Depression and mental illness can be debilitating, but they're very common and nothing to be ashamed of. Sometimes, they can become overwhelming, and it can be difficult to bounce back into real life. Whether you're in the midst of an episode, recovering from one, or trying to prevent one, all of these free, easy self-care steps can be useful stepping stones.
1. Take a shower
Particularly if you're dealing with mental illness, it can be a big step to take a shower, comb your hair, cut and paint your nails, and do all the other things you've been neglecting—but doing this can help you feel ready to face the rest of the world.
2. Go outside
This one is obvious, but spending time in nature can have serious benefits and no matter where you live, and there's bound to be a park or at least a tree within walking distance. Just getting outside of your room and walking around for a few minutes can open your perspective, and a little vitamin D never hurt.
3. Reach out to a friend or family member
If you're finally feeling ready to respond to the texts you've been ignoring, pick up the phone and get ready to send a lot of those "sorry I was sick" messages. Of course, you can and should confide honestly in someone about what you've been going through—or ask someone how they're doing, or send out compliments and thank you's.
Most of the time, people will be surprisingly understanding and grateful to hear from you, especially if you let them know what's going on. You can also just ask someone to come hang out or make plans with another person. (If you'd prefer to be alone for a while though, there's nothing wrong with that!)
4. Do laundry and clean your room
Clean sheets can be therapeutic for the soul, and so can fresh clothes. Also, a clean, organized space can be a great way of signifying your transition into a more orderly state of mind. Start by throwing out food and trash and dumping all dirty clothes into a laundry bag, then go from there. Lighting candles and grabbing a Swiffer can also add an extra-clean sparkle.
5. Make an appointment with a therapist or psychiatrist
This can be tricky given the state of the American health care system, but no self-care steps will make up for actual professional care. If you don't have access to a therapist or a psychiatrist, or if you're already seeing one but still need more help, the Internet offers a lot of courses, videos, and articles (like this one) about what to do depending on your unique situation. (It also offers a lot of memes, which can help or hurt...so use them at your own risk).
6. Create a to-do list
If you're genuinely bouncing back from an episode, things might've gotten a little out-of-order. Start by breaking down what you need to do into actionable steps and make sure you formulate manageable tasks that you can actually take care of, not unsurmountable lists that will just overwhelm you. If you're really feeling better, you can also start taking action to prepare better for next time this happens, getting support systems in place and learning more about the ins and outs of depression.