If you live with a mental health condition like anxiety or depression, it’s probably not unusual for you to feel like you can’t, or don’t want to leave the house sometimes.
Tell me if this is familiar:
You go to bed determined tomorrow will be productive. But, when you wake up, you feel different. It’s one of those days. No matter how much you tell yourself to get up, get on with it, this is silly, you have so much to do; you just can’t seem to. It’s like there’s something physically stopping you. The thought of going outside is overwhelming.
I know first-hand it can feel awful to have that want-to-but-can’t mentality. You might not do anything that day. It’s probably fine for a day but, after a while, you need to stay active to stop the spiral.
Sometimes you might push through. Maybe because you feel you have to get to work or meet someone. Sometimes you’ll stay inside, ruminating. Probably getting quite angry at yourself if you’re anything like me.
I would love for people not to judge themselves for days like this. We just need to call it a mental health day and get through it.
I recently had a mental health day. I woke up and felt, tbh, shit. But, I actually managed to turn it around and make myself feel better.
Then I realised, there are things I could do in future to try and turn those days around more often. I’m sharing those things here, today.
I know it won’t always work. I know sometimes those feelings are really strong and it’s so difficult to overcome. But, sometimes it will work.
I’ve decided a softly softly approach is best, for me. No anger or judgement, and no tough love. I’ve listed them in a way that, for me, starts with the easiest or simplest task, and works up to the most difficult, with an easy and enjoyable thing at the end.
I know it won’t work that way for everyone, and not everyone will enjoy all of these ideas. The idea is to pick the ones you like the sound of and start easy. Don’t go too big too fast or you might feel overwhelmed and discouraged.
Some would argue that I should be encouraging you to leave the house, because it’s good for you. I know that’s not always a possibility for some people, though. So, here is how you might turn your mental health day around, without leaving the house.
Take a shower.
Step one. It’s simple. Don’t overwhelm yourself by thinking about what you have to do next. I love to do lists but, on these days, I just need one thing at a time. Take as long as you need in the shower, do what you gotta do. Mental health self-care doesn’t always have to be aromatherapy candles and a spa day; a shower works wonders for refreshing your body.
Ditch the PJs.
Do not put your PJs back on after the shower! I know you probably want comfort on days like this but you can put on other comfy clothes. Whatever it is, just get dressed.
Cook yourself something healthy.
Scour Pinterest for a new recipe or take some Insta inspiration. Make something healthy, satisfying, and savour eating it. My recommendation would be a big veggie omelette. Making the effort to nourish yourself sends a message to your body and mind. If you like cooking, you can get quite distracted by the prep work.
Batch cook or bake.
For similar reasons as above – it’s distracting and gives you a sense that you’ve done something useful. Bake brownies or cupcakes. Make a huge batch of something and freeze it in portions. You’ll be glad you did this when you’re stuck for dinner on random week nights.
Whatever that looks like to you. For me, that would be writing or doing my makeup. For you, it might be sketching or playing an instrument. Doing something that gives you an outlet is great for mental health days.
Listen to music.
Ideally not music that makes you reminisce about sad memories. But, it doesn’t have to be super upbeat, either. Just in the background, or you could actually sit and focus on it.
Yoga or stretching.
Search for yoga videos on YouTube or poses on Pinterest. If you’re not into yoga, just get on the floor and try some simple stretching. Sometimes, you won’t feel energetic enough to do some high intensity exercise, so gentler movements are perfect here.
This might come naturally after your yoga session. Just sit comfortably for a while, don’t necessarily set a time-frame. Try an app like Headspace if you find it helps you focus. Just giving yourself 10 minutes or so to just sit and be. If you start to think negatively, don’t judge it, just let it pass.
Open the windows.
You don’t have to leave the house, but getting a fresh air blast when you walk past a window can be really refreshing. Open them up and take a deep breath of the air.
Whether it’s your inbox, your phone storage, or your sock drawer. Having a good old sort out can make you feel productive on days where you had ‘bigger’ plans. I find it improves my mental health because it feels like a tiny reset for my mind. It’s a reminder that, if things aren’t valuable to me anymore, I don’t have to keep them.
Any book you like. I tend to read the same things over and over again. Just pick one and read a chapter, or more. Especially with fiction, it can feel like a bit of escapism in a day where you might need it.
Do some chores.
Nothing you really hate to do, like I wouldn’t choose to start ironing or scrubbing the oven. Something mild that you don’t mind, maybe just run a vacuum over the place.
Get some sun.
I know UK readers are like yeah but how? I’m not talking about sunbathing but having some natural daylight can work wonders for your mood. Some lucky people will have a conservatory or balcony but, if not, sit on the doorstep if you’re in a house, or chill by the open window. Not technically leaving the house, but it’ll alleviate that ‘cooped up’ feeling.
Do a circuit.
If you are feeling more energetic at this point, try and do some simple exercises. Exercise gives you an immediate mental boost afterwards. I often do something like: burpees, squats, lunges, tricep dips, bicycle crunches, press ups. Just 20 of each repeated twice is enough to give me a little buzz.
If you can, and you want to connect with someone, call someone who is likely to be available. It can be a bit of a setback if you psych yourself up to chat and the person doesn’t answer or is busy. You don’t have to talk about how you’re feeling if you don’t want to. Just benignly talking and hearing someone else’s voice can make you feel good.
TV and movies.
I would only recommend doing this at night. I know if I’m having a bad mental health day and I put the TV on in the morning, it’ll stay on all day and I’ll do little else. It’s something I like to look forward to after a full day. Catch up on a series or pick a movie you love. Snuggle up, get some snacks, or the baking you did before, and chill out until bed.
These are all things you can do to feel like you’ve achieved something, without leaving the house. If you’re like me, that sense of productivity can lift your mood so much. Whereas, the feeling of ‘wasting a day’ can depress your mood even further and contribute to that negative self-talk.
I don’t believe that nothing is always a ‘wasted’ day, but I know it can feel like that at the time. I also know that, doing nothing all day when I feel like that is not going to help anything.
Even if you don’t feel like doing anything when you start the day, these small tasks start easy and are progressively bigger. When you started the day, you probably didn’t feel like talking to anyone. But, if you’ve worked through some of the other tasks, you might get to the point where you can.
I really hope these help you coax yourself out of the duvet and feel better. Do let me know your thoughts, and if you think this might work for you. There’s no such thing as too many ideas, so let me know if you have any in the comments below.