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7 Essentials Every Depressed 30-Something Needs to Have Ready to Go

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I’m going to let you in on a secret: even in my mid-30s, after years of experiencing depression, it can be wildly unpredictable. One day, I’ll be feeling fine — good, even. Then, morning dawns to that miserable, exhausted, hopeless feeling that makes all of the good just… evaporate.

Problem is, you never know when it’s coming, so it’s tough to prepare — especially when it feels impossible to get out of the house when you’re so depressed that you can barely get dressed. Personally, I’ve found it helps me to have a kind of disaster scenario stockpile, like a crisis kit, ready for when I’m so depressed that the thought of going for a walk to the store is enough to make me crawl back into bed and become a burrito.

Here’s what I have in my depression disaster kit. Some of these might seem a little obvious, but it’s what helps — heck, it’s what’s helping me right now as I write this.

1. Microwave Popcorn

This is my number one, go-to option for when I’m so depressed that I can’t wash up or cook. As far as I’m concerned, microwave popcorn is the single greatest invention of our lives. It’s like magic; pop it into the microwave, set the timer (mine takes just two and a half minutes) and — ping! You’ve got yourself a delicious, not-very-nutritious snack. Mine’s the salted and sweet combo, thanks.

And look, on the days you’re struggling, the goal isn’t immediately to be nutritious. The goal is just to get through the day. Sure, I’m an advocate for healthy, high-nutrient meals with vegetables and electrolytes and all those great things the brain needs, but sometimes you just want something tasty that’ll give you some much-needed endorphins. Plus, microwave popcorn isn’t quite as perishable as other foods. But, OK. While we’re on the subject…

2. Pre-Cooked Meals

Batch cooking isn’t my favorite thing on this list, but while the prep isn’t fun, the benefits sure are appealing. When you’re having a good day or streak of days, I’d encourage you to consider getting some easy, healthy ingredients, a recipe for a one-pan dish, and throw everything into the oven. Then, when it’s ready, put it in some vacuum-sealed containers and freeze it for a rainy day.

When I’m struggling, I really don’t want to cook. But as in the popcorn example, at least pre-cooked meals can be microwaved. You don’t even need clean plates; you can eat it straight out of the container you stored it in. Plus, it lasts for a long time — perfect for when you need something more nutritious than microwave popcorn.

3. Soft Drinks and Water

I’m a little bit of a fiend for soft drinks, I’ll admit it. On the days I just can’t even, I’m more likely to reach for a soft drink than a bottle of water. However, even I’ll admit that it’s good to have both at the ready. Water has been shown to have positive effects on the brain just as dehydration has negative effects. So, when you’re just trying to survive the day, drinking water is an important step. This is a “do as I say, not as I do” scenario though. Who knew it was so hard to stay hydrated?

Pro-tip: get a water bottle that has a cool design. I love cold water and struggle to drink it when it starts to warm up, so having an insulated bottle you love is a great way to actually encourage yourself to drink water.

3. Paper Plates and Bamboo Cutlery

I mentioned before that needing to wash up when you’re depressed is tough. Well… as someone who also lives with depression, ADHD, and its associated executive dysfunction, I typically have fewer clean dishes than dirty ones. In today’s society that is inching closer to becoming environmentally conscious, I don’t like having to use paper plates… but when I’m so depressed that the thought of washing up makes me feel like crying, having a single-use paper plate is a welcome sacrifice. You can even buy compostable plates, though — a better option for the environment. Likewise, having bamboo cutlery on-hand is an excellent solution to single-use plastic. Bamboo is incredibly fast-growing (and thus eco-friendly), it’s fully compostable, and it’s also both durable and reusable.

4. Soft Blanket

When I’m feeling my worst, nothing helps quite as much as rolling myself into a blanket and becoming a human burrito. There’s something so comforting about wrapping up in a soft, fresh blanket. Wash it ahead of time and store it for a depression day. Your future self with thank you. Bonus points if you have a weighted blanket!

5. Coffee

Coffee isn’t the best for your depression, but… I love coffee. When depression makes me feel exhausted and I just need to feel a burst of energy, coffee is the drink of the gods. It helps that I have an excellent espresso machine that requires minimal maintenance apart from the occasional descaling! Not everyone loves coffee though, so you can of course supplement this with your own choice of comforting, warming drinks such as herbal teas. 

6. Dried Fruits or Nuts

So long as you aren’t allergic, dried fruits and nuts are a nutritious way of getting through the tough times. Nuts are great for giving you energy, they’re rich in vitamins, and they’re pretty filling. The same goes for fruits such as apricot.

7. Your Favorite Childhood Movies

Sometimes, when my thoughts are at their darkest, I just want to return to the sublime simplicity of youth. Whether that’s through cartoons, books, movies, and so on, watching something comforting and nostalgic is a great panacea for the down days. It doesn’t have to be childhood, either; if it brings you comfort and joy, then have it ready to go for the days you just don’t want to be awake. Streaming services make this so much easier, now. Even if you aren’t already a member, free trials are a great way of indulging for the day or subscribing for a month and then canceling your subscription. There are ways to manage if you don’t have your favorite show or movie on a physical medium.

So, that’s what helps me when I hit crisis mode and I need my trusted depression cures around me. OK, so they’re not quite “cures” for depression, but they do help me survive when the world seems its darkest. I might be in my mid-30s, but that doesn’t mean I have everything worked out. I don’t always have the dishes and the cutlery washed up to make a nutritious meal easy, and depression often makes the thought of washing up unbearable. I don’t always have something stored in the freezer, ready to reheat, but I do try to keep something microwavable in the house for when I need it. Depression makes life complicated, but that doesn’t mean I can’t watch something comforting while cocooned in a blanket, eating cereal from the box like I’m 5 again.

What helps you? Let me know in the comments below.

Getty image by Artur Debat

Originally published: September 19, 2022
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