Understanding Self-Care: Navigating the Thin Line Between Self-Care and Depression

June 18, 2024

4 mins

Jackie Rosu


The difference between self-care lies in future investment. Are you living in the moment, or are you building a healthier future for yourself? If you aren’t sure, follow these steps—they’ll guide you as you reconsider your self-care process.

Living better helps you feel better. We often call giving ourselves what we want when we want it “self-care.” It makes us feel better, but is it self-care, or is it depression? The difference between self-care lies in future investment. Are you living in the moment, or are you building a healthier future for yourself? If you aren’t sure, follow these steps—they’ll guide you as you reconsider your self-care process.

  1. Reframe Your Mindset 

Is it self-care or depression? Binge eating, staying up late to play video games, and partying with drugs and alcohol feel good in the short term but have long-term consequences. Self-care is more than doing whatever you want. 

It’s better to reframe it as investing in yourself or “taking care of yourself.” Like a pet, you need to provide food and water, plenty of exercise, and healthy stimulation. You have a responsibility to yourself just as you would a pet, but it will take work. Understand that it won’t be easy, especially if you have depression or other mood disorders. 

Fortunately, self-care is a coping mechanism for depression. It helps you face your depressive symptoms because when you feel better physically, you feel better mentally. 

  1. Choose the Self-Care You Need 

Everyone has different needs. Start with basic fundamentals often neglected during depressive episodes, like regular eating, sleeping, and proper grooming. If those are met, move beyond basic maintenance. 

Diet and Exercise 

A balanced diet has all the vitamins and minerals necessary to operate at your best. If you struggle with depression, focus on foods shown to alleviate its symptoms. Oysters, organ meats, eggs, and dairy are all tasty, nutritious options. 

Social Interactions

Making time with family and friends is great for mental health. Choose regular times to have a healthy lunch, visit a park, go out on a date, or just spend time together. Alternatively, expand your social circle by trying a new hobby that involves other people.

Relaxation and Sleep 

Wellness programs, including apps designed to walk you through the process, are beneficial. Meditation, muscle relaxation, and deep breathing are good practices. Go to sleep at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each day, and enforce it over activities. Avoid revenge bedtime procrastination and work to feel satisfied with what you’ve accomplished at the end of each day. 

Professional Help  

There’s no reason to do it alone and no shame in getting help from a professional. If you aren’t sure which direction to take your self-care journey, a professional will listen to your concerns and put you on the right path. They’ll also hold you accountable for changes in routine—a therapist might ask for a chart of the times you went to bed each night since your last appointment. This powerful motivation to keep up the new routine makes a difference.

  1. Change Your Routine 

You must change your life to accommodate your new self-care routine. Set time aside each day, week, or month, and commit to them: 

  • Go out to lunch with a friend on the same day each week 
  • Go for a walk at the same time every day 
  • Go to bed at the same time every night 
  • Choose two nutrient-dense foods and use them as ingredients at least twice a week 
  • Go to therapy every two weeks 

Stick to the interval; you must treat these goals as a priority. Don’t reschedule when something else comes up—practice refusal if a party, social event, or extra work would keep you from your practice. They must be a priority because each repetition will help you progress toward your goals. 

  1. Set Concrete Goals 

Identify which lifestyle changes will address the biggest stressor in your life, especially if that stressor makes you feel depressed. If you always feel tired or sleep too late every day, work to improve your sleep. If you overeat or feel depressed about your weight, work on your diet. 

Always use specific numbers: 

  • Eight and a half hours of sleep each night 
  • 1700 calories a day 
  • 15 minutes of meditation at 6:45 P.M. every day after work 

Use phrases like “I will do X activity at Y time” rather than “I’ll try to do this.” Phrasing self-care like that turns your wish into a plan and reminds you to start slow. 

  1. Don’t Do Too Much, Too Fast 

Take your time, especially if you have depression (which makes planning, self-monitoring, and motivation difficult). You can’t wake up one day and decide to turn your entire life upside down. 

Don’t go on a massive diet. Instead, limit yourself to junk food once a day instead of every. Go for a walk instead of buying a gym membership and doing an intense workout every day. If you overcommit, you’ll struggle and become discouraged.  

  1. Be Patient and Acknowledge Your Progress 

Remember that change takes time and give yourself credit for trying. You won’t see massive improvements right away. But you should feel a little better each day, and your goals with measurable results are an objective measure of your success. 

You might not feel better, but if you look back at your goals, you might see good results. Give yourself credit for how far you’ve come, and look back to decide if you pulled it off. Once you consistently achieve your goals, set new, more challenging ones and push yourself to the next level.  

    If Drugs or Alcohol Make Self-Care Impossible, Never Alone Recovery is Here to Help 

    When depressive symptoms persist despite self-care, it’s time to seek professional help. This struggle is especially common if you try to cut out drugs or alcohol and find you can’t. Cravings might make functioning in daily life impossible. You might find yourself doing anything for a drink or a hit, even when you want to stay sober. 

    If that happens to you, call Never Alone Recovery’s addiction recovery consultants for a free review of your situation. Our treatment placement and insurance verification programs place clients in the recovery centers that will work best for them. Call, and you can be one of them. 

    depression, self-care

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