Discover tips for keeping up with brushing teeth, showering, and more
Not being able to maintain personal hygiene is a reality for many people suffering from depression. When it’s hard to simply get out of bed, taking a shower or brushing teeth can seem like an impossible task. It is important to remember that you are not lazy or gross; you are just struggling right now.
Try your best to take even small steps to maintain personal hygiene. These small steps can help you feel better physically and more accomplished mentally. The following hygiene hacks can help.
- Use dry shampoo: dry shampoo can help remove the extra oil in your hair. Hold it 4-6 in away from hair and spray directly at the roots. Then, using your fingertips, massage the product into the roots and scalp so it’s evenly distributed. Some of the more effective ones, vetted by experts, are Klorane Dry Shampoo with Oat Milk, TRESemmé Pro Pure Dry Shampoo, and Billie Floof Dry Shampoo.
- Try a sink bath or use baby wipes: for a sink bath, use a wash cloth and some soap in the sink and use it to wash the “dirtier” areas (such as armpits, etc.). You can even try washing your hair under the faucet if the sink is deep enough. Baby wipes are another alternative you can use even while still in bed.
- Take a bath instead of a shower, or purchase a shower chair: if the thought of standing in the shower for a long time deters you from taking a shower, consider taking a bath or buying a shower chair. You could also make the bath a relaxing, therapeutic experience, with bath bombs and essential oils.
- Consider using a rinse-free shampoo or body wash:
- Rinse-free shampoo caps: such as Nurture’s No Water Rinse-Free Shampoo Cap, require you to place cap on your head with all hair inside, massage for 203 minutes, & remove the cap, and towel dry your hair.
- Rinse-free body washes and bath sponges: such as Nurture Valley’s Rinse Free No Shower Body Wash, Clean Life No-Rinse Body Wash, or Scrubzz Disposable No Rinse Bath Sponges, can also be helpful alternatives if taking a shower/bath is difficult.
There are a number of ways to keep breath fresh and your mouth relatively clean when you haven’t been able to brush your teeth. These include:
- Using mouthwash
- Chewing minty gum: look for sugar-free gum sweetened with xylitol, a naturally-occurring sweetener that reduces cavity-causing bacteria in the mouth. Examples include: 5 Sugar-Free gum, Ice Breakers Ice Cubes Sugar-free gum, and Orbit Sugar-Free gum.
- Using disposable toothbrushes: Disposable toothbrushes are difficult to find in stores but can be found online. Examples include Wisps and Brushee. They don’t require water and are great for when it is difficult to get out of bed.
Not being able to keep up with activities such as brushing your hair may bring up a lot of emotions, like shame, embarrassment, and sadness. It might help to know these issues are actually quite common, as we see in this article. Here are the general steps for detangling “depression hair” (may vary slightly depending on hair type):
1. Prepare yourself: this may take a while and some hair could fall out, which could be difficult. Make the environment as soothing as possible by brightening the room, utilizing paced breathing (the breathwrk app is great for this), and turning on music that makes you feel good.
2. Get your equipment together: You will need:
- One full spray bottle of water
- Deep conditioner or some detangling oil
- 3 combs – one wide-tooth, one “medium-spaced,” one standard comb
- A small set of of hair scissors (*You may want to have a friend to handle the scissors if you do not feel safe around them)
3. Begin detangling.
- Moisten the hair (but avoid drenching it, as that can cause breakage). Lightly spray and massage scalp.
- Apply deep conditioner and leave in according to instructions.
- Start with your fingers. Gently un-knot the easier spots first with your fingers.
- Comb time. Start with the widest comb first and focus on the ends by holding your hair firmly and lightly combing the ends. As your hair starts to detangle, work your way toward your scalp.
- Once you’ve loosened it a bit, comb with the “medium” spaced comb, followed by the smallest.
- If need-be, you may need to use the scissors on a section of matted hair that refuses to loosen. First, get a good hold of it, and then lightly run the scissor blade on the underside of the matted hair. Tug at the matted section gently to see if it loosens.
4. Consider going to a professional hairdresser/barber: it may difficult to untangle all the matted hair. Also if energy and concentration is low, going to a professional from the get-go might be the preferred decision.
- Make sure you have the right supplies for cleaning: paper towels, cleaning spray (Mrs. Meyer’s Surface Cleaner Spray is nice because it smells good which can be a good motivator), trash bags, and a vacuum (or broom & dust pan).
- Try to be gentle with yourself. It is understandable to feel a number of different emotions when you have to face some of the clutter that has piled up since becoming depressed (shame, sadness, grief, apathy, etc.).
- Take breaks often (like, set a timer for every X minutes). Start off with doing 5 minutes of the chore you dislike the least if that’s where you’re at. The point is that you’re trying. 🙂
- Motivation low? If you can’t find the motivation to start, try to pair a cleaning activity with an activity you already do. So, for instance, if you’re lying in bed and get up to go to the bathroom, do 5 minutes-worth of picking clothes off the floor when you get back.
- Ask for help. See if family or a good friend can help you- you are worthy of their help.
- Hire professional help. If you don’t have anyone near you, hire a cleaner if you have the means, or ask your family/friends if they can loan you money for one. In addition to searching for house cleaners online, you can also try apps like TIDY or Maidsapp (both of which have different cleaning packages at increasing prices of cleaning services). Resources like TaskRabbit may also be a good option- as they are not designed only for cleaning and you can choose among many cleaning services and professionals.
Feeling depressed and low on energy but still thinking about cleaning a bit. Awesome job already. Here are a few tips that might help during this tough time:
- Your goal is to just make space functional to live
- Functional ≠ neat or organized. Just need a clear place to sleep and safe places to walk around, and preferably food that is sealed in bags/containers.
- Use the 5 minute method: set a timer for 5 minutes, and do what you can within those 5 minutes:
- Clear off anything that has accumulated on bed (i.e. plastic bottles, empty snack bags, dishes, clothing, electronics). Bonus points for changing sheets.
- Clear a path to the rest of the house
- If after 5 minutes, you want to keep cleaning, go for it! If not, you did an annoying thing when you felt like crap. Literally tell yourself, “good job.”
- As stated in the “General Cleaning Tips” tab – it is OK to ask for help. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, but keep thinking that if you broke your leg, you would need help with these kinds of things. This is the same concept – as you work through this more “invisible fracture,” know that support from others makes your recovery easier.
If you have a bit more energy to tackle cleaning- woohooo! Here are some tips for that initial de-clutter.
- Choose something enjoyable you can do while you clean that will make it less annoying, such as listening to a podcast, a “cleaning playlist,” or calling a friend.
- Use the “5 Things Tidying Method” created by professional therapist K.C. Davis. Basically, look at a messy room as 5 groups of stuff:
- Things without a place
- Things with a place they need to go into
- Just try sorting through the clutter into those main categories, and make sure you stay in the room so you don’t get distracted by things in another room.
- Affordable baskets/bins from the dollar store or online (i.e. these or these), or simply trash bags can be really helpful when sorting. Chuck items from various groups outlined above in these for a quick way to de-clutter
- If you need to stop after sorting (or before), see how much better your room already looks and literally tell yourself you’ve done a great job.
- If you can keep going and start to tackle the dishes/laundry, etc., A+ for you. No matter how far you got, you tried, and that means something.