I am hopefully on the road to recovery from a long depressive episode. I have been thinking about the little things that helped give me strength to keep going. Some of them are things others did for me, which you might be able to use if you know someone who is struggling, or even think they might be. You might not be a close friend, or it might not be appropriate to talk in depth about their feelings, but you can still do little things to help. They are also nice things to do anyway and we should all make an effort to be nicer to each other.
At the end are some things you could do for yourself, which helped me, but Kylee over at selfcaremadeeasy has lots of good ideas which might suit you better.
- Just knowing someone is thinking of you even when you are not with them is a great comfort. A message or text to let someone know you are thinking of them costs nothing and makes a big difference if someone is feeling isolated.
- Little gifts of food. I have lost count of the number of times the girls at work have quietly left a piece of cake or bar of chocolate on my desk when I have been having a bad day. One of them even bravely slipped a chocolate bar into my jacket pocket and I only discovered it on my journey home.
- A smile and a “good morning” works wonders. You might not get much of a response if the recipient is very depressed – but I promise it will be noticed and will help.
- Compliments. These can work wonders if sincere and you don’t overdo it. A depressed person with poor self-image (like me) will often just brush them off or seem dismissive – but the message can still get through. Be careful, especially with people of the opposite sex. Compliment them on a something neutral like a nice piece of jewellery or a shirt or even a new haircut. Compliments specifically about someone’s body are a no-no until there is already a lot of trust between you. “ Cor – I like your bum” is (probably) unlikely to endear you to someone.
- An invitation for a quiet coffee or lunch out. You don’t have to talk about the depression. Just a mundane chat can be a nice distraction for someone who is depressed – and they will feel less alone because of the connection. Don’t assume that because they have a partner, family or other friends that they already have this kind of support – often just talking to someone new and uninvolved in their life is less pressure for them.
- We introverts suffer badly from over-stimulation by others. This can cause anxiety and depression if we don’t get enough recharge time. If you catch us when we are being over-stimulated (by being around people all day at work, then family all evening without a break) then we may not initially welcome the idea of spending our little quiet time with you at the moment. Please do not stop inviting us – one day we will be in a better place and will be delighted to join you. There is a BIG difference between taking recharge time and being alone when we really don’t want to be alone.
- Hugs and physical gestures of affection. This is a bit of a minefield, especially at work. But if someone is down or upset you can always offer a hug – just ask first. My workplace is unusual as we are generally also friends so hugs are not rare, and it is great. When I was growing up I don’t think hugs had been invented yet, sadly. You might have gathered – I like hugs!
Self-care that helped me:
- Going for massages. These are relaxing as well as providing valuable human contact. Professional massage therapists are very good at sensing if a client wants to chat or not, so don’t worry if you want to be quiet. They have also seen every variety of scar or body shape so you don’t need to feel self-conscious either. My therapist, Carol, is a friend now and she is lovely.
- A nice meal. I find good authentic Indian food is great for lifting my spirits. The rush from the spices is as good as chocolate 🙂 and the tastes and colours are amazing.
- Exercise. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.
- Doggies! Dogs are brilliant for lifting your mood and if you don’t have one then go visit someone elses! Local animal shelters may be willing to let you visit or take their ‘guests’ for a walk.
- Dress for confidence. I am hopeless at this one but have made a real effort in the last few weeks and it does help. It is so tempting to wear comfort clothing that is unobtrusive and makes you invisible. A problem with making yourself invisible is it reinforces your negative self-image.
- I find listening to loud, angry, music is very cathartic. You might prefer to listen to something more relaxing!