Easy 3-Step Self-Care Depression Checklist

In Education, Mental Health, Resources, Self-Care, Wellness, Worksheets and Printables by Courtney ArcherLeave a Comment

Not everything in life needs a checklist, but it can certainly be helpful. This self-care depression checklist will help you make sure you do at least three things a day to take care of yourself.

Depression can make it hard to do pretty much anything, which is why this checklist is short and sweet. It is also customizable because depression hits everyone a little differently.

Do not worry though, most of the guesswork has been taken out of it. This is not one of those things where you go into it thinking you have found something to help and then realize you have to do all the work.

Depression is hard enough. This self-care depression checklist is all about simplification and doing what you can, not everything you think you should. The world is not going to end today if your house is not spotless or if you do not get an hour workout in.

Self-care is all about meeting your needs for satisfaction, relief, and wonder. This self-care checklist for depression incorporates all three–that is where the 3 steps come from. And at the end of it all is a printable worksheet in case you would like something even more structured.

self-care depression checklist

Easy 3-Step Self-Care Depression Checklist

What Is Depression?

Depression is an emotion and a diagnosable mental illness. Basically, you can feel depressed without being depressed.

The emotion of depression is a deep feeling of sadness or hopelessness. We all feel depressed from time to time; it is a very natural response to trying and disappointing experiences.

Depression becomes a mental illness when those feelings of sadness and hopelessness take over everything else and interfere with your ability to live life. The diagnostic manual that mental health clinicians use to diagnose depression, the DSM-V, lists the following criteria for depression:

  • persistent depressed mood
  • loss of interest in things you used to enjoy
  • change in appetite
  • not being able to think or move as quickly as you used to
  • lack of energy
  • inability to concentrate
  • persistent thoughts of death or suicide

In order to be diagnosed with depression, the DSM-V specifies that a person should be experiencing 5 or more of those symptoms for at least 2 weeks.

Note that only 1 of those 7 symptoms is suicidality. You do not need to be suicidal in order to be depressed. Also, note that many of those symptoms could be attributed to something else on its own.

For example, there are a lot of reasons a person could experience a change in appetite, from how active they are to the weather. But if a person has experienced a change in appetite along with four other things from that list, they might have depression.

If you are interested in receiving professional help for depression, I highly recommend checking out Psychology Today to find a qualified, licensed professional near you. Your family doctor can also help you with deciding if medication is the right choice for you.

If you are experiencing any suicidal ideation (thoughts of killing yourself), please seek professional help. The national suicide prevention hotline (800-273-8255) is a great, free place to start.

Photo with info on definition of depression, to help with your self-care depression checklist

How Self-Care Can Help

Self-care is doing things that bring a sense of satisfaction, relief, and wonder to life. It is a preventative measure you can take to help keep your depression at a manageable level. While it will not prevent depression from occurring, it can lessen the severity of a depressive episode.

When we engage in self-care, it helps us bring some of the spark back to life that depression can take away. Depression is exhausting. Enjoyment of anything is often one of the first things to go when a depressive episode hits.

Without the enjoyment of anything, motivation can be pretty hard to come by. That is where self-care comes in. Self-care is not always easy, but it really helps in the struggle to remember why life is worth living.

Engaging in self-care reminds you that you are capable. It reminds you that there is comfort to be found, relief from life’s hardships. Self-care helps you remember that there are lovely, beautiful, wonderful things in the world.

When you engage in self-care, you commit to living the best life you can live. It is a deeply personal gift, and you are the only person who can give it to you.

So let’s make it a little easier with this self-care depression checklist, shall we? We will break self-care down into the 3 areas of self-care so that you can make sure to get a bit of each one.

Photo with info on how self-care can help depression.

3-Step Self-Care Depression Checklist

This self-care depression checklist is easy to personalize. We will discuss each area of self-care along with a hearty list of things you can do to take care of yourself.

Please remember as you go through this checklist that you do not have to do everything on it. The goal is to give you some ideas of things you can do, not to make an exhaustive list of all the things that have to get done.

Keeping in mind that this self-care checklist is for depression, I have kept the suggestions for ways to increase your self-care as simple as possible. Some of them are more simple than others to try to provide more of a range of options.

These suggestions are merely meant to get you thinking. If you think of something that is not on the list, that is great! The point is to come up with three things you can do each day to bring you a sense of satisfaction, relief, and wonder.

Photo with info on the point of this self-care depression checklist.

Self-Care Depression Checklist #1: Sense of Satisfaction

Increasing your sense of satisfaction helps you feel like you are capable of getting things done. Things tend to pile up during depressive episodes because it is hard to find the motivation to deal with anything.

Not only does this contribute to feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, but it also makes it daunting to figure out how to get everything done. It can become a vicious cycle of avoiding doing things because you feel overwhelmed which leads to feeling more overwhelmed and avoiding things even more.

Instead of avoiding the things that need to be done, try targeting some of the smaller, more do-able things. You do not have to clean your entire house to manufacture a sense of satisfaction.

Break things down. If the smell of your week-old dirty dishes is driving you up the wall, try washing one or two of them. If your laundry has been piling up for weeks and the idea of washing it makes you want to cry, try doing one small load of the essentials.

You do not have to do everything in order to restore some sense of satisfaction. You just have to do one thing. Begin your self-care depression checklist with something that gives you a sense of satisfaction.

Ideas for Ways to Increase Your Sense of Satisfaction
  • wash one or two dishes
  • do a small load of laundry
  • take a shower
  • wash your face
  • brush your teeth
  • pay one bill
  • take one bag of trash out to the dumpster/trash can
  • text someone who you have been meaning to reach out to
  • put on clean clothing
  • file or trim your fingernails

Photo with some advice on how to do your self-care depression checklist.

Self-Care Depression Checklist #2: Sense of Relief

Finding a sense of relief is what most people usually think of when they think of self-care. Things like taking a long soak in the tub, or drinking a warm mug of tea or hot cocoa. While that is a good start to finding a sense of relief, there is a little more to it.

Doing something that gives you a sense of relief helps you feel like things can get better. Hopelessness is a common symptom of depression. Increasing your sense of relief is a great way to help you remember that everything is not awful all the time.

Relief comes in many forms. It can be the soothing, comforting feeling that a fresh breath of air brings, or it can be the mental break that tuning in to your favorite song gives you.

When choosing a method of relief, consider how easy it is as well as how effective it is. It is okay to sacrifice effectiveness for feasibility and vice versa.

Keep in mind that sometimes relief can cross the line into endless distraction, which is not the point. As you build your self-care depression checklist, try to choose something for the relief section that you can do intentionally.

Ideas for Ways to Increase Your Sense of Relief
  • step outside for a few seconds
  • take a deep breath
  • take a 15-minute nap
  • watch a favorite movie
  • read a favorite book
  • go for a short walk
  • talk to a friend
  • listen to your favorite artist or song
  • play a game
  • listen to or read a guided meditation

Photo on how self-care can bring you a sense of relief.

Self-Care Depression Checklist #3: Sense of Wonder

While most self-care resources mention increasing your sense of relief and satisfaction, not many mention the importance of your sense of wonder. We all feel a sense of wonder from time to time. It usually comes in the form of awe, excitement, glee, or enjoyment.

If you experience depression, chances are good that your sense of wonder has been a little hard to find. One of the symptoms of depression is a loss of interest in things you used to enjoy, after all.

The goal of this third section of your self-care depression checklist is to bring some enjoyment for the sake of enjoyment back into your life. You might find that some of the things from previous sections fit here–they are all a little interchangeable depending on what works for you.

For example, a shower could easily fit into all three sections depending on what showering does for you. Some people find a shower to be a chore, while others find it relaxing. A shower might even increase your sense of wonder if you use a scented soap that you enjoy.

When trying to increase your sense of wonder, try to think of things that wake your emotions up a little. If you have a favorite painting that takes your breath away, print or buy a copy of it so you can look at it every now and then.

Or, if you have a child or pet who makes your heart feel warm every time you see them, carry a picture of them with you. Reminding yourself that there are good things in the world is the perfect way to bring a sense of wonder back to your life.

Ideas for Ways to Increase Your Sense of Wonder
  • find something beautiful to look at (sunrise or sunset are classic go-to’s)
  • color in a coloring book
  • read an inspirational quote
  • eat a piece of your favorite candy or food
  • write three things you are grateful for and why
  • wear something that makes you feel fancy or whimsical
  • take a bath with a bath bomb or bubbles
  • burn a candle with a pleasant fragrance
  • use scented lotion
  • look at a picture of a loved one or pet

Photo with info about increasing your sense of wonder.

In Conclusion

Depression makes it incredibly difficult to engage in self-care, and all the more necessary to do so. When a depressive episode hits, it can be hard to feel worthwhile, like there is any relief, and like there is any good left in the world.

Engaging in self-care helps you remember all of these things. Make a commitment to do at least three things to take care of yourself every day. They do not have to take a lot of time or energy; it is always better to do something than to do nothing.

Please remember that depression is not a challenge you have to face alone. Therapy can make an incredible difference in your ability to deal with and lessen the symptoms that you experience. Psychology Today has a great database of therapists all over the place, and you can use it to find one for you.

Again, if you are experiencing suicidal ideation, please reach out to a mental health professional or to the national suicide prevention hotline at 800-273-8255.

Click here to download self-care depression checklist

Want to read more? Recommended articles below:

What is Self-Care? Satisfaction, Relief, & Wonder

Top 10 Best Self-Care Tips for Mental Health

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