll have to get up at some point, so why not right now?” — Elizabeth C.

8. “I’m a teacher [and] the thought that I’m going to affect lives by being there and the sense of responsibility to change the world into a better place, gives me hope to get up and get going.” — Rishika G.

9. “My cat sleeps in my closet on a blanket. I get up and crawl in bed with him and get my morning dose of warmth, love and purrs from him. He’s been the most stable part of my life and has helped me through many internal battles.” — Jessica M.

10. “I use all of my force to get ready and go for a run. While running, I aim to tire myself and enjoy the serenity of my surroundings. I remind myself there’s beauty in life. The day suddenly becomes plausible.” — Frida P.

11. “I set myself six alarms over an hour so I feel like I’ve slept in.” — Ephraim S.

12. “Remind myself I woke up next to the person I love the most which is one of the biggest joys of my life. [It] doesn’t always help the depression, but usually gets me out of the bed.” — Stephanie F.

13. “If I know I’m going to get up and do the most gentle yoga ever, then I feel somewhat inspired to get up. This is not to say ‘yoga is the answer’ to serious depression, but knowing that all I have to do to get out of bed is move to a mat and barely move my body gives me the energy to at least move out of bed. Usually, after the yoga, I feel like I at least took some form of care of myself, and it puts me in the right frame of mind to be optimistic.” — Lacey W.

14. “[I] get myself some coffee and take my time drinking it. It’s just a nice way to start my days, especially when I had a bad night.” — Courtney H.

15. “[I] feed my Guinea pigs. They are quite good at helping me stay in a routine. If they have not been fed by a certain time in the morning, they are at the bottom of the stairs, squeaking me up and out of bed.” — Donna B.

16. “I have an alarm set for around 10:30 a.m. and I try to get up then, the reward being if I do, I get to watch a few episodes of my favorite show and drink coffee and plan out my day as I do before the work starts.” — Anna E.

17. “I get out of bed to make my children breakfast every morning. It’s one of the few things that I know will motivate me to get out of bed.” — Steven M.

18. “I force myself into the shower and allow myself the luxury of a long hot relaxing shower with my favorite shower gel. Makes me feel a little more positive about facing the day.” — Bekah J.

19. “I count to 10. Very slowly, following deep breaths. I used to list 10 things I was grateful for [each] morning, which would become difficult sometimes — [it] would unfortunately jumpstart the downward spiral. So I stopped that, and just stuck to the count. Simple, controllable and if I felt like I needed more time, I’d just start the count again until I felt ready.” — KC C.

20. “If I have something to do that day and I know what time I need to leave, I wait until I absolutely have to get ready to leave on time so that way I’m rushing, and I don’t have time to think about things.” — Lexi L.

21. “Food is a big motivator for me. If I recently bought a breakfast item I enjoy, it can often bring me to get dressed and go to the kitchen and enjoy a sweet or savory breakfast.” — Tiffany P.

22. “I give myself a little pep talk. I tell myself I am worthy of waking up and living through this day and I am worthy of being happy.” — Emally B.

Thinkstock photo via IPGGutenbergUKLtd.

22 Things People With Depression Do First Thing in the Morning to Get Out of Bed

There are so many things I could be doing right now.

That’s a thought that often crosses my mind while I’m lying on my bed for the umpteenth day in a row, occasionally scrolling through my phone but mostly staring at the ceiling. Sometimes I end up falling asleep if my mind decides to stay blank for long enough.

I could be cleaning. I haven’t really been putting things away and there are piles of stuff all over my room. Maybe I could grab my laptop and finally get started on that novel I’ve been wanting to write for the past decade or so. Or I could try and job hunt again, even though I’ve exhausted all the possibilities and my resumé isn’t impressive enough to anyone.

But I can’t bring myself to do anything.

It feels as though the depression I’ve struggled with for more than half of my life is a physical being that’s purposely keeping me from moving. People are trying to contact me – I should get back to them, but I can’t. I need to get up and make dinner, but the thought of getting out of bed exhausts me. I can’t stop the whispers in my mind that tell me there’s no point, anyway.

That’s where the guilt sets in – the guilt of having depression.

How many hours have I wasted just lying here? What kind of things could I have done or created in all of this time? Maybe I’d have a job if I’d spent more time perfecting my resumé. Maybe I’d already be a bestselling writer if I’d been writing instead of staring at the ceiling. Perhaps I’d be more than the nothing I feel.

I still can’t bring myself to do anything and I feel guilty for all of this wasted time.

I already have all these regrets of not doing anything, of thinking about the things I could have accomplished had I not convinced myself it wasn’t worth it and just stayed in bed. The guilt is another physical being that holds me back. I feel bad for not being a “normal” person with a “normal” life. Instead, I just stare at the ceiling as the guilt eats away at me.

Nobody should be made to feel bad about having a mental illness, but I bring this guilt upon myself. It’s a vicious cycle that feels impossible to escape.

But then the depression sets in, and I add it to the list of things I can’t bring myself to do.

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Thinkstock photo via kitzcorner

Earlier on in our relationship, I pulled Kevin aside when we had a moment alone together in the kitchen. Friends were over.

“I need you to be extra touchy-feely, babe. Can you rub me on the back and check in to see how I’m doing? You do already do those things but I’m feeling anxious and I need them a bit more than usual tonight.”

“Sure, boo,” he said. My anxiety was at about a level 8ish. (How does one even measure feelings, anyway?)

These are the things that are good to relay to your partner regardless of your situation, but when you live with depression, this is particularly important. There needs to be explicit communication about how you’re feeling and what you need from your partner.

Carrying anxiety (or depression) by yourself becomes a habit when you grow up in an environment that enables you to carry the baggage solo. You forget that there’s an option or you’re not yet aware that there’s an option to practice vulnerability and trust. There’s an option to reach out. A healthy, sound relationship requires it of you to reach out to your partner.

I used to think that if my partner’s love for me was authentic, he would notice when I’m feeling out of sorts and that would cue him to reassure me in some way; if he didn’t catch on and offer care and support, I would get upset. Your partner can’t read your mind — and really, would you want them to? — and regardless of how obvious you think your situation is on the outside, it’s best to be upfront and proactive. Help your partner support you by telling them what you need of them. I assure you, they want to know. Your partner wants to support you. Depression tells you that no one wants to support you. Don’t listen. You and your partner will take turns leaning into each other. That’s how it works.

Clinical Psychologist and author Dr. Sue Johnson wrote in her book “Hold Me Tight,” “When safe connection seems lost, partners go into fight-or-flight mode… Most fights are really protests over emotional disconnection.”

I know it can be difficult when depression is visiting because the depressed partner, by nature of the illness, is unable to give as much to the relationship as they are able when they’re feeling OK. That’s OK. Kevin and I have acknowledged that and it (along with his kind and gentle soul) has given me permission to give myself permission to not feel guilty about the temporary imbalance.

woman and man selfie smiling wearing sunglasses with dog in background

When I’m not under depression’s spell, these are some things that Kevin and I do to stay connected:

1. Take walks together with our dog, Fuzz, after breakfast. I try to force myself out of bed to do this when depressed. It may only be a 10-minute walk, but it makes a huge difference.

2. Leave surprise love notes for each other around the house. Sometimes I sneak something into his lunch box.

3. Enjoy a weekly date night together. We met on a Wednesday, so those days are our “weekiversary’”days. (You don’t need to go out. Sometimes we veg at home. It’s the time investment and being present with one another that matters most.

4. Massage each other. Sometimes the massage is a 2-minute shoulder massage in passing but any length of time is wonderful. Our favorite is trading foot massages facing each other on the couch.

5. Pick up something from the grocery store that we didn’t put on the list but know the other likes. For Kevin, it’s Sour Patch Kids or bleu cheese; for me, it’s La Croix or gummy cherries.

6. Kevin has my medication reminder on his phone as a backup in case I forget or miss my reminder alarm. He sends me reminder texts if we’re not together when my alarm goes off.

7. I refill or top off his water bottle if I see he’s running low.

What are some things you and your partner do to stay connected?

Follow this journey on Odawni’s blog about depression and relationships, xo, O.

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