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4 ‘Simple’ Ways I Practice Self-Care Even on Bad Mental Health Days

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I’ve battled major depressive disorder (MDD) and severe anxiety since my early teens. As an adult, though, I find I really struggle to take care of the most basic needs when I experience a bad mental health day. I sometimes skip a shower or breakfast in favor of additional sleep. When I really feel low, I sometimes stay in my pajamas and sleep the day away. And although there’s nothing wrong with any of that, I find that when I neglect my body, I end up feeling worse before I feel better. So, I try to do these four simple things… even on bad mental health days.

1. Stay hydrated.

Although most of us understand the physical impacts of dehydration, very few of us consider just how it can impact our mood and overall mental health. Studies show that even mild dehydration can increase anxiety, fatigue and concentration problems. Additionally, psychiatric medications work best when your body is well-hydrated and nourished.

This is why I try my best to stay hydrated even on days when I feel overwhelmed by the weight of the world. I keep water bottles in random places, like on my nightstand or in my car. I also find that having a reusable water bottle or mug with inspirational words helps me not only remember to drink water, but it boosts my mood, too.

2. Have premade meals ready.

I find one of the most difficult parts of depression to be its connection to food. Although you may not feel like preparing an entire dinner on the difficult days with your mental health, going the entire day without eating will only cause your mood to plummet even more. For me, not eating also means not taking my antidepressant because it causes nausea on an empty stomach.

Fortunately, modern conveniences make feeding ourselves easy on those most difficult days. I’m not a health food addict by any means, but I do appreciate healthy options when they’re available. I find that single-serving meal services like Freshly can help me eat a nutritious, well-balanced meal without exerting the exhausting effort that cooking takes.

3. Keep a mini-fridge in the bedroom.

Sometimes, even leaving your bedroom feels like an impossible task when you battle depression or severe anxiety. And, honestly? That’s OK. We can still find ways to take care of our most basic needs without leaving the confines of our bedroom if needed; you just need to think creatively.

If you find you spend at least a few days each month curled up in bed, purchase a mini-fridge for your bedroom. This way, you can store some bottled water and easy-to-prepare food items beside your bed. You can still take care of your physical needs while also caring for your mental health with this simple trick.

4. Stock feel-good foods.

No matter how awful I feel, some foods just remind me of better days and happy memories. I keep things like tomato soup and cheese crackers in my desk at work for those days when I need something soothing, or Swedish Fish and oatmeal cream pies on days when I’d rather eat like a kid. Regardless of what foods bring you joy, keep some feel-good foods on hand for those moments when you need a tasty distraction or an instant mood boost.

While all of these sound simple enough, I know all of them can feel impossible when you battle mental illness. I hope that through sharing my tips, I can help others care for their bodies on both the good days and the bad. Even when the world overwhelms us, it’s important to care for our most basic needs. You deserve nothing but the best, even when your thoughts convince you otherwise.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Originally published: November 22, 2019
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