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12 Hacks for 'Adulting Basics' We Probably Overlook Due to Depression

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Depression seems absolutely determined to make every single life task more difficult, tiring, intimidating, frustrating, and just plain miserable. However, some things are “obvious” that we must do, even if we are struggling. Maybe we don’t do them as well or as often as we “should,” but getting them done is an accomplishment, so we try. (Be proud!)

There are some easy-to-forget things that are part of the “essential” category because they just don’t seem as important as they are — or maybe we think we take care of those things, but if we really give it some thought… we aren’t. Still, it’s worth trying to make a personal plan of how to attack these “adulting” tasks that depression might be interfering with in your life.

1. Maintain preventative health care.

Maintenance appointments like dental and medical check-ups always seem like so much work for “nothing.” After all, I’ve got a team of cardiologists and psychiatrists and other specialists who take up enough of my energy. But it is vital to maintain the parts that are healthy and not just treat the parts that aren’t. Putting off those dental check-ups until you actually have a toothache is not worth it — trust me. It’s expensive and no fun. Depending on factors like gender and family history, it may be important to have regular screenings for things, and it’s important to stay on top of those things because it’s much easier to treat conditions when diagnosed early. Preventative health care is really something we don’t talk about the importance of enough, but it is a truly crucial aspect of maintaining your health.

2. Find a way to consistently get basic nutrients.

I’ll be the first to admit that my diet is anything but “varied.” I do my best to eat healthfully, but it’s the same three things over and over. I know I’m not getting all the nutrients and vitamins I need, so I take a multivitamin (and try to add variety). If you struggle with getting a good healthy diet, check with your doctor about adding some vitamins to your life. Even just one basic multivitamin can truly make a difference in how you feel both physically and mentally. Hydration is (as we all know) important as well. I love indulging in a cool water bottle to make it less of a bore! You can even add stickers to your pill organizers, or do anything you want to make the process a little more fun and a little less boring.

For basic recipes for when your health makes cooking seem impossible, check out Monika Sudakov’s recipe ideas here.

3. Keep emergency medical info current.

Information on the medication you take, doctors who treat you, conditions you have, and emergency contacts should be kept in a purse, briefcase, car, and so on, in case of emergency. This information is vital for paramedics, police, emergency rooms, etc. to know about the medication you are on and conditions you have, as well as being able to get info from your doctors and contact people for you. But just having it there isn’t enough when information changes — such as a new doctor or change to medication — because keeping that information current is just as important as having it there. There are even high-tech ways (such as bracelets with a link to a cloud where your emergency info is accessible, and other neat things) to help keep those things up to date. But don’t worry — a handwritten list on a piece of paper is more than fine — just make sure to update it!

4. Refill (and retrieve) medication before you’re out.

This applies to both prescription and OTC medication (hello allergies, you monster). Put it as a recurring calendar item or alarm of some kind, even a Post-It note on the fridge. Ask doctors for multiple refills to avoid having to call the office, and look into 90-day supplies which may also be cheaper (in the US, at least), and help you go longer without having to think about it. Maybe you can recruit a friend or family member to pick them up for you if home delivery is not an option. Don’t be afraid to ask for help getting your medication on time and in your hands.

Keeping some extra essentials around can prevent those last-minute emergencies.

5. Keep track of treatment effects.

Medication side effects, unexplained symptoms, general “good and bad” of how your condition is doing, it is all important information. Dedicating just a few minutes a day to jot down in a small notebook can help doctors, and you not only remember but also see patterns that you miss when you can’t look back over time.

6. Have a backup stash of hygiene essentials.

Try to keep at least one extra of any important hygiene items, such as a box of tampons, toothpaste, etc., so that when you run out you don’t feel pressured to go get it, causing stress and anxiety, or causing you to end up neglecting it. The added stress of suddenly having to run out (when of course you absolutely don’t feel like it) is terrible for your mental health. Keeping some extra essentials around can prevent those last-minute emergencies.

7. Make a plan for when you just “can’t think straight.”

This can be anything, from being in a mental place where you can’t remember which exit to take or train to get on, to being suicidal — there are lots of ways depression affects your thinking. Know who you would call, and let them know that one day they might get that call so that they will be able to help when the time comes. Make sure you’re getting the rest you need to function at your best, whatever amount it is — and if you need a nap, that’s OK. I’ve had to nap in my car for 30 minutes before driving because I knew I was just too tired to drive safely. Making sure you have a plan in place for when you feel suicidal is incredibly helpful, as in those moments it’s almost impossible to come up with that plan in that mindset. There is no right or wrong plan; it’s about what you need when you are no longer feeling safe. Make that plan when you are feeling OK, and don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice.

8. Create a manageable way to have clean sheets and towels ready.

Maybe it’s just me, but clean sheets are amazing… except they require you to actually put them on the bed. Which I find personally agonizing for so many reasons. (I never get that fitted sheet on right the first time.) Having several sets of sheets and towels clean can be great when you want to have something clean but don’t want to go through the process of washing. If that dang sheet gets you every time, try putting on several fitted sheets on top of each other, and you can just pull the top one off to wash… and still have a bed to get in if you don’t manage to get it back on that day. Tossing your pillows in a hot dryer (check that they are OK to do so, but most are) kills dust mites and allergens and fluffs them back up. (Fluffy pillows are the best.) But sometimes you need to treat yourself to a new one for the sake of your health and mental well-being. Pillows matter, y’all.

9. Find a small “hobby” that makes you feel better, not stressed.

Some hobbies are difficult, expensive, and require a lot of practice to accomplish anything — not exactly a recipe for a great mental health hobby. But finding something small you enjoy doing (maybe even something you used to do and haven’t done in a while) is a great way to keep your depression from dragging you down. Don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be something “ideal” like regularly going for a run — sorry, never was my thing — but instead should be something you truly enjoy. Knitting takes five minutes to learn and you’ll have a scarf in no time. There are an endless number of video games now beyond just shooting people and running away, such as puzzles and adventures that might take your mind off how you’re feeling. Even a plant that requires zero skill or effort to keep alive counts!

10. Advocate for yourself and never fear getting another opinion.

It can be hard to have the confidence to question medical professionals on their diagnoses or treatment plan for you, but it’s something you absolutely have the right to do – and they should always be supportive of that. If they’re not, it’s a clear sign you need to find someone else. But don’t just stop with your health care professionals — advocate for yourself when buying a car, getting the roof fixed, or switching cell phone carriers. You have the right to be treated well and given a fair deal — so speak up and go for that second opinion. It never hurts to hear something from a second source and should never make you feel guilty — especially when it is your health on the line.

If you feel like “adulting” is something only “normal people” can accomplish — you’re not alone.

11. Find ways to organize that work for you.

I had weekly pill organizers of all shapes and sizes, but I only managed to fill them about once a month. So after several years (I’m not a quick learner), I decided to get a monthly pill organizer. That way, I only suffer through the monotony of filling it once a month and I try to refill it when I’m down to one week left, but that doesn’t always happen. Find ways to organize important things — for example, put all your dog-walking items like a leash, bags, and water bottle in one place. And don’t be afraid of multiples! If you need to have a water bottle that lives by the front door so you remember to take it with you, go for it! If you need to keep floss in more than just the bathroom (I have it stashed all over) just to feel like you can remember to floss occasionally, go for it! Notepad and pens in literally every room because you’ll forget as soon as you walk out? Rock on! It is your life — so make it work for you.

12. Learn to be gentle with yourself.

It’s OK not to do things “perfectly” — no one is perfect. If I floss four of my teeth, that’s better than none. If I dust one lampshade, totally an accomplishment. Try to see anything and everything you do as something worth patting yourself on the back for, not as a time to berate yourself for all the things you “didn’t do.”

Be kind to yourself! It’s easier said than done, but practice helps!

If you feel like “adulting” is something only “normal people” can accomplish – you’re not alone. Whether it’s mental illness, neurodivergence, physical illness, or anything else, adulting can be made infinitely harder when you’re trying to balance those struggles with the expectations of “normal life.” But you are not alone. We all struggle in different ways, but I promise you that even the most “put-together” people struggle with the everyday expectations of life. It’s OK — you are OK. The laundry in the dryer can be tumbled again for the fifth time and the world won’t end.

Keep reminding yourself that we are all fighting to keep our heads above water at times but for some, it is a much more tiring and challenging task.

You’re doing great — I promise.

Getty Images photo via Rowan Jordan

Originally published: April 22, 2022
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