Looking after yourself, or self-care, is vital to physical, emotional and mental well-being. Self-care is best defined as the ability to take proper care of your daily living needs, like eating, sleeping, grooming. But it’s also about identifying your own unique needs and taking steps to meet them—like making the time to do things that nurture you, as well as activities that keep you healthy.
In short, self-care is care provided for you, by you.
But when you live with depression, self-care can sometimes feel unattainable. You’re tired, listless, with feelings of despair and corrosive thoughts that push and shove in an endless tug-of-war within you. Often, depression leaves you feeling like your physical and emotional reactivity has been siphoned off, draining you of the ability to look after yourself.
Research says there’s a neurobiological reason for this—and it has to do with the brain structure known as the frontal lobes. This area is responsible for executive functioning—a set of skills that involves problem solving, judgment and reasoning, just to name a few. Depression has long been associated with dysfunction of the frontal lobes, so it’s not a surprise that people with depression find it hard to self-care.
Symptoms of Dysfunction in Frontal Lobes
Children and adults who are depressed frequently have trouble doing many of the following things listed below, all of which are executive functioning skills. It’s important that depressed people realize, as well as family and friends of loved ones who are depressed, that having trouble with self-care is not due to laziness, or not trying hard enough or from weakness. The issue here is significant brain dysfunction that impairs self-care success.
When dysfunction occurs in the frontal lobes, these skills become impaired:
- Decision making
- Emotional control
- Emotional functioning
- Flexible thinking
- Planning and prioritizing
- Working memory
Develop a Self-Care Program