Treats Don't Last
There isn't anything inherently wrong with bubble baths, coloring, candles, naps, tea, or whatever other self-care ideas are trending this week.
But all of those are temporary. They are ways to make yourself feel better for a few moments. But when you get out of the bath, put the coloring book away, and blow out the candle, nothing will really be fixed.
Here's some less fun but ultimately better forms of self care:
**These are ranked from easiest to hardest and can be done in order. This list is geared towards those struggling with depression or anxiety, but it can apply to anyone having a hard time.**
1. Leave your bed if you haven't already.
Your bed is for sleeping. You are associating it with being awake. Get up.
2. Make your bed.
It takes seconds and makes it unlikely you’ll get back in.
3. Get dressed.
Just like your bed, pajamas are for sleeping. If you're having a bad day mentally, wearing your pajamas puts you in a tired mindset that makes things worse.
4. Open the blinds.
You are not a vampire. You need sunlight.
5. Take a shower.
Not a bath, a shower. This isn't for relaxation, it's so you feel clean.
6. Drink a glass of water.
I guarantee you haven't had enough. Drink a full glass. Two if you can.
7. Eat a real meal.
A handful of crackers is not a meal. Cold pizza is not a meal. Cook something, even if it's in the microwave. Be able to look at the food and feel proud of yourself.
8. Do your dishes.
This only takes a few minutes and even washing one dish is rewarding. A clean counter will decrease your stress and make you feel like you accomplished something.
9. Do your laundry.
Similar to dishes, this doesn't take long and it's rewarding. You'll feel like you have a handle on at least one part of your life. Plus, clean clothes are kinda important.
10. Clean your room.
Don’t just tidy up, I'm talking vacuum, take out the trash, dust, AND tidy up.
11. Go outside.
I don't care if it's 10 degrees, raining, or the middle of the night. You don't have to take a walk or be out there for hours. Take a few minutes to breathe fresh air and listen to the birds.
Go on a walk, walk around the house if it's crummy outside. If you feel tired, it's probably
because you're not doing anything. Start small, the energy will come.
13. Use your brain.
Do a word search, a crossword, a jigsaw puzzle, read a book, etc. If you're anxious,
you need to focus on one thing. If you're depressed, you need to make your brain work.
14. Talk to a human being.
Text, call, talk in person, send smoke signals, however you want. I don't care if you don't feel social. Humans need other humans.
Don't be scared to ask a friend for help with any of the items on this list. Have a huge stack of dishes that looks overwhelming? Piles of laundry? Garbage all over the floor? Don't feel like you can get out of bed? Ask a friend to help you. The good ones will not only help, but will be happy to do so.
I had a friend come over once to help me take my meds and get ready for bed. I've also gone to her house just to help her organize her room. Tasks are less daunting when other people do them with you.
It’s also worth noting that nothing on this list has a time limit. It’s okay if it takes you an hour to get out of bed. It’s okay if it takes you twenty minutes to pick out socks and you cry because the decision feels so important. As long as it gets done, as long as you tried your best, it counts. You succeeded.
I know none of these items sound fun, and it's probably more tempting to eat a cookie, take a nap, and "treat yourself." But treats don't last, and feeling accomplished and productive will help more than a nap and junk food.
In fact, a lot of "self-care" is harmful unless you pair it with some of the things above. Go ahead and treat yourself and relax, but make sure you can do it in clean clothes.
Fix your environment, make yourself functional, then you can focus on rewards.