How to Navigate Self-Care During Depressive Episodes

Self-care is having a major moment. The practice of taking care of yourself really took off during the pandemic. Without as many social commitments and without spending time commuting to work, people were left with extra hours in the day. Forced to stay inside, they took up taking bubble baths and putting on face masks regularly. Post-pandemic, the art of self-care continues to hold strong as individuals find benefits in prioritizing themselves and their well-being.

For those working on their mental health, carving out time for self-care can be an important part of an overall treatment plan. Since self-care is a way of showing yourself some love, even the smallest steps can have a big impact. Ignoring or avoiding how you’re feeling may only lead you to feel worse.

That said, self-care shouldn’t be a substitute for proper treatment. While turning to Dr. Google to search for how to manage your symptoms can help, there are instances when seeking medical attention is necessary. A healthcare professional can discuss how you’re feeling and evaluate your symptoms and their progression. If needed, they may suggest you go to mental health rehab for further evaluation or a more in-depth, personalized approach.

Regardless if extensive treatment is needed for your mental health or not, adding in self-care practices won’t do any harm. A good self-care routine can help reduce stress, increase your energy levels, and even improve your overall mood. Below are tips for how to navigate self-care during depressive episodes.


Journaling is a well-known technique for calming the mind and releasing stress. You can journal on how you’re currently feeling or jot down what you’re grateful for today. If you’re depressed, journaling can help put everything in perspective. It can be especially beneficial if you’ve recently gone through a traumatic experience or are dealing with an ongoing problem.

While the idea of sitting down and writing out your thoughts and feelings can be intimidating, break it down into something attainable. Grab a notebook that excites you, maybe something new that you can dedicate to your new self-care act. Start with just 5-10 minutes a day. Write without putting much thought into it, letting your words float onto the pages. Don’t worry about proper grammar or misspellings. Journaling is just for you, and you don’t need to share it with anyone unless you’re called to do so.


Similar to journaling, meditation is not a new practice. In fact, people have been meditating for thousands of years! However, new apps have made it easier than ever to pick up this self-care practice. Research has found that an individual’s mental health can be positively influenced by meditation, helping with everything from social anxiety disorder to anxiety and depression.

Now, don’t think that you need to spend an hour or even thirty minutes to reap the benefits. Starting with just a couple of minutes can do wonders for how you feel. Set a reminder on your phone to take a few minutes to meditate. You may find that this works best first thing in the morning before logging on to checking emails or even making breakfast. Or if you’re finding it difficult to fall asleep, then perhaps a nighttime practice is more suitable for you.

Deep Breathing

Take a deep breath. How did that feel? When you take a deep breath, you’re signaling to your brain that it’s safe to relax. That’s why it feels so good to take a belly breath!  While deep breathing is a common yoga technique, it’s something that you can start doing from anywhere, anytime.

Breathing exercises are free and simple to learn. One easy exercise called 4-7-8 breathing can help with the pacing of your breath. For this exercise, inhale while counting to four, hold your breath while counting to seven, and exhale while counting to eight. Pausing between each breath ensures you’re keeping an even pace and slowing down.

Moving Your Body

The “runner’s high” really is a thing. When you exercise, you’re releasing feel-good chemicals, such as serotonin and endorphins. These help improve your overall mood and happiness. This isn’t to say that you need to run a few miles to get a mood boost. Moving your body in a way that brings you joy can be advantageous when you’re going through a depressive episode.

Of course, when you’re not feeling well the mere idea of putting in any effort to exercise can feel monumental. Take it slow by going outside and stretching. Getting some fresh air may make it easier for you to feel encouraged to move. When you’re up for it, go for a short walk around your neighborhood. Put on your favorite playlist or podcast or call a friend and see how far you go. You may surprise yourself with how good it feels to simply get your body moving and grooving.

To take it to the next level, find a type of exercise that seems enjoyable to you. A swim at your local gym can encourage you to get out of the house and do something good for your body. Signing up for a class at a local studio that is non-refundable can motivate you to actually show up. Finding an accountability buddy who will encourage your movement can be helpful as well.


How you practice self-care is entirely up to you. While you may not always feel motivated to do something good for yourself during a depressive episode, remember that the smallest acts matter. Related to this, remember that asking for help is a sign of strength. You should never feel embarrassed about how you’re feeling. Find someone to talk through, whether that’s a close family member, friend, or therapist.

Check out our other articles for more insights!

Cheryl Henson

Cheryl Henson is a passionate blogger and digital marketing professional who loves writing, reading, and sharing blogs on various topics.

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