I’m a licensed therapist and today I want to talk about habits and daily routines that you can do to help manage depression.
So I’ve got a history of depression in my family and in myself when I was younger in my teenage years and in my early 20s I experienced some bouts of depression that were really painful and lasted a couple of months and so now I’ve developed a mental health routine some habits and practices that keep me healthy now and I haven’t.
I can honestly say I haven’t had a depressive episode for probably thirteen years maybe longer I’m not quite sure but I do have to constantly work to maintain my mental health and just like physical health you know you have to maintain your body by exercising and eating the right food and you know if you’re sick or injured you go to the hospital or you go to the doctor when you’re when you’re ill with mental health you also have to take this daily action to be healthy.
I think a lot of people don’t think about that like they just think about taking care of their mental health when they are depressed or when they are experiencing an anxiety disorder and I see mental health much more about this process of creating health instead of just treating illness and when things are stressful I have to take extra care to manage my mental health.
So for example when I was in grad school which was really stressful or when I’m pregnant or postpartum which are really exhausting and stressful times at these are times when I have to take extra time to care for my my mental my mental health and so right now we as a global community we’re fighting a pandemic a lot of people are scared a lot of people are stressed out and many of us if not most of us are in lockdown we’re doing social distancing we’re alone in our homes and this can be a scary and a stressful time.
We all have to take a little bit of extra care for our mental health but these routines and habits that I’m going to teach you they’re gonna apply to even when the coronavirus is taken care of and things are back to a new normal which is hopefully a better normal I actually believe that we can be a better worldwide community after coronavirus than we are before it so what I’m gonna talk about today is more about maintaining mental health than it is about getting out of the deepest pit of depression so when you’re in a deep depressive episode it can be really hard to see any light. I mean it feels like you’re in the bottom of a pit and you know like when I’m there I I couldn’t imagine what it feels like to be out of it and at that place often all you can do is take these like tiny little steps and then hopefully also you can get some help to get you out of there so don’t allow yourself to get overwhelmed by all of these ideas.
I’m gonna share with you but if you are in that place you’re feeling you know an overwhelming feeling of despair or depression don’t allow yourself to get overwhelmed by the tips and tricks that I’m gonna offer you just choose one little thing to start with and then after that you know after you’ve gotten that one figured out you can take like the next little baby step okay so let’s talk about morning routine so the first thing I do every day is I get on my knees and I pray I express gratitude for my day.
I express gratitude for my life and the opportunity I have to do good in the world and that connection with God for me it helps me feel loved and purposeful throughout my day if you’re not really just you could do some meditation or a breathing exercise at this point but whatever it is start your day with an intention and for this reason I try not to look at my phone first thing in the morning because I want to start my day intentional the way I choose it to be so if I open social media I’m letting others choose what I take in and that could be positive and it could be negative it could be stressful it could be uplifting or it could be critical and so I choose instead to start my day with some quiet time so that I can control how my day begins that I can set that tone for my day.
I do a little reading and then I write up my goals and my intentions for the day and right now with everything that’s frightening and all the news that’s pretty anxiety provoking I don’t read the news in the morning I choose to listen to the news around lunchtime so I do it once a day and I do that so that I don’t get constantly stressed out. I also choose lunchtime but then I have time to process it throughout the rest of the day like I have time for my brain to work through the new information or the new difficulties that are going on and I can do that during my waking hours instead of reading the news right before bed which might mess up my sleep or doing it in the morning which might kind of set the tone for my whole day so I make sure that my morning routine is about intentionally setting the tone for the day how I want it to be and I set the tone that I have a good day by doing this okay so now.
We’ve talked a little bit about how I manage my morning routine and talking about doing things during my waking hours let me talk for just a minute about sleep okay so I just had to move because the Sun came out and it was too bright in my eyeballs so I’m gonna go back to talking about sleep so let’s talk about sleep for just a minute so I have 3 kids 5 and under so I usually wake up before them to get some quiet time and to set my intention for the day but my natural wakeup time is around 5 a.m. I don’t usually set an alarm but because I can’t really sleep in. Like it’s like physically I’m like incapable of sleeping in I often have to go to bed between 9:00 and 10:00 p.m. to get enough sleep and I’m not like fighting my natural bot biorhythms.
I’m not like setting an alarm and forcing myself to wake up I just listen to my body and this is the schedule that works best for me personally so for many people they might have different sleep needs or a different schedule but regardless of what your personal sleep needs it’s like you should find out what they are and take care of them and that’s because sleep is super important to managing depression so there’s like this really massive correlation between sleep problems and depression lack of sleep can actually cause depression and getting good sleep can let your brain heal from depression so I really value sleep plus I just like how I feel when I’ve had a good night’s sleep.
I have old friends who’ve nicknamed me 905 because I often go to bed at that time and for sure like I miss out on some fun it’s hard for me to do like a lot of those late-night social activities but because going to bed early is what keeps me healthy it’s worth it for me now each person has different sleep needs your needs are different but getting enough sleep can really make a big difference one study found that 87% of people with depression who resolved their insomnia significantly decreased their depression symptoms okay so another really important thing to do after you wake up you’re refreshed because you got a good night’s sleep you took your time to set your intentions for the day I make sure that I get showered and dressed.
I found that this can be really hard when you’re depressed but being clean and dressed helps me feel more energetic and it gets rid of my excuses so I mean like if I have yesterday’s makeup all over my face and I’m wearing my pajamas it makes it hard for me to want to go out and see friends or be social or get things done so like for example if I’m at the store I’m gonna like kind of avoid talking to anyone who I run into that I might know because I look like a bum or if I go drop off my daughter a preschool I’m not gonna be chatty with the teacher and those are kind of the interactions that also help make our day better and enjoyable so for me getting dressed kind of sets the tone.
I’m you know here for the day I’m ready to go and helps me have like a better day the next part of my routine that helps fight off depression and keep me mentally healthy is nutrition so I take my multivitamins I eat well if I remember I take my omega-3 supplements and nutrition is just an important part of my routine I try to eat a lot of plants I try not to eat too much sugar or processed foods but I’m not gonna go into that too much right now because it can be kind of overwhelming to think about changing your diet or eating right so I mean just just store that away if you have the ability eat well okay the other essential part of my mental health maintenance is exercise there is so much research that exercise is great for mental health it helps clear brain fog it helps reduce stress chemicals in your brain and I feel like when I exercise it just like works through this backlog of pent up emotions.
I can feel my body relax exercise helps me deal with anger and frustration and honestly I just like it like I I know a lot of people who don’t like exercising but I actually enjoy it and I think one of the reasons people maybe don’t like exercise is because they’re doing these kind of like boring and mindless exercises at the gym walking on a treadmill or pushing themselves in a way that’s really painful or uncomfortable and so I try to exercise in a way that I enjoy I try and do things that are enjoyable for me and I try and do them at a time that I enjoy so a lot of people like to exercise in the morning but for me back when I worked full time. I always used to go to the climbing gym or go for a run after work and that’s because that’s when I needed it the most it’s also kind of hard for me to get motivated in the mornings to work out but by the afternoon because I was you know maybe stressed out that day I’m looking forward to it now that I’m a full-time mom.
I have to be a lot more creative in how I get my exercise in so I often just like do yard work I garden I dig in the dirt I’ll literally like go run around my yard with my wheelbarrow like a load rocks in it move them really fast because they need to be moved or if I’m not in the garden then I’ll do some yoga on TV or I’ll go for a walk with my kids or pull them behind my bike and now that a lot of us are stuck in our homes with the corona virus pandemic I’m doing a lot more inside workouts so I like the seven-minute workout on my phone or the fitness marshal on YouTube if you haven’t seen him he’s hilarious so those are some good ways to get exercise if you’re stuck indoors or you don’t have a lot of time okay so I just started raining so I might have to go hop into my greenhouse in just a minute we’ll see you in might die down but we’re out of nature.
What I was just going to talk about so nature time so this is another like essential aspect of my mental health and it’s really important to me to get some outside time so I need nature like I just have to have some I need to see the sky and soak in the Sun and I’m fortunate to live in a super beautiful place I’m just gonna tilt this up and see if you can see the mountains behind me do you see this like it’s kind of rainy alright I have beautiful mountains behind me and I take advantage of this beautiful place by getting outside and there’s actually research out there showing that sunshine changes your physiology so like we have different physiology like a different heart rate and different blood pressure on sunny days then we do on cloudy days and so being out of nature is I think an essential part of our physical and mental health it’s still raining I’m gonna go in the greenhouse hang on just a second.
I’m seriously not very good at this whole leg selfie think okay hopefully you can still hear me and it’s not too loud hey do you guys want a green house tour look this is how I get my sunshine in the winter there’s some kale and some beets and some poppies grow in and in here I’ve got tomatoes and pepper plants more lettuce and a fig tree anyways this is where I get my nature fix now that I have little kids we’re gonna find a place to sit down okay so being out in nature it’s good for your stress levels it decreases your heart rate it like helps with stress chemicals and stuff but regardless of the research like I can just feel the difference for me when I’m outside I feel healthier I feel happier and when I’m stuck indoors I am actually kind of cranky pants so if you can’t get outside open your windows sit on your porch or if you can’t do any of that.
You can spend some time looking at like beautiful landscape photography or a nature film because your brain has the ability to bring to mind the feeling of nature just by imagining it okay let’s do I can set my my phone right here if you’re wondering what the milk jugs are those help keep residual heat in the greenhouse that’s I mean it looks trashy but it’s functional okay now let’s talk about my evening routine so my evening routine looks like getting my kids to bed by 8 o’clock and that’s like this massive stressful struggle but then I take some quiet time for myself I usually take a hot bath or I read a book or an archeology journal yes I am kind of a nerd but that’s what I like and that’s what helps me relax so even though I have like very few hours to work on my passion project which is these videos.
I usually don’t work on them in the evenings because it would probably contribute to like overall stress levels and for me like I need the downtime to stay healthy so I intentionally plan in a my day to relax and take downtime so I take a bath read something relaxing I often write in my journal I use a little journaling app called day one and I use a template on there that prompts me to write about my accomplishments of the day and my wins of the day what I’m grateful for and any good that I was able to do that day and the reason I do that is so that I can remember them because it’s my natural habit to dwell on my mistakes and my own shortcomings so I I write about my wins
Before I go to bed I pray a prayer of gratitude and I talk with my Heavenly Father about my day now again gratitude practice is an essential habit of mental health and it’s been shown to be an effective treatment for depression so you can pray about it like me or you can express gratitude as a family I actually have a reminder on my Alexa to express gratitude and so we do that at dinner time or you could just write about it you can do gratitude journal do whatever works for you but I think gratitude before bed is really good for mental health so then after that I go to bed I try not to spend time looking at screens.
Before bed but if I do I choose something really calming like a documentary or a muddler Keane channel on youtube like Nicola White’s if you don’t know what mud Larkin is it’s just like walking down the mud of the river tames and finding like historical bits and bobs so anyways I find it relaxing and I encourage people not to go spend too much time on TV or watch anything too stressful before bed because really that’s not very conducive for brain health but if you do choose to watch TV just choose a short and a calming show other self care for me includes scheduling in time for my hobby so I have like tons of hobbies but because I’m so busy with kids I’m a full-time mom I really don’t have the time to do most of them and if I wasn’t intentional I wouldn’t have time to do any of them.
I do make sure to carve out about two hours a week to do at least one of them so right now that’s metal detecting so that’s something I do which is fun and it’s relaxing for me I put it on the calendar so that I make sure it happens another thing I do is I take the Sabbath off I dunno work.
I don’t do housework I don’t check my work email and I let my brain completely focus on other things now mostly that’s my family which is actually really exhausting because of these little kids but at least that day is completely different from the other six days of the week so there’s like one last thing that I make sure to fit into my day and into my schedule that helps me stay mentally healthy and that’s social interactions so having social interactions is really essential for our mental health our brains are inherently social . We’re social creatures so right now with the coronavirus and everyone on lockdown this is going to be an extra challenge and some of the things I’m doing to stay healthy right now is taking the time to call up old friends making sure to FaceTime and face chat like video chat I mean with people who I can’t see face to face and it really is better to have you know physical hugs and see people.
I for our brains then it is just to talk to them on the phone or message them so whatever you can do to make those interactions more personal is gonna be better for your brain so I have some groups that I’m hanging out with on zoom’ and when we’re not on lockdown I meet up with friends i scheduling playdates with other moms and go out to lunch or whatever so I always just make sure to have social interactions be part of my routine so that I’m able to stay mentally healthy and this is something that I think for a lot of people comes really naturally but for me I actually have to work at it I have to take extra effort to be social because it’s not really that easy for me anyway so there you have it that’s my daily routine to maintain mental health.
I have a careful morning routine I make sure to get enough sleep I get dressed every day I exercise and I get some outside time I carve out time to relax every evening I practice gratitude I acknowledge my successes and once a week I make sure to get out and do something just for me so I hope you can find some things from this list to help you figure out a way to maintain your mental health today for this week and during this whole crazy pandemic thing that we’re going through and also just remember you’re braver than you know and you’re stronger than you think.
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