4 Daily Habits People With Depression May Avoid

things you hate to do during depression

Verywell / Catherine Song

People who live with depression or bipolar disorder may share similar behavioral patterns and avoid doing certain tasks they should be doing, including the things that are good for them. There are some days when you might not have the energy to shower and other days when the dishes keep piling up. And some weeks may go by when you might barely have it in you to leave the house.

These normal, everyday habits can seem impossible at times for those experiencing depression, but fortunately, there are a few ways you can turn your bad habits into good ones and get back on track.

Below are some common activities that those experiencing depression or a depressive episode may have trouble managing, plus some suggestions on how to help you get moving forward again.

Personal Hygiene 

Personal hygiene is key for maintaining optimal health. But if you're having a depressive episode and are feeling down, getting yourself in the shower or tub is often the last thing you feel like doing.

It's important to note that the inability to shower when you have depression is not necessarily the same as shower avoidance disorder, or ablutophobia, which is a type of specific phobia and anxiety disorder.

Other basic hygiene tasks that can be a challenge when you're depressed can include:

  • Brushing your teeth
  • Doing your hair
  • Getting dressed/changing out of your pajamas
  • Shaving
  • Washing clothes 

If basic hygiene is a challenge for you, try the following:

  • Use mouthwash, sugar-free chewing gum, or tea tree oil toothpicks to maintain your oral hygiene.
  • Run an Epsom salt bath if you have the extra time or use baby wipes or gently scented towelettes if you're unable to shower. Know that it's OK to miss a shave once in a while, too.
  • Ask a loved one to help you wash your hair, get dressed, and even assist you with laundry. Remember that you're not alone on your journey toward feeling better about yourself and your mental health.

Getting Out of Bed 

Depression and fatigue often go hand in hand, making moving or getting out of bed incredibly difficult. This is often because people with depression have difficulty sleeping, which includes trouble falling asleep and/or staying asleep throughout the night.

Poor sleep patterns can make it that much harder to get out of bed in the morning and leave you feeling sluggish and unmotivated to move. Fortunately, there is a scientifically proven way to cope without the use of sleep aids or sleep medications for better sleep hygiene.

Meditation is an evidence-based practice for managing symptoms of depression and improving sleep.

Download a meditation app and try to get in the habit of meditating before bed each night, which may help you wake up feeling more refreshed in the morning.

Household Chores

Taking care of yourself while you're feeling depressed is often hard enough on its own. On top of that, taking care of others or your household might just feel impossible at times. People with depression may leave their daily chores unattended, letting laundry pile up as dirty dishes sit in the sink for days.

Other household responsibilities that can be neglected during a depressive episode can include:

  • Caring for your children, pets, or partner
  • Cooking dinner or other meals
  • Doing dishes or laundry
  • Managing ongoing household chores

Start small and tackle one responsibility at a time. If there are other people in your household, enlist them to help you and try to make a bonding activity out of it.

Going to Work

Keeping up with work can be demanding for anyone, but it can be especially difficult if you live with depression or bipolar disorder, since the effects can sometimes be debilitating. Not only can it be a struggle to get out of bed and dressed for work in the morning, but once you get to the office you may also have trouble concentrating, which can lead to procrastination and cause you to fall behind on your work.

While it's perfectly OK to take a mental health day every now and then, there will be some days when you have no choice but to report for duty.

So what can you do to cope?

  • Try time blocking, which is a practice of scheduling your day in increments for completing certain tasks. Not only will it boost your productivity, but you'll benefit from giving each task your full attention rather than juggling multiple responsibilities.
  • Listen to some soothing music to subside any negative thoughts that may arise while you're working.

Tips for Managing Everyday Tasks

If depression is affecting your daily life and causing you to neglect your personal hygiene, household duties, and professional responsibilities, don't despair. It's possible to create your own personalized plan to make positive changes in your life. 

Remember that there's no "one size fits all" when it comes to managing difficult tasks with depression. It's important to have patience with yourself and not compare your progress to others.

Make changes you know you can handle, and don't try to change too many things all at once. Start with the little things and notice how you feel when you do something positive, however small or significant, to take care of your well-being. Try these tips to manage difficult tasks as you get started on your journey.

Go Easy on Yourself

Avoid putting pressure on yourself or setting limits on how long it "should" take to "get your act together" or "get motivated." This could send you into a downward spiral of negative thinking and only make your depression symptoms worse.

Instead, focus on what you were actually able to accomplish each day, and remind yourself of how far you've come and the progress you made. Focus on the good in your life and take it one day at a time, rather than attempting to change everything all at once.

Set Small Goals

Break up daunting tasks into smaller activities. For example, instead of cleaning the entire kitchen, just tackle the dishes. This sentiment is similar to "monotasking," which is exactly as it sounds. Monotasking is the opposite of multitasking, which can leave us feeling scattered as we try to do too many things all at once.

Focus on one thing at a time, one day at a time. That's how you'll start to make real progress and cultivate positive changes to your daily habits.

Get Regular Exercise

The physical and mental health benefits of regular exercise are well documented. Research continues to show that physical activity can help alleviate symptoms of depression. Even if it's as simple as a brisk walk outdoors, you're bound to feel better, especially if you stick to a routine.

Plus, studies have also shown that getting outside in fresh air and nature goes a long way in boosting our mood.

Prioritize Self-Care

Practice self-compassion and acceptance. This will help build a healthier inner dialogue, which can help motivate you to move past your feelings of depression. Start slowly. Identify one small, easy step you can take to begin taking better care of yourself, and build from there.

Think about what self-care means to you—it's not always about dark chocolate and bubble baths. Real self-care is about making time to do the things that make you feel good from the inside out, which are entirely unique to each individual. Whether it's eating healthier, getting enough exercise, or spending more quality time with your loved ones, your self-care prescription is completely up to you.

Know When to Get Help

Remember that you don't have to deal with depression all on your own. Psychotherapy is often considered the first-line treatment for people experiencing depression.

Talk your health care provider or a therapist or counselor about your symptoms. Find out if psychotherapeutic treatment like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps you learn how to identify and change the negative thought patterns that affect your behaviors, is right for you.

A Word From Verywell

If you or someone you know is having a difficult time managing their symptoms of depression or bipolar disorder, this list of tips may serve as a helpful resource. It's also important to establish a support network that understands the challenges you or your loved one are facing. Explaining your challenges and asking for help and support may make a positive difference in your relationships

Remember that it's important to cultivate as much self-love and self-care for yourself as possible as you navigate your journey with depression. Be sure to lean on your relationships for support when you need a friend, and always keep in mind that the best relationship you have is the one you have with yourself.

If you or a loved one are struggling with depression, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

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