Do you ever wake up, turn the alarm off, and lie there under the blankets for a moment, not wanting to get up?
The day can seem too hard, too long and too full of effort. You just want to close your eyes and lie there forever. Imagine feeling that every day – full of crippling, empty apathy. Even if you want to get up, your legs feel like lead and you think about all the ways it will be hard and you can’t do it. The longer you lie there the worse you feel, and so the cycle continues.
Because depression can cause us to lose sight of our positive habits, something as simple as getting in the shower to wash your hair – which is an essential, almost automatic action for most – can seem insurmountably difficult.
I struggled with mental illness for a few years a while ago. I still have anxiety and the occasional down day, but it’s vastly improved. I’m not here to tell you what depression is like; plenty of people could do that better than I. I’d like to share how I think skin care helped me in my recovery and might help others.
Getting through depression one cleanse at a time
When I was depressed, even thinking about the task of washing my face was too much. It’s like I was locked in a horrible cycle. I thought I was useless for not taking care of myself, and I wasn’t able to do it because I felt useless. Self care went by the wayside and as a result I hated the way I looked. But when my skin, anxiety and depression were at their worst I decided that I would turn my life around. I was sick of hating how I felt and looked every day – I thought everyone saw me as a failure and I wanted to prove them wrong.
One of the places I began was with my skin. I set myself up a ‘care area’ with my basic skin care products, a mirror and a chair. I made a routine of sitting myself down there and spending some time looking after my skin. I was strict about it and for a while it was hard, but soon I began to really enjoy it. It was 10 minutes of my day where I felt in control and at peace. My interest first manifested as doing research into the ingredients of products or looking up before and after images and reviews from others. I started to learn about what my skin liked, and slowly I found myself with a real passion for something. When I woke up, I looked forward to caring for my skin and learning more about it. I didn’t dread long hours of the evening where I’d be alone, because I felt productive. I learnt about how sleep and health made your skin better, so I tried to improve those aspects of my life. I began seeing real results in my skin and getting compliments on it. This kick started confidence and drive that turned into great life choices and got me to where I am now.
So here’s some reasons why I think skin care helped me and might help you in your journey out of depression:
Routines set you up for daily success
Personally I feel really lost without daily rituals and a to-do list. I need tangible reminders of how I’m progressing through the day and want to be able to expect what’s coming up. My thoughts are all over the place and I need some solid tasks to grip on to so I don’t forget things. Starting and finishing your day with skin care helps mark clear boundaries from which you can set up other routines, like meal times, laundry and cleaning. With depression, really basic tasks can seem hard, but if you start a routine things get easier over time. Even if you make your routine one you can do from bed while feeling crappy, it’s a landmark in your day that anchors you to reality.
Good kind of alone time
Depressed people can find themselves alone a lot, not having the energy to go out and socialise. It feels very lonely and like you’re missing out. But skin care turns this alone time into self care time. It’s specifically setting some time to yourself that is uninterrupted and low stress. You’re doing something healthy and productive that’s also meditative and calming. The feeling of facial massage and masks is so soothing and helps to slow down my racing thoughts. If you aren’t big into meditation or don’t feel like doing yoga, your skin care time can be where you try to decompress and centre yourself.
Results are a great reward
When you’re depressed, drive can be something you’re sorely lacking. Your skin care routine can start to become the motivation to get up in the morning and get going.
Seeing your skin improve bit by bit in the mirror gives you a such satisfaction. Getting a compliment is a huge rush. Rewards like this trigger dopamine release in the brain which trains us to make something a habit. Once you start seeing results you’ll feel the drive to keep looking after your skin.
All of these factors helped me overcome my depression and anxiety. I’m at a stage where things that once used to fill me with fear barely cross my mind, and the thoughts that used to weigh on my mind feel lighter. I’m more comfortable with life and living than I have been for a long time.
This is not to say that you can avoid seeing a doctor to deal with your issues or making necessary lifestyle changes like getting a little exercise and eating well. I’ve done all of those too. But in my experience, skin care was a catalyst for me getting back on my feet and feeling like I was good at something again. Now it’s just a small part of my really fulfilling (but still far from perfect) life, but it holds a special place in my heart as the thing that picked me up and set me on a great new path.
Never underestimate your ability to break out of a bad cycle and create (and stick to) impressive new habits. I hope that you are all healthy and happy and on the right track 🙂