HOW TO SHOWER WHEN YOU REALLY, REALLY DON’T WANT TO.
It’s mental health awareness month and we want to shine a light on something that doesn’t get the airtime it should: the relationship between showers and depression. The internet would like us to believe that mental health issues fit into the sad girl aesthetic: streaming mascara; French films; and Lana Del Rey, when - let’s face it - the reality is far more ready meals; trackies; and a major depletion in personal hygiene.
Research has shown that one of the most common symptoms of depression, grief, PTSD and severe anxiety is something called executive dysfunction – which is where we struggle accomplishing tasks – and one of the BIGGEST examples of this is jumping into that daily shower. The tricky thing about showering is that it’s completely for ourselves. While people struggling with depressive symptoms may be able to fight their executive dysfunction to complete certain tasks because of the added anxiety or guilt around letting other people down (isn’t life relentless?), showering is just about you – so executive dysfunction can easily take over.
To add a massive paradox to the situation, showering and bathing happens to be one of the most effective ways to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. So we’re stuck in the cruellest Catch 22. We know showering makes us feel better, but we can’t bring ourselves to do it and end up feeling worse. Similarly, meeting a goal (such as showering) releases dopamine (also known as the feel-good-neurotransmitter), making it easier to meet the next goal; but failing to manage a goal increases cortisol levels (i.e. increases stress levels), making to harder to manage the next one – and thus our executive dysfunction gets worse. Like a dog chasing its tail - we get smellier and sadder and nothing feels fair.
If this is ringing all too painfully true to you, the first thing to remember is that it is a completely normal symptom of one of depression, which is the most prevalent mental health disorder in the UK – affecting 1 in 6 adults. So step one, is to unleash the shame. Go on – do it! Close your eyes and take a moment to inhale through the nose, and exhale through the mouth, releasing all the unnecessary feelings of guilt and embarrassment, remembering what you’re experiencing is felt by millions every day.
And now, if you’re feeling up to tackling the executive dysfunction, here are some tips on how to jump into that shower (when you really, really don’t want to).
TIP #1 BREAK IT DOWN
Breaking the task down into smaller, more manageable chunks can be less overwhelming for your brain and still result in getting it done. For showering, that might look like this:
- Standing up
- Walking to the bathroom
- Taking off clothes
- Turning on shower
- Getting wet
- Get out and dry off
Put on clean comfies and get back to the sofa
As you’re completing each step, it might help to count (i.e. “Step 1, stand up” etc). This establishes the idea of progress, which releases small amounts of dopamine to squish that executive dysfunction and make each step easier. Each time this rewarding neurotransmitter spikes, your brain will actually want you to repeat the associated behaviour and consequently carry on to the next step – and before you know it, you’ll be clean and in your fluffiest jumper feeling a lot better.
TIP #2 AFFIRMATIONS
Positive affirmations have been building in popularity over the past decade and if you’ve ever struggled with symptoms of anxiety, grief, PTSD or depression, we’ll put money on the fact that you’ve probably been told to affirm or manifest your way out of it – which can be SUPER annoying when your brain feels like it’s running on 2% battery. But affirmations don’t have to just be, “I am a radiant being of light with a beautiful soul and perfect skin.” You can use simple affirmations to help get things DONE.
Saying out loud, “I am going to get in the shower,” not only speaks your task into existence, it can bypass your executive dysfunction because it feels less like something you have to do, and more like something you’ve already started – but with none of the effort.
For a double whammy, trying breaking down the task and using the affirmations at the same time: i.e. “I am going to stand up,” – then standing up; “I am going to walk to the bathroom,” – then walking to the bathroom. You might sound like what we all thought robots would be in the 90s, but you’ll be clean, steamed and dopamined up in no time.
TIP #3 INDULGE YOURSELF
Aromatherapy has been used for centuries to boost your mood and help alleviate depressive symptoms. And luckily, the steam and hot water means showers and baths are the PERFECT environment for all your aromatherapy dreams.
Inhaling essential oils allows the scent to travel from the olfactory nerves (the sense of smell you can feel at the top of your nose) right to the amygdala (the almond shaped emotional centre of your brain: responsible for anxiety, fear and stress – gross), soothing and calming it. By introducing products that release these essential oils during your shower, not only will they help you to feel better, they’ll help you to make positive associations of pleasure with your shower, making it easier to get in next time.
We MASSIVELY recommend our gorgeous De-Stress Shower Steamer. Not only will you reap the rewards of four dreamy essential oils, the best part is that you simply pop one on the shower floor and let it work its magic – without having to add any complicated steps to your routine.
If you’re feeling brave, and you’re keen to add even more indulgence to your shower routine, check out our article on self-care showers – but take it slow, and remember to celebrate your small wins.
While these steps will hopefully help, remember that if you’re struggling with your mental health, it’s really important to speak to your GP – or look into speaking to a qualified counsellor from a company like Better Help. You’re not alone, and you will get through this.