There are a lot of reasons you may not have your shit together right now. Mental illness, chronic pain, physical disability, all of these things can massively impact our ability to take care of ourselves. In this post, however, I’ll be assuming that things are really bad for you right now. Too often I see articles like these that are geared towards people who are doing okay, but they could be doing a lot better. When you’re already doing so badly, that can be really discouraging. So if you have absolutely none of your shit together right now, this is for you.
Imagine your level of functioning right now is at a 1. You’re breathing, you’re still alive, you might have even managed to eat and drink properly, but there’s not much else going on. This article isn’t going to take you all the way up to a 10. I’ve been there, I still go there regularly, and I know how hard it can be to take care of yourself when you feel like you can barely do anything. We’re going to try and take you from a 1 to a 2. Be proud of what you can manage.
I also want to note, you don’t have to do every single one of these things. Some of them won’t be relevant to you, some of them will just seem like too much. That’s okay. Pick one thing and give it a go. Or bookmark this article and come back to it later when you feel like you can manage something. Nothing is too little. Even the tiniest baby steps are still steps forward.
Wash one dish
I know you’ve got a pile of dirty dishes sitting in your sink right now. I do too. The thought of filling the sink with hot water and getting dish soap and sponges, or loading the entire dishwasher, probably sounds super overwhelming. But you are gonna need a plate to eat off eventually. You don’t need to do the whole thing. Wash one plate, or one cup. Maybe a fork, if you feel up to it. That’s not too much, is it? Put the hot water on, squeeze a tiny bit of dish soap onto a sponge, and just get that one fork clean. If you want to, you can keep going. But if you can’t, it’s okay. You did one thing. That’s more than zero things. Be proud.
Clean your body
When you’re in the throes of illness, it can be incredibly hard to keep up with basic hygiene. We tend not to talk about it, because it can be super embarrassing. You’re not alone, and you’re not a bad person for falling behind on your self care. If a bath or a shower is more than you can deal with at the moment, see if you can get some baby wipes. Give yourself a wipe down, see if you can make yourself feel a little fresher. It’s not going to replace a full wash, but it’s going to help a little bit.
Drink a glass of water
You can even do this one while you’re washing one dish. Lately, I’ve just been drinking straight from the tap, because getting a glass or a bottle can be an extra task that i’m just not up for at the time. Fill a glass, or a bowl, or a bottle, or just lean yourself over the sink and pretend you’re a gazelle drinking from a watering hole. Get yourself a drink. It’s important to keep yourself hydrated, and a lot of the time we’ll use soda, tea, coffee, or other drinks to keep dehydration at bay. Water, however, is always the best.
Light a candle
It sounds silly, but doing a tiny thing like lighting a candle can help to lighten your mood. Of course, make sure it’s safe, keep the flame away from anything that could catch fire, but I don’t need to tell you that. Turn off the lights and focus on the flame for a little bit. Spend five minutes just sitting quietly, enjoying the smell of your candle, and watching it burn and melt. You can also do this with incense if you prefer. Light a stick or a cone, watch the smoke rise and dance around. Enjoy the smell. How does it make you feel?
Go outside for five minutes
Especially if it’s sunny outside. You’ve probably been cooped up inside, breathing the same stagnant air for a while, only seeing artificial light. Go to your door and stand outside for a little bit, breathe in the air, look at your surroundings. If even that is too much, open a window and stand next to it. Just take five minutes out of your day to do that. Going out for a walk is great too, so if you can manage that then go for it! But if not, just go outside and breathe.
Make your bed
I don’t mean wash all your sheets, change your covers, anything like that. Just make sure your bottom sheet is all tucked in, straighten your covers, get your pillows in order. This is actually a tip that UnfuckYourHabitat promotes as the very first step in cleaning your bedroom, or your whole house. The reason for this is because it gives you one clear area to touch base when you get overwhelmed. When your mind is messy too, having one clear area can be invaluable.
Change into clean clothes
It doesn’t matter if you’re just going from one set of pyjamas to another. Put on something clean. If you feel up to it, you can even put on real clothes. This can help give you a little boost of energy, and help you to feel productive. If you’re just changing into clean pyjamas, you’ll still get a little bit of a boost.
Brush your teeth
Much like our general bodily hygiene, when you’re in a real bad spot it can be hard to keep up with your oral hygiene. It’s okay, no judgements here. I’ll admit that I’ve slipped behind plenty times before. Go through to the bathroom, pick up your toothbrush, and squeeze a bit of toothpaste on it. If all you can do from there is just stare at it, that’s fine. Put it down and come back later. But if you can, pick it up and brush your teeth. Go for one minute. Count up to 60 seconds in your head. Again, if that’s all you can manage, it’s okay to stop there. But I will encourage you to try and push through, go all the way to a full two minutes. Once you’ve done this, you should hopefully feel a little fresher.
Wash your face
A really common thing amongst us depressed beasts, is to do an elaborate skincare routine and declare ourselves healthy. Been there. I get it. It can be nice to treat yourself, but we know it’s not sustainable. If you feel like going for a full on fancy facemask, go for it. If not, let’s just go for the base level. Head over to the sink, get the water running nice and warm. Lather up some soap on your hands, and get your face nice and clean. Wash the soap off, then pat yourself dry with a nice clean towel if you have one. Hopefully after doing that you’ll feel a little more human.
If you’re physically able, stand up. Stretch your arms up as high as you can, while standing yourself on tippy toes. Bend over and try to reach your toes, so you can give your back a bit of a stretch. Hold yourself steady against a wall, then bring one leg up in front of you. Stretch your leg behind you as well. Then do the same on the other side. We’re not looking for something super fancy here, just something to get the blood flowing. Of course, if you’re not physically able right now, then don’t do something that’s gonna hurt yourself. You know your body best, so do what you know you’re capable of. Don’t put yourself at risk here, all we’re trying to do is wake your physical body up a little, to hopefully give you a little boost of energy.
Take your prescribed medication, then set an alarm to remind you tomorrow
Sometimes it’s hard to remember to keep up with your medication. I always try to take mine in the morning, but it’s pretty common for me to forget and then rush to take it at lunchtime. Or even dinnertime. If you have medication you’re supposed to take but have forgotten, see if you can take it now. If you’ve just missed one dose, check the information leaflet to see what you should do. Once you’ve got that step all figured out, set an alarm to remind you to take it tomorrow. Set it for a time you realistically think you’ll manage, for example if you’re having trouble being awake in the mornings maybe it’s not a great idea to set your alarm for 8am. Try and remember to take your medication when it goes off tomorrow.
When was the last time you ate? Remember that your body is like a car; it needs fuel in order to run. Of course, I’m sort of obligated to tell you to try and grab a healthy snack. Get something fresh, something nutritious. But if all you can bring yourself to eat is takeout, or chocolate, I won’t tell anybody. Grab yourself something to eat, and enjoy it as much as you can. Take some time to focus only on eating your food.
Spend 5 minutes throwing away trash
Grab a bag, then go to the place you spend the most time. For me, that’s at my desk. Set a timer on your phone, and just start picking up obvious trash. Empty bottles, cans, wrappers, scraps of paper, anything like that. Throw it all in the bag. When the timer runs out, it’s up to you if you want to continue. But be proud of yourself for getting 5 minutes of productivity done!
Check your emails
I personally have about 5000 unread emails. I’m sure there’s some important stuff in there, but we may never know. Set aside a little bit of time to go through your emails, make sure you’ve replied to all the important ones, and if you have to send anybody an email now’s the time to write up a draft. Delete the useless ones, maybe even unsubscribe from a mailing list if you’re feeling spicy. If there are some emails you see are important, but you don’t have the energy to deal with right now, just mark it as important and go back to it later.
Write your thoughts down
This is the one thing that helps me to start climbing out of a depression hole. When your thoughts are only in your head, they can be overwhelming. You can’t quite look at it objectively, because all you have in your brain is telling you “this is true! Listen to this!”. Write it down, and it can be easier to process. Whether you just open up a blank word document, or make a post on tumblr or twitter, or write it down on paper, just get it all out there. Be completely honest with yourself, just write it as stream of consciousness. It doesn’t matter if nobody else understands it, it doesn’t matter if it’s not Hemmingway. This can help you to feel a little bit lighter, like you’ve gotten a weight off your shoulders.
Once again, not all of these things will be relevant to everybody. And even if they are relevant, you may not be able to complete the task right now. That’s okay. Bookmark this article and come back to it later, when you feel more up to it.
Remember that you are a person who deserves compassion and care. If nobody else is giving that to you right now, try to provide it to yourself.