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A Daily To-Do List for When I'm Fighting Depression

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Everything hurts.

It’s the only way I’ve been able to articulate the debilitating effect depression has had on my life. When I try to ask myself why I can’t function like a “normal” human being – why I can’t clean my apartment, focus at work or even take a shower – the answer is always the same. Whatever I try to do, not matter how simple it may be, it just hurts.

I know how frustrating it is to feel like the world is spinning too quickly, like you’ll never be able to catch up. I know the pressure of daily responsibilities and social obligations can make it feel like you can’t breathe, let alone face the day. I know it hurts.

When I’m in pain, even self-care becomes an effort. But it’s during those painful times it becomes most crucial. For those days when everything hurts, I try and remember to do these things:

Drink water. Depression makes it far too easy for me to fall out of touch with what my body needs. A glass of water is not the pinnacle of self-care or the magic cure for mental illness – but it’s a start.

Rest your mind. One thing my depressed brain hates more than anything is inactivity; when my body is at rest, my mind goes haywire with stress and criticisms, reminding me of all the things I could and should be doing. Over time, I’ve gotten better at letting go of self-imposed obligations. Mental illness, like any other illness, requires rest.

Do something you enjoy. Even if it’s only for a few minutes, I try to set some time aside every day for an activity that brings me happiness. Sometimes, I’ll sing to my favorite song. Other times, I might play the piano, play with my dog or read a book.

Run – or dance, or swim or climb a tree. It only takes a couple minutes of physical activity to begin feeling the benefits it has on your mind and body. At the same time, Zumba class is usually the last place I want to be when I’ve hit a low point. I’ve learned the best exercise is the kind I actually like doing.

Shower and brush your teeth. It sounds so simple, and yet it’s so easy to neglect. When everything is a chore, even taking a shower can seem too laborious – but I always, always feel better after I do.

Eat a vegetable. I don’t worry about having kale smoothies for breakfast and quinoa salads for dinner. Sometimes the easiest meal to manage comes out of the freezer or from the drive-thru. Sometimes I don’t want to eat anything at all. But I try to at least grab a cucumber. Or some celery. One vegetable is better than none.

Forgive yourself. Days often go by where I cannot do the things I want to do – or even the things I need to do. Mental illness tells me to judge and berate yourself, but the only way I’ve been able to move forward is to love myself – even on my worst days.

I’m not always successful, but I do my best to incorporate these things into my life, not because I have to, but because I deserve to. If you are struggling with mental illness, I wholeheartedly encourage you to do the same. And keep fighting – every new day is a sign that you are winning.

Follow this journey on Living In Revision.

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Originally published: June 23, 2016
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