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7 'Small' Wins That Are Actually Huge For People With Depression

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Editor's Note

If you struggle with self-harm or experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, visit this resource.

If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741741.

If you’re living with depression, you may set your expectations of yourself high — which might feed into your depression. In life with depression, though, your “small” daily wins are actually huge — they’re markers of your success each day and your progress over time. Here are seven “small-but-big” wins to celebrate if you struggle with depression.

1. Getting out of bed when depression stops you.

When you’re deep in your depression, getting out of bed may feel extremely difficult, no matter how hard you try. If you have depression and struggle to get up in the morning, try to ignore how many times you need to hit “snooze” and congratulate yourself for getting out of bed on the days when it feels hardest. Even if you got out of bed later than you would have liked on any given day, you still did it, and that seemingly small step will carry you through the rest of the day.

2. Brushing your teeth when it feels overwhelming.

If your depression affects your ability to prioritize your personal hygiene, you may struggle to care for your teeth. You may feel like everyone but you can brush their teeth on a regular basis, but you’re not the only one with depression who struggles with their oral hygiene — so taking a few minutes to brush your teeth is a huge deal. No matter whether you’re best able to brush your teeth in the morning, afternoon, or night, when you have the energy to brush your teeth and are able to follow through, remind yourself how proud you are. It may seem like such a small thing, but rinsing, brushing, or flossing your teeth can be a sign that you’re conquering your depression.

3. Showering.

Living with depression may affect your motivation to clean yourself — which may cause you to shower less frequently than you’d like to. If you shower once every few days because of your depression symptoms but would like to shower more often, choose a small way to celebrate every time you do. Once you get into the shower and start sudsing up, think about how much you may not have wanted to and the small steps you took to fight against your depression and clean yourself. Showering might feel a bit more like a win when you recognize how much effort it may take you — and how you’re showering anyways.

4. Eating regularly, even when you’re too tired to cook.

If your depression affects your appetite or your desire to prepare food, you aren’t alone. Although people who don’t experience depression may not understand how difficult eating regularly can be, nourishing your body and mind can be a huge accomplishment when you live with depression. If you ordinarily struggle to prepare food or eat meals at “typical” mealtimes, notice the days when you’re best able to feed yourself. Whether you have the energy to cook a full meal or you opt to prepare something quick or microwave leftovers instead, you deserve to celebrate that you’re giving your body some sustenance when it feels particularly difficult.

5. Keeping mental health appointments when you don’t want to go.

You may not always love seeing mental health providers — and may even blame your depression for your appointments — but those sessions with your therapist or psychiatrist are worth attending. However, you may find it difficult to muster up the energy to take yourself to your appointments or set up a space for telehealth appointments, especially if you know that your appointments can often feel heavy or mentally draining. When you’re able to attend your sessions, find a way to reward yourself or just remind yourself that you’re winning the battle against your depression. After all, keeping your appointments is a huge step forward in your life with depression!

6. Practicing self-care for your mental health.

If you tend to overwork yourself in an attempt to escape your depression, practicing self-care may not feel like something to celebrate, but it’s more important than you may think. Self-care allows you the opportunity to rest and refresh after completing tasks that your depression may make challenging, so taking that time for yourself matters tremendously. If you struggle to prioritize self-care, notice when you’re taking breaks or engaging in activities that feel comfortable for you. Whether you prefer reading, taking a warm bath, listening to music, or spending time in nature, choosing something that relaxes you and making time for it — even if it’s just for a few minutes per day — may help ease your symptoms.  The next time you practice self-care, celebrate — you deserve it!

7. Deciding to keep living when you’re suicidal.

If your depression comes with suicidal thoughts or self-harm urges, you may feel like constantly choosing to live is difficult and painful. Battling those thoughts and emotions can be one of the hardest parts of life with depression, but even though deciding to live may seem small, it’s arguably the biggest, most difficult decision you may make. If you feel suicidal but choose to live life one small increment at a time to make the decision feel more manageable or opt to reach out for help when you’re really struggling, then you’re already winning. Once you move into a less dark headspace, recognize and celebrate the amount of effort it may take you to choose life — and know that you’ve succeeded at living for years now. Remember how much of a win staying alive is — it’s not always easy, but it can be incredibly rewarding.

Photo by Vin Stratton on Unsplash

Originally published: September 29, 2021
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