Opinion | 10 tiny things to help depression feel not so terrible

By Nina Santucci, Staff Columnist

Depression is a leading cause of disability worldwide. About 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression, and many more remain undiagnosed. Depression can be one of the hardest illnesses to manage and function with, and treating it can be even harder. Often, when one searches how to treat depression, they’re met with articles suggesting the same advice — therapy, medication, consistent exercise, hApPy tHOuGhTs.

While helpful, these suggestions are unrealistic for someone suffering from depression. The idea of treating depression head on can be intimidating and overwhelming — so instead, tiny tasks and small steps of self-care can be done to make depression feel not so awful.

  1. Brushing teeth is one of the most basic day to day activities, but for someone with depression, routine tasks can become daunting. While important, this aspect of self-care can be nudged aside if it feels like the day doesn’t demand it. Although it may be hard, brushing your teeth is crucial to health and well-being and is one way to feel clean and put together even just for a moment. Take it a step further and do some flossing as well. Your mouth will thank you — and so will your dentist.
  2. Cutting and cleaning nails may seem mundane, but it is essential to hygiene because nails can harbor dirt and germs. Not only does nail care matter to health, but the physical appearance of nails can directly correlate to self-esteem. Hands are the part of the body one looks at most whether directly or peripherally, so having tidy nails can improve mood and attitude toward the self. If you’re up for it, try painting your nails as well — it’s an additional way to boost confidence.
  3. Drinking water is arguably the most vital action for human survival. Drinking water helps boost mood, energy, digestion and relieves all types of pain. Doctors recommend that people drink between two and four liters of water every day, because failing to drink enough water can lead to health issues such as fatigue, headache, weakened immunity and more.

It may seem easy, but like most things when suffering with depression, drinking enough water can be difficult to remember to do. An easy way to combat this is by setting reminders throughout the day to drink water or by carrying a water bottle with you everywhere. Also, using a straw to drink water is proven to promote more water intake.

  1. Changing pillow cases should be done about every two or three days since they collect dirt, oil and bacteria that can lead to skin damage, hair damage and illness. Remembering to change pillow cases can be tedious without depression, and with depression it’s an even more exhausting task.

Considering the importance to health and sleep quality, changing pillow cases is a small step toward improving health and cleanliness. You don’t have to wash and change all of your sheets, so focusing on the easiest part, pillow cases, can help you feel accomplished in doing some type of tidying and self-care. If you don’t have any clean pillow cases, using clean T-shirts is a sufficient alternative.

  1. Charging electronics can help you feel prepared for each day and less frazzled when it comes time to use them so they’re not dead or almost dead. Even though you may not be at 100%, your electronics can be. Think about everything you use in a day that may need to be charged — phone, laptop, headphones, watch, portable charger — and plug them all in. 

Doing this now will prevent the panicked run around campus later trying to find one of the few outlets that exist. Eliminating small moments of stress allows more moments of relaxation and evades the negative thoughts associated with stressful situations.

  1. Making tea is a simple act of self-care that provides health, as well as mood, benefits. Tea can boost the immune system, decrease inflammation, aid in sleep and cognition and detox the body. While there are health benefits to drinking tea, the real importance of making tea is about the moment you spend relaxing and treating yourself. 

Tea should be sipped slowly, enjoyed and appreciated — promoting the mind to do the same by slowing down thoughts. Tea is good for the body, mind and soul, so it may just help alleviate some low spirits experienced from depression. 

  1. Sitting in the shower can be a cathartic experience that encourages relaxation and hygiene. The heat of the water relaxes muscles, releases tension, increases flood flow, and reduces soreness. It also increases the brain’s oxytocin levels and temporarily decreases anxiety. I am specifically suggesting to sit in the shower, not stand. 

Also, it’s not necessary to even do any washing — if you want to, go for it, but just sitting is enough. Cleanliness while struggling with depression can feel strenuous, so don’t feel pressured to push yourself. 

  1. Doing a face mask benefits the skin in a multitude of ways by moisturizing, cleansing, hydrating, unclogging and rejuvenating. Most face masks only require about 20 minutes or less of settling time to do its purpose. Having a skin care routine, or doing anything skin care related, can boost self-esteem. Pampering yourself is one of the ideal ways to break a negative thought cycle — even for a moment. If you don’t have a face mask, try making one yourself.
  2. Cleaning a dresser in your bedroom is a quick and simple way to slightly declutter your environment and mind. Attempting to clean an entire depression room can be disheartening — it may seem too disorderly to approach. So instead of trying to clean the entire room, spend just 10 minutes cleaning everything off of any dresser of your choice. It may not seem like much, but this tidied dent will help make your life feel a little less cluttered and chaotic. If you’re up for it, spend 10 minutes each day cleaning different sections of your room.
  3. Getting sun is one of the easiest ways to naturally boost serotonin levels in the brain and temporarily relieve symptoms of depression. Only five to 15 minutes a day of sunlight can improve mood and sleeping habits, lower blood pressure and increase Vitamin D, an important vitamin for cell growth. You don’t have to be doing exercise or homework while soaking up some rays — just grab a towel or blanket, find a patch of grass and lay for five minutes. Give yourself a little break that is guaranteed to benefit you. 

Depression is undoubtedly an awful illness — it makes day to day tasks tedious and sometimes burdensome. Remaining loyal to routines may not be easy, but remembering to make small efforts toward self-care is not only important to health, but also to the spirit. Don’t feel pressured to recover from depression in a day, month or even a year — it’s a hard battle to fight — but please try to be kind to yourself in the process. 

SAMHSA provides a free, confidential, national hotline available 24/7 to discuss any mental health issues. Contact SAMHSA at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for advice or referrals. 

Follow Nina on Instagram and Twitter @ninaboebeana or email her at [email protected].