Posted in Self-care practices

Just do something: The practice of small accomplishments

Some days I don’t have the motivation to do anything. I don’t get excited about work, or about any of the things that give me pleasure, like reading or gardening or cooking or listening to music. Depression is like that. Nothing sounds appealing, not even sitting around or lying in bed.

It weighs me down, and once I’m down it pulls me deeper. I’ve never been suicidal, but sometimes knowing that life is worthwhile feels merely academic. I know intellectually life is good, but I don’t feel it in my heart; I feel indifferent about everything. I call this feeling my gray space.

One of the values I’m trying to live into is self-care. This isn’t rocket science, I know. But for me, and for many women I know, there’s such a gap between accepting the concept intellectually and embracing it emotionally. Self-care is something I’d encourage for my best friend without reservation, but I’ve never permitted myself to think I also deserved self-care. It sounds so self-indulgent! I’m supposed to serve others first, right? The idea of putting on my own oxygen mask before assisting others sounds logical or practical only in the context of a depressurized airplane.

But I’m learning that practicing self-care is essential when I’m also combatting anxiety and depression. Self-care helps keep those two bad roommates locked behind their own bedroom doors. Learning to slow down and recognize how I’m feeling, and identifying my own agency in addressing that feeling, seems an obvious thing to do on the surface, but as with so many things, what appears on the surface to be simple is actually incredibly hard.

One self-care practice that seems to work for me, when this feeling overcomes me, is to get up and do something. It doesn’t matter what I do. I start with something simple, like tidying, of which there’s always plenty to do. Taking a handful of magazines to the recycling, or picking up the dog’s toys, feels like an accomplishment on those days. And one tiny accomplishment can give me the juice to try something else, like going outside and pulling a handful of weeds. I set the bar low, and I almost never put myself in front of a screen. Getting outside is best. Maybe it’s the hit of vitamin D from the sun, maybe it’s fresh air, but it’s harder for me to be depressed when I’m outside.

I don’t know why this works, exactly, but the practice of tiny accomplishments keeps me from sinking too low. Sometimes I can pull myself completely out of my gray space.

Do you ever find yourself in a gray space? What do you do to pull yourself out of it?

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Writing about writing, depression and anxiety, and living into values.

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