Depression 101: How to Create a Self-Rescue Starter Pack During this SAD Time

So, you know that feeling when you begin to feel yourself mentally spiral, starting that slow journey downhill, letting yourself slip into old self-destructive behaviors? Let’s not do that. Instead, here’s a foolproof plan to get yourself back on track ASAP. 


1. Recognize the Red Flags.

    • Busy week at work, feeling overwhelmed at home, or are the dogs barking too loud? Whatever it is, despite how small, to have increased awareness of your triggers is half the battle. This is where becoming conscious of your body’s needs is crucial to pivoting your mindset.
    • Becoming easily irritated and closing myself off from activities I enjoy are the two red flags that I need to take a moment to reset. When I feel myself about to snap, I try to run through my mental list of what is going on around me, making me feel this way. As someone significantly affected by the environment around them, noticing my internal stressors is a great first step.


2. Get a Dopamine Boost

    • When everything seems to be going wrong, what is something you know will give you a zap of dopamine? Your go-to I’m having a bad day, so I am going to ____.  Mine is taking a trip to Starbucks with my dog, playing Taylor Swift on the way, and ordering a cold brew with brown sugar syrup, almond milk, and light ice (try it). 
    • No, this doesn’t solve all the problems or make them disappear, but it changes the scenery. It makes you get up, take a break while enjoying a yummy drink, and sometimes that perspective change is all you need to see a bit clearer. This could also look like taking a shower, playing with a pet, buying yourself Trader Joe’s flowers, or face-timing a friend. Picking out and determining your healthy strategy is beneficial, so in the moment, you don’t have to think twice, just act.


3. Think Big Picture

    • What can you control right in this moment to get your head back to a stable place? When you run out of room on the to-do list, it’s time to be realistic with yourself. What can you do today that aligns with your goals?
    • Making a list makes me overwhelmed; therefore, I try to rank the most important items, then pick a couple and physically cross off the rest. Choosing a few can make you feel productive while honoring your own needs. Wanting to do it all is great, yet unobtainable, so be easy with yourself by setting realistic goals. Some days you can do more tasks than others, and that is okay, that is normal, your energy will vary, and so will you. 


4. Time-block Your Day

    • If you have a variety of tasks that must be done, try thinking of your day in chunks rather than one continuous line. This technique can help your mind create boundaries to focus its attention on one area at a time. As a fellow worrier, it’s hard to stop thinking about one task while completing the other. However, if you block your time in chunks throughout the day, then you can be sure to get through them all. Writing out the hours you have to work with, tasks you want to accomplish, and how much time each task will take can help you create these blocks. Doing it at the beginning of the week if you’re a planner, or even the night before when you’re making your mental list for the next day can help too. For instance: 
      • 8:30-9am: Wake up and get ready for the gym 
      • 9-10am: Workout 
      • 10-11am: Get ready for the day
      • 11-4pm Work
      • 4-5pm: Free time- snack and rest 
      • 5-6pm:  Laundry and prep dinner 
      • 6-7pm: Walk dog 
      • 9pm: Wind down and read 10 pages of my book before bed
    • This is just an idea. Everyone’s blocks will be different, but the more detailed, the better.  Including specifics, like how many pages to read in your book or how many loads to do can help you stay more accountable. In addition, setting timers at the beginning of your day can help you stay on schedule. If you want to get fancy, labeling the reminders can help you stay on task if you get distracted easily. If you’re anything like me, once I get started on a task, it doesn’t take long before I’m looking up new recipes, cleaning out a drawer, or mindlessly scrolling on my phone. Therefore, creating this outline for my day and crossing off each task does wonders to keep me in check. 


5. Prioritize Sleep

    • I don’t know about you, but when my brain is in a jumble, so is my body. We carry so much of that stress in our muscles, and we need to let them heal too. After you’ve established how to tackle the rest of your week, it’s time to hit the hay. Mental exhaustion can be just as detrimental as physical exhaustion to your body, so it’s essential to take it seriously. 
    • The first sign I am getting mentally drained is becoming easily forgetful. For me, this can look like losing my phone more than often or driving and not remembering how I got to my destination. Our brain constantly tries to take over in autopilot, leaving our conscious and subconscious fighting for the driver’s seat. Our brains are trying to save us that extra energy, yet we can start to feel like a zombie in our bodies if it gets too far.
    • There’s nothing a face mask, a binge-worthy show, and an early bedtime cant fix when we’re going through it (kidding). Making sure our bodies are getting those extra hours is essential to letting our minds heal as well.


Written by Kennedy Baker

Depression, Self-Care