I used to live in Florida, and we'd get hit with hurricanes quite regularly. I can guarantee you that every dyed-in-the-wool Floridian has their own plan for hurricane preparedness, whether it means batteries and bottled water, or vodka and pop tarts. In the Frozen North (New Jersey now, but New York before) we get hit with massive amounts of snow every now and again. Apparently in NYC, that means that you must buy kale. I'm not even kidding. Go into any store in the five boroughs before a snow storm hits (OK, maybe not Staten Island, but nobody counts Staten Island) and you'll see the shelves emptied of kale, down to the last scrap of a leaf. In Jersey City, it's eggs and bread. The freaking bodega sells out of eggs and bread.
The point is that when we know disaster is about to hit, we prepare for it. Why is it that we don't treat mental health predictable disasters in the same way? I do. I know that every winter, the sun is going to be overcast (if not outright missing) when I leave for work in the morning, and be gone by the time I leave work 8 hours later in the evening. It throws me into a horrible spiral of depression, which then means that basic things that I normally do are impossible to sort out. This winter, I literally had a giant suitcase with all my laundry piled atop it from Christmas through about two weeks ago.
Again, because I knew this mess was headed my way (and always will head my way), I do a few things to prepare for it.
I love to cook. I wrote a freaking book about it. However, when I'm in the throes of depression, I'm going to lack the motivation to /eat/, much less to cook. I need to stock up on certain easy things that I can get into my system, so that I don't get hit with malnutrition on top of the depression.
- Frozen "steamable" veg. At my local grocery store, they sell these 12 - 16 oz packs of frozen veg that you can throw direct into the microwave, hit it with 4 1/2 minutes of heat, and it's steamed to perfection. I stock up on these guys big time before the winter hits, because sometimes I can't eat handle another stack of carbs (potato chips, bread, plain rice with salt), because that's all I've had the motivation to make. On those days, I can throw a steaming pack into the microwave, and get it down.
- Tofu & spice mixes. When I'm particularly too sapped of energy from being a sobbing mess on the floor, I sometimes don't have the energy to sort out even the 4 1/2 minutes in the microwave. Also, I've not had the energy to eat anything of substance in way too long. Also, I actually /do/ need a spot of protein, because I've been subsisting on potato chips and steamed veg for about three days. Enter tofu and spice blends. I will take a block of tofu out of the fridge, and liberally sprinkle on salt and a spice blend. Mrs Dash works. Berbere works EXCELLENT. And then I'll take a fork, and chomp away.
- Potatoes & margarine. Not to be funny, but there are times when I want something that'll fill me up, but not be too challenging to eat. I don't want al dente pasta. I don't want crunchy veg. I want something that's easy to chew, that doesn't taste too strongly of anything, and that I can bolt down quickly. I always have at least 5 lbs of potatoes on hand, because a microwave baked potato is 4 minutes flat. I'll pile on some margarine and salt, and go to town. If I have the energy for it, I'll also throw on some of my leftover steamed veg.
- Broccoli and/or cauliflower florets, chopped kale, chopped collars. The Trader Joe sells these veg already chopped and prepared. I have a hot water kettle. On nights where I am not in the mood for steamed frozen veg, and want something with more substance, I'll use these prepped veggies for a quick snack. 1 lb of veg takes about 1 1/2 litres of boiling water. I fill up my electric kettle, and let it come to the boil. While that's coming to a boil, I'll throw the veg into a large bowl in the sink. Once the water boils, I'll dump it over the veg, and let it all sit together for five minutes. I drain off the water, and then toss the veggies in olive or sesame oil, garlic powder, salt, black pepper, and sesame seeds.
- Nuts. Before the winter hits, I'll grab a few pounds of nuts, and toss them in oil, garlic powder, salt, and ground red chilies. I roast them at 350 for 8 - 12 minutes (depending on the nut), and store them in jars after they cool. There's times when I need a snack that has some fat, and some protein, because yesterday's meals consisted of steamed corn, seasoned tofu, and a saltine cracker. This ensures that I hit my calorie mark.
- Disposable plates. It seems obvious to me, but I'm stating it here: when you're too depressed to cook, you're sure as heck too depressed to clean. There are times when I've avoided eating anything, because I know that the cleanup is going to not happen, and I'm surrounded by enough mess that I can't handle adding any more mess to the growing pile of cleaning I need to do.
- Extra socks. Before the winter hits, I'll make sure to buy about 2 months worth of socks. Underwear I can figure out. Shirts I can re-wear. Jeans and pants, I /will/ re-wear. But socks are a different story. If they're not clean, I won't wear them. And unlike the summer, where I'll throw on a pair of sandals and move on, the winter /requires/ shoes. If I'm in a bout where I cannot do laundry, I'm going to need socks for sure. Not to mention, if I'm too poor to afford to heat my home, I'm going to need to get socks on my feet before I sleep, so that I'm not too cold at night.
- Black t-shirts. I'll buy about 12 - 15 black t-shirts as well. You can wear a black t-shirt with anything, and dress it up or down as necessary. Also, they don't show stains that much. Trust me, it's worth having a few on hand. By the time winter is done, I have to throw out a fair few pairs, because they've got holes in them from being worn so many times.
- Pyjama pants. In the winter, I'm not going out. In fact, I'm not even leaving my bed on my free time. I make sure that I have at least a few pairs of pyjama pants, so that when I'm too depressed to go for a full on shower, I can at least have a fresh clean bit of clothing on.
There are definitely other aspects that I prepare with, but I'm not remembering them at the moment, because my depression has cleared properly, and I'm happy right now. If someone has any requests, let me know, and I'll add to the list.