National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Helping Yourself

Finding Time to Take Care of Yourself

A woman can play various roles throughout her life: mother, daughter, sister, wife and friend. While a woman is a caregiver to many people, often there is one person who is forgotten: herself. A woman with depression may not feel that she has time to take care of herself, yet her own health is just as vital as other loved ones. Before she can care for others, she must care for herself.

If a woman is depressed, she may feel hopeless and that negative feelings will never fade. But with time and proper treatment, her mood can lift. In the meantime, there are things women can do to help the process.

  • Schedule uninterrupted time. Do something that you like to do, regardless of input from any other family member or loved one.
  • Try not to feel guilty for saying "no." Your friends and family want you to be healthy and happy, and that means taking on only those obligations you can handle right now.
  • Realize that you are not doing a "bad" job at being a mother, wife, daughter or friend because you are depressed. Depression is a medical illness that prohibits you from having the energy to "do it all." Moment to moment, you are doing the best you can and there is nothing wrong with taking care of you first.
  • Don't be afraid to ask for help. Other family members who love your children can watch them when needed. Your partner or a trusted friend is capable of taking care of the house. It's okay to lean on other people.
  • Remember that if you are unhappy, the rest of your family will likely be unhappy. Taking the time and effort to restore your mental health will not only be good for you, but it will be good for your loved ones as well.
  • Eat healthfully. The National Food and Drug Administration recommends a nutritional diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fat-free or low-fat dairy products; includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts and is low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt and added sugars.
  • Enjoy the moment. Try to notice the small things in life, like the feel of sunshine on your skin or a hug from someone who loves you. You may have a hundred things on your plate, but you only have one thing at this moment.
  • Get enough sleep. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation is linked to depression. It helps to write down what you have to do tomorrow so you don't end up thinking about it as you fall asleep.
  • Squeeze in exercise. If you're not a fan of the gym, a few extra steps here and there will still make a difference. Your body and mind are linked. Neither can be at optimal health without the other.
  • Find support. NAMI mental illness support and education groups are found in many states and towns. Other organizations also run groups exclusively for depression. These groups are helpful because you can learn from others who are going through similar problems.
  • Notice your mood. When are your happiest and when you are your saddest? How can you make small changes in your routine that reduce things that bother you, and increase activities you enjoy?