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5 Ways to Practice Self-Care When You're Overwhelmed With Depression and Anxiety

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I sometimes see depression and anxiety as two opposing forces: one inspires overactive mental energy while the other drains you of action and motivation. Yet they still manage to coexist inside many people’s minds like a tug of war where you are the piece of rope in the middle being yanked in both directions, a never-ending battle which continues unresolved.

Self-care is important — of course it is. But how do you take of yourself when you’re so overwhelmed with negative thoughts and worries that the mere thought of getting up to move is simply too much? When you’re beating yourself up for calling in sick to work because you were dissolving into an anxious spiral and couldn’t face the day? Or when your mind is telling you that you’re not worth it?

Here are some tips that help me in those moments:

1. Write things down.

When the inside of my brain feels like a tornado, sometimes the only way to make sense of it is to let it out. Writing things down can help to make sense of what you’re feeling and the act of putting your thoughts to paper might stop them from circulating around and around in your mind.

2. Think about what you would say to a friend.

What would you say to a friend who was in your situation? What kind of support would you offer, or advice would you give? This concept might feel strange at first but it can be a great help to practice self-compassion instead of falling into the trap of criticizing yourself.

3. Take it one step at a time.

If I’m overwhelmed and drowning in a mental to-do list, it can be impossible to know where to start. Small tasks suddenly look like terrifying monsters to battle and the longer you put them off, the more twisted and sinister they become. Try to focus on just one thing, like getting up to shower. When you only have one task at a time, everything can start to feel much more manageable.

4. Sit down to a good meal.

Feelings of anxiety, stress and worry can be exacerbated when you’re tired and hungry. It’s amazing how much perspective I can gain just from stopping to cook a decent meal and sitting down to eat it. Nourishment is important for your mind as well as your body. If you are struggling, let someone cook for you or look online for some inspiration to help you.

5. Exercise.

It doesn’t have to be a full-on session at the gym, but if that appeals to you then, by all means, go for it. Even just going for a walk can help you clear your head and get some exercise, giving your body some much-needed movement and fresh air. Yoga is a great option if you can’t get out and it can be as strenuous or as relaxing as you wish.

These are all small things you can do to practice self-care that don’t involve having to spend money. There are lots of other little things like getting a cup of tea, taking a bath, talking to friends about how you’re feeling, meditating, watching a film… the list goes on. The main thing I wanted to get across is the action of recognizing what you’re feeling and trying to deal with it in a way that makes sense to you.

Do you have any good tips for practicing self-care? It would be great to hear them!

Photo by Rodolfo Sanches Carvalho on Unsplash

Originally published: December 21, 2018
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