There are times in our lives when we don’t feel like taking care of ourselves. Either we don’t have the energy or we feel like no matter what we do, our symptoms don’t get any better, so what’s the point. Or maybe we feel like we’ve lost so many things already that following good eating or exercising habits just feels like more deprivation.
How do we get out of these destructive thinking patterns? How do we stop eating the wrong foods, or do our exercises, or do any of a number of other things for our health when we feel like doing the right thing won’t make us feel any better?
Four Tips To Help When You Don’t Feel Like Taking Care of Yourself
I don’t have any great solutions about this problem, because I’m suffering with it myself, but here are some things I’m thinking about.
Tip #1: Analyze what you’re telling yourself. Is it true? Is it helpful?
For example, thinking about why I keep overeating or eating junk food, led me to realize I was telling myself that food was my ONLY comfort. This was not true. I still had family, friends, God, nature, and art to provide me with enjoyment.
Of course, then my brain tells me all the reasons why these things are disappointing:
Family and friends can cause us stress and pain. Yet they often provide us with encouragement, and companionship. It’s not realistic to expect every person to meet our needs every time we interact with them. Yet, how lonely life would be without people in it.
If we believe in God or have been raised in a home with parents who believed in God, we may sometimes feel like God is non-existent or doesn’t care about us. We may think if God loved us we wouldn’t be sick or in pain. This thinking can lead to anger and since we don’t think we can express our hurt and anger to God without angering him, we avoid God. Boy, have I been in this place before.
Recently, I learned something about this situation when watching Season 3 of The Chosen. Simon and his wife, Eden, lost a baby to miscarriage. They both felt angry that Jesus was healing others and didn’t help Eden carry their baby to term. Neither of them went to Jesus to talk about how they were feeling, even though he was physically present with them. They just stayed angry and hurt. In episode 8, Peter finally tells Jesus how he is feeling and Jesus tells him to “Come to me,” with outstretched arms and eyes full of compassion, and sorrow. Jesus gives Peter a long, hard hug.
Jesus then tells Peter and the other disciples that suffering is allowed so their faith would grow stronger. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to hear this.
But I realized yet again that God can handle my angry, hurt feelings. He doesn’t get upset with me when I’m upset. He’s ready to listen all the time. He’s available to each one of us all the time. And Jesus understands our feelings when we’re in pain, because he experienced pain, too.
In my experience, when I finally bring what’s bothering me to Jesus, I realize that He does care about me and my situation. I realize that He’s not mad at me or disappointed in me. Why do I take so long to talk to God about what’s on my heart? Do you do this too?
I also listed nature as something that brings me pleasure. I love walking in the park, listening to birds sing and water chuckle. Yet sometimes, rainy or snowy, cold days with gray skies do come. These kind of days make my joints hurt and can bring my mood down. Yet sunshine on a cold day can make me smile. It’s interesting that things that bring us joy can also cause discouragement. I suppose we really do need to look for the good stuff in each day or situation.
For example, right now, there is an unfamiliar bird singing outside of my window. He’s been keeping me company as I write this for you.
Tip #2 When feeling persistently down get professional help.
According to Deborah Serani Psy.D., “…self-care is care provided for you, by you. But when you live with depression, self-care can sometimes feel unattainable.” “…having trouble with self-care is not due to laziness, or not trying hard enough or from weakness.” Depression affects the part of the brain that helps us take care of ourselves. See Why Self-Care is Hard for Depressed Individuals for more info.
I do struggle with depression, and part of this condition is blaming myself for my struggles. For example, I often think, “If I only tried harder I could climb out of this hole.” Or “I’m just lazy!” These thoughts can be reinforced when friends or family tell us outright or imply that we are in fact lazy or not trying hard enough.
It’s really hard to take care of ourselves when we’re depressed. Motivation flies out the window. Apparently for good reason, because the thinking part of our brain shuts down when we’re depressed or anxious.
If you’re being treated for depression and it’s getting worse, let your therapist and or doctor know. Our bodies change with time so we may need a different dose or a different medication. I had to do this last summer.
If you’re struggling with depression and aren’t currently getting treatment please see your doctor. Your doctor can rule out things like low thyroid and connect you with mental health resources in your area. No one needs to suffer alone with depression today.
Here’s a 3 Minute Depression Test you can take at home if you’re not sure you’re experiencing depression.
And here’s a post on finding affordable mental health care: https://www.upbeatliving.net/affordable-mental-health-treatment-where-to-find-it/
In a mental health crisis, you can call or text 988 in the United States for immediate assistance.
Tip #3 Find people who get it in real life or online.
Finding others who understand what we’re going through because they have depression too, helps us know we aren’t the only one suffering. The Mighty has a whole community of people suffering from depression and other chronic conditions.
Also, there are many articles about living with different aspects of depression written by people living with depression. I especially liked 5 Ways to Practice Self-Care When You Couldn’t Care Less. Her five tips are:
- Change your socks.
- Have some soup
- Step outside
- Clear your schedule
- Watch your favorite film or TV show
Why Self-Care is Hard for Depressed Individuals also has 4 tips on self-care when you don’t care.
The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance has support groups. https://www.dbsalliance.org/support/chapters-and-support-groups/find-a-support-group/
In these post-pandemic days, it’s much easier to find online support groups for those of us who cannot get out of the house or who live too far away from in-person groups.
Tip #4 If you need physical help with tasks, ask for it.
If you just cannot do physical tasks right now, ask for help. Maybe a family member or friend can make a meal, do the dishes, or a load of laundry for you. Perhaps they would be willing to help you shower. You’ll never know unless you ask for help. If a friend or family member has noticed you’re struggling and they offer help, accept it. We all need help sometimes.
There is no shame in needing help when our illness/s are flaring. We probably wouldn’t hesitate to ask for help if we had the flu, this is no different.
If you have no one to help you, most areas have services available. In my area, I can call 211 to find services in my area to meet my needs. Google your local assistance number. If you find yourself in a really bad way, you can always call your local emergency number. Sometimes we just need professional help in a hurry. No matter what someone has told you, getting help when you need it is not weakness, it’s strength.
Wrap-Up of When You Don’t Feel Like Taking Care Of Yourself
Finally, writing this post has helped me in this season of struggling to take care of myself. At least now I’m thinking more clearly about why I’m struggling. Motivation is still a problem, but I know I’m not alone in the struggle. I hope this post helps you, too. We aren’t alone in our difficulties. While that is a sad thing that others suffer too, it definitely helps me feel better about my struggles. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what you do to get yourself out of feeling like taking care of yourself isn’t worth the effort. Till next time, Kathy
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