For those of us who have suffered with chronic skin conditions, either currently or in the past, we know how despair and hurt can overcome our minds and dominate our feelings about life.
None of us are immune from depression, but if you’re struggling with a skin issue, you may feel both physically and mentally unable to cope during flare-ups. Between the debilitation of severe eczema, psoriasis or TSW, and the anxiety and despair they can bring in its wake, we need to develop, learn and practice tools we can use when those worst days hit us like a freight train.
Once we’re in the throes of depression, it’s hard to think rationally and clearly. It can be impossible to see that life is so very precious and worth it and we can and will be happy again, that we have value in this life and we are irreplaceable in our worth just as we are!
When we’re depressed, it can be hard to do anything at all. We know that the list below contains steps that might seem daunting. Skip over the ones that seem too hard, and pick one or two easy ones that you can muster the energy for – just for today:
Self-Care Depression Busters
Light – Open the curtains and the blinds, get as much light into your environment as you can. Light some candles at night to help your environment feel cozy and special. Change out dead or dim bulbs for fresh new daylight spectrum bulbs to keep the light surrounding you as bright and natural as possible.
Fresh air – Open the windows and bring fresh air and energy into your home. Spend more time outside – eat a meal outside, take a phone call outside, or work/read outside for a few minutes if you can.
Nature – If you can get out of the house, find a park, a meadow, a beach, or a woods. Smell greenery, see water, feel weather, notice animals. Nature is not only calming, centering and healing, it nourishes your body, mind and spirit. If you can’t get out in nature, bring it indoors with a new plant or pet, or even by watching nature shows on television or changing your screensavers to scenes of natural beauty.
Hydrate – Depression can be triggered or exacerbated by dehydration, so never let that water bottle out of your site. Drink anything healthy that you love. Eat more high water-content foods like soup, fruits, and vegetables. Turn on a humidifier if the air is dry or you’re cooped up inside with the heat or AC on.
Kick Inflammation – Research shows that depression can stem from systemic inflammation. You can help de-flame your body by reducing processed foods and unhealthy fats and sugars in your diet, and adding Omega-3 fatty fish like salmon, sardines and tuna along with lots of colorful fruits and vegetables – especially berries.
Cook something – Go through the motions of preparing food and nourishing yourself with a meal. Eat on real dishes at a table instead of take-out cartons over the sink or in front of the tv.
Move – It may seem impossible, but try to move. Exercise is proven just as effective as antidepressant medication. Even if you just walk to the mailbox, or around the block, or do a yoga video, get up and move. Move your body often, every day, until you feel better. Even 5 minutes of stretching in your chair or even from your bed is a start.
Snuggle Your Pet – If you have pets, stroke and cuddle them, talk to them like a friend, take care of them – buy them an extra treat or toy. Their company is proven to help.
Clean something – You might not have energy to clean your whole house, but clean something in your immediate environment. Wipe off your cellphone screen, your eyeglasses, sort the piles on your desk, take the trash out, do half of the dishes in the sink. Whatever you do, no matter how small, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment, and your environment will feel lighter.
Create Something – Write a song, a poem, get out the colored paints, markers and pencils and make a picture, arrange flowers, however you love to express yourself – do it. Just like moving your body, you need to move your spirit to get things flowing again.
Baby-Steps are Okay!
Lists like these can feel trite or overwhelming and may make you feel even worse or blame yourself if you aren’t able to do much due to your depression. It’s okay to just pick something small to start. If you do one small positive thing – you win! Even if it means moving from your bed to go to another room for a few hours in the afternoon. If you open one window, or drink a glass of water, or prepare a healthy meal, those baby steps will lead you out, one by one, day by day.
The Most Important Step
Self-care steps can often pull you out of a dark place over time – but if you need immediate help, reach out! Call a friend or trusted relative and tell them what’s going on. Call or have your trusted friend call a counselor and set up an appointment, either in-person or online.
If you don’t feel better or don’t feel heard after talking to a friend or counselor, or if you don’t have a friend or a counselor to talk to, call 1-800-273-8255, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Call especially if you feel your depression is unbearable and life holds no hope for you. You’ll get compassionate help from someone who will listen and who can point you in the right direction.
No Shame – Only Hope
Know and trust that if you call a friend, family member, or the suicide prevention hotline and share the truth about your depression, or if at some point you are prescribed anti-depressant medicine or additional counseling, it’s okay!
Depression is finally being acknowledged as a very common and very treatable imbalance with physical causes. There’s not the stigma that there used to be for reaching out and getting help. You haven’t failed, you aren’t alone, you can and will get better. Most of all, you deserve all the help, time and love you need from yourself and others. Keep reaching out and keep baby-stepping, until you can see clearly again that life so is worth living and you are valued, irreplaceable, and worthy of life!
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About the Author
Olivia Hsu Friedman, LAc, Dipl.OM, DACM, Cert. TCMDerm, is the owner of Amethyst Holistic Skin Solutions and treats Acne, Eczema, Psoriasis, and TSW. Olivia treats patients via video conferencing using only herbal medicine. Olivia is Chair of the Board of Directors of the American Society of Acupuncturists, serves on the Advisory Board of LearnSkin, and is a faculty member of the Chicago Integrative Eczema Group sponsored by the National Eczema Association.