I started properly working on my recovery from depression about two years ago and I’m still working on it to this day. Over the years, through much trial and error, I have figured out what I need to do to keep my depression in check and boost my mood. My own personal self care toolkit if you will.
Everyone’s path to recovery is different. What works for me might not necessarily work for you. But if you need a bit of inspiration figuring out where to start, here are all the things I did during my recovery from depression.
I only took antidepressants for a short period of time and generally prefer to manage my depression in other ways. However, in the early days I was struggling to do much more than lie in bed every day. I certainly didn’t have the capacity to do anything proactive to boost my mood. Antidepressants helped me lift my head above water long enough to start the hard work required to kick start recovery.
I was lucky enough to have a great therapist who helped me develop many of the tools necessary to manage my mental health and identified that the underlying cause of my depression was an eating disorder. Unfortunately she wasn’t trained to work specifically on the eating disorder but simply having the space to talk things through did wonders for my recovery from depression.
Exercise is a natural way of boosting endorphins and can be as effective as antidepressants at managing depression. For me, it’s a fail safe method of improving my mood. It can be difficult to motivate yourself to exercise on bad days, but even something as simple as a walk can help make you feel better.
READ MORE: How CBT Got Me Exercising Again
Adjusted My Lifestyle
When my depression first got bad, I was in the middle of three years travelling and living around the World. My nomadic lifestyle was stressful and made it difficult for me to get the help I needed. In order to recover I had to change my lifestyle. I moved back to the UK, worked on improving my mental health above all else and had to put travel on a backburner for a while.
I’m very open about my mental health struggles. I decided early on that there was little point in keeping it a secret and that I was only going to recover if I had the support of those around me. Being honest about my mental health enables me to ask for help when I need it and I hope that I can make some small contribution towards normalising a condition that many people struggle with.
Learned to Identify My Mental Health Red Flags
Part of the reason my depression deteriorated to the point it did was that I didn’t know I had it. Because of that I didn’t recognise the signs that my mental health was deteriorating. One of the most important things I did during the last couple of years was learning how to identify my mental health red flags which means that I am now able to recognise when my depression is creeping back in.
Worked on Healing My Relationship With Food
As I mentioned above, it was during therapy that I realised that the underlying cause of my depression was an eating disorder. The many years of low self esteem and obsessing about food had clearly taken their toll on me. In order to start healing I had to begin the process of making peace with food. I still have a long way to go with this, partly because I am currently unable to access proper treatment (there’s a 20 month waiting list for eating disorder treatment in my area) but I’m doing what I can in the meantime.
Built My Self Care ‘Toolkit’
Self care is anything we do to take care of our mental, physical and emotional health; so pretty much everything on this list counts as self care. But this is only a small portion of what I do to look after myself. If I ever find myself feeling unwell, I have a number of different things I turn to to help bring me back up again. Depending on what I need at that specific moment in time, I might do some meditation, read a book or work on my blog. My toolkit is simply a list of things that make me happy that I can turn to when I need it.