I tumble outta bed and stumble to the kitchen, pour myself a cup of ambition, yawn and stretch and try to come to life…
But actually, this is me every single morning. It’s usually done at 8:48 a.m. when I have a call at 9 a.m., but that’s not as important as the fact that it’s part of my quarantine routine and it’s what works for me (if you work with me please pretend you didn’t read that stuff about the 9 a.m. calls).
Being clinically depressed while physically distancing is hard enough as it is, so I’ve tried to simplify my existence in a way that feels comfortable and natural to me, while still giving myself grace when things get tough. I’m not a life coach, but I have learned a lot about being compassionate to myself during this time and want to share with friends who are having a serious case of the sads (or, like, actual clinical depression like me).
I will *never* tell you to stop wearing sweats or leggings or even pajamas *cough cough LA Times cough cough* but I do recommend changing into something that is different from what you were sleeping in.
I am not ashamed to say that I have taken off my PJs and then put on a different set of PJs to wear for the rest of the day. Comfort is key, but it makes me feel like more of a human and less of a potato when I’m not wearing what I wore to bed.
I get a rush of serotonin when I get something done. But this tip is specifically NOT work related. Instead, I’m redefining productivity as something good for yourself or your space. This could be vacuuming, color coding your closet, folding the clean laundry that has been in your hamper for 3 days (@me).
I will not lie to you. I never made my bed before COVID-19 (unless I was taking a picture of my cute throw pillows for Instagram). Other than that, it stayed messy. Why, you may ask? Because I was just going to get back into it!
For some reason, making my bed every day now gives me some sort of weird purpose. When I’m depressed, I feel useless. If I get literally nothing done throughout the day (sometimes it be like that), I at least made my bed. Go me!! I also love a midday shower. It’s like, surprise! I’m clean at a random hour! Feels exciting.
To me, this is the most important part. I simply must do my skin care routine, brush my teeth, and take my meds to have a semblance of normalcy in my life. I know that it seems unimportant (apart from the meds), but keeping up with my skin care feels nice in the sense that it’s kind of basic and doesn’t require me to think about the state of the world.
Instead, I can lament about my latest stress pimple or test out new sunscreens for when I will finally be able to see the sun again. Plus, it’s key to moisturize if you’ve been crying as much as I have.
I’m yelling but it’s only because I need to hear it too! It’s so easy to just be glued to your computer the entire day since you’re bored in the house and you’re in the house bored. But seriously, whether you’re working, refreshing the unemployment website, or watching YouTube videos, you’ve got to take a break.
Often we get attached to sitting at the computer all day long because it gives us the semblance that we’re being productive, even if we’re just spiraling because of depression brain (again @me). Damn, I am calling myself out in this piece.
But being away from the computer doesn’t mean you’re not doing the best you can. I feel huge burdens of guilt when I step away from my work, especially because I’ve had such a hard time remaining productive during this time (it’s the depression again).
It’s really important for me to break up my day, though, or I’ll feel even worse having done nothing but stare at the same report for 9 hours straight.
My favorite midday activity is going outside (while practicing physical distancing) and just remembering what air smells like. Going on that walk does 10x more for my mental health and productivity than another 2 hours in front of my screen any day.
As all of my editors know, I’ve been depressed AF lately. The reason they know is because I told them. It’s not necessary to divulge to colleagues about your mental illnesses, but I find that acknowledging when I really need time to heal and rest is powerful. If I can’t get work done because I’m too depressed to function, that is OK! I have to remind myself of this every single day, but there are days when we just have to sit in our feelings and work them out — without the interruptions of work or other responsibilities.
I try to have at least an hour in the day when I try not to think about work or coronavirus. This doesn’t always happen, but when it does, I usually avoid the late-night sobbing that has been happening since I started self-isolation.
If it’s getting harder to cope with things, try confiding in a few friends about your depression. Ask them to give you a call at 5 or 6 p.m. so you can socialize a little after work hours. Sobbing hysterically over FaceTime is socialization don’t @ me. But seriously, acknowledging how shitty you might feel and sharing it with friends can make you feel a lot less mentally isolated, even when we’re physically isolating.
My roommates turned me onto this actually. I was having a really hard time seeing the good in the world and was feeling very helpless to make things better for myself or others. They had both been doing gratitude lists daily, which helped them ground themselves a lot.
Since I struggle with mental illnesses, some days I’m just saying thank you to my body for simply letting me wake up and go to sleep. Other days, I can thank myself for frantically cleaning every single part of my apartment, baking a lemon pound cake, and roasting a chicken. I contain multitudes.
Have a wind down routine for the evening! If you’re like me your depression (and her evil twin, anxiety) are worse at night. Having a sleep hygiene routine automatically cues my brain that it’s now sleep time not cry time. Sometimes, they overlap but not wanting to mess up my skin care routine is a good reason to stop crying. You won’t catch me depuffing my under eyes TWICE. The nighttime routine is different for everyone, but mine looks like this:
- Realize it’s 10 p.m. Proclaim loudly, “Oh my God how is it 10 p.m.?! This day flew by.” You must say this even if the day felt very long. It’s just part of the routine, sorry.
- Do more skin care. If I don’t come out of quarantine looking like a Glossier model, I’m going to have to speak with a manager. Which manager I need to speak with is unclear, but at least I’ll be somewhere where there are managers.
- Brush my teeth. ORAL HYGIENE!! I don’t even know if dentists are open right now, so you better floss, too.
- Try to put my phone down. Pick it back up. Put it back down. Pick it back up. Put it back down.
- Lay in bed having an existential crisis (optional).
- Masturbate! Unless you’re quarantining with a partner or breaking all the rules, you’ve probably got some sexual energy to let out. Self-love!
- Pass the f*ck out.
This is a wild card. It doesn’t really matter if you do this on the weekdays or the weekend, but I have found an inordinate amount of joy in making stuff. Some people are crafty and are making DIY projects from Pinterest. Some of y’all are making masks for yourselves and your friends.
I am making food… so much food.
I have baked a plethora of breads, cakes, and cookies. I’ve fought (and am still fighting) against my sourdough starter enemy. I don’t know what it is, but creating something is very satisfying when you feel like poop. I feel so validated knowing I can ~create~ despite having what the kids call “smooth brain.”
It is on my most depressed days that I drag myself to the kitchen — hair up in a messy bun, skin weirdly dry from tears, phone covered in flour — that I make my best baked goods. Opening the oven up to see a pretty loaf of bread that YOU MADE WITH YOUR BARE HANDS is: *chef’s kiss*
Have an actual weekend
If you’re at home all the time, the days start to blend together. This makes it hard to differentiate between your work days and your rest days. Since I work full time and write on the side, I often have to work on the weekends. During this social distancing period, though, I’ve given myself more time to relax and be compassionate with myself.
I don’t set alarms on Saturday or Sunday because I think it’s OK to sleep in until your body decides it’s time to get up. I also choose one day to do zero work. Not even one email will be sent. This helps me dedicate a whole day to me.
Add in a global pandemic that makes you have to distance yourself from all of your loved ones and you have a mental illness disaster at hand. This schedule I’ve put together for myself is not a cure-all, but it does at least help me keep my baseline emotions from plummeting too deep into hopelessness.
That being said, I cry nearly every day and I let myself because times are tough. And at the end of the day, at least my bed is made!
Reina Sultan (she/her) is a Lebanese-American Muslim woman working on gender and conflict issues at her nine-to-five. Her work can also be found in Huffington Post, Rewire.News, Wear Your Voice Mag, and Rantt. Follow @SultanReina on Twitter for endless hot takes and photos of her extremely cute cats.