Full disclaimer: I am not a psychologist, counsellor, or in anyway a licensed mental health professional. I read a lot, research and aim to create content I wish I could have read on my worst days. If you are struggling please read my Resources page for guidance on where to find professional help.
What is self care?
According to Raphailia Michael, an actual licensed counselling psychologist, self care is any activity that is done deliberately in order to care for our, mental, physical or emotional health.
This makes the concept highly personalised, and why I have such issue with the long standing “take a long bath and use a face mask” approach. While I am not denying how helpful it can be to pamper yourself once in a while, I do not think it should be the most spread and given advice. I personally love to immerse myself in water as a calming activity, but I can equally see why people would find this the opposite of relaxing.
So without further ado, and in no particular order:
Lets get this over and done with, my approach to exercise in real life too.
The findings of many scientific studies are pretty clear, exercise in almost any form has benefits for a wide range of mental health issues, with depression being commonly studied. The NHS guidelines on minimum exercise levels for normal human beings can be found here. Have a browse if you desire. But the first and most important point is this:
Aim to be physically active every day. Any activity is better than none, and more is better still.
Having a truly bad day and getting out of bed is hard? Can you manage a full body stretch? Wriggle your toes? Maybe try these suggestions:
On the truly awful days make a point to celebrate the smallest step towards exercise as you can manage. As things get easier exercise can definitely be a self-care tool, something that benefits both your physical and mental health. Pick something you enjoy that gets you moving, run, fast walk the dog (or cat), dance, play a sport, yoga, climb a mountain, vacuum the house as fast as you can. If you enjoy it, it’s working. Have a gold star
Do things that bring you joy
Watching films your jam? Reading a book? (Yes please with sprinkles on). Knitting socks for your cat? Gardening? Baking? Hanging out with friends/family/kids? Cleaning? Train trips to nowhere? Table decoration? (Any cool pics from any of your hobbies please share with me! Social media links below)
It can be as small or large as you like. It’s what brings you peace, joy, stress relief or all of the above. No judgement from me! Just no hurting people, hard nope.
Only got 5 minutes after feeding the kids? Can you can read a page or 2? Call a friend quickly for a hello? Spend quality time snuggled with a loved one?
Make some form of pleasurable activity a priority at least once a week, small or large, and see what a difference this can make.
And GO OUTSIDE.
This one is arguably a tricky line to walk, the aim is to maintain friendships and relationships, while keeping time and mental energy for yourself. The ultimate aim (for me at least) is to make sure I am there for the people that need me while looking after myself too, after all you can’t pour from an empty cup.
- Say no to non-essential social engagements. The “non-essential” part is crucial here, unwanted mid-week drinks with friends can be rearranged to a weekend or a time when work is quiet. Your best friends drama performance is something you should probably go to. But hey, if mid week drinks with friends are the highlight of your week then definitely keep going! (I’m not encouraging alcoholism here…)
- Get in the habit of thinking before committing. Ties in with the above statement. If you know you are pressed for time/energy then why do you keep accepting more? Take a moment to think things through before saying yes.
I give it an hour of solid effort and if I still don’t want to be there then I let myself leave. I read a solid blog post on this ages ago and cannot find it anywhere, if anyone has any ideas let me know so I can thank the author!
Be Kind to Your Body
As a previous sufferer of eating disorders, self harm and compulsive exercise this was arguably one of the hardest things I had to learn and get comfortable doing. But it is so important, when you look after your body then you can start being proud of what it can do instead of focusing on what it can’t. Your hair always on point? Celebrate. Can you click your fingers super loud? Run for hours without stopping? Lick your elbow?
Whatever it is be happy. Celebrate the little things, whatever you are proud or happy that you can do, embrace it. We only get one body, however messed up or hated it is.
Further body care points include:
- Hygiene: shower/bath too hard? Baby wipes or wash cloth is perfectly okay until you’re well enough again. Sugar free gum and mouthwash are better than nothing if brushing your teeth is impossible. We live in a world where we are blessed with dry shampoo, if that’s all you can manage then go for it. You will feel better for any small bit you can manage, trust me.
- Food: Not eaten for days? Juice works, or milk, or dairy-free smoothie, whatever gets food inside and helps keep your blood sugar up and your cells happy and working well. Having a day where you can’t seem to eat enough? Can you try watermelon, carrots, apples, spicy rice, frozen peas (don’t judge, me and the dog love them), any fruit or veggies beats the junk that we all crave when things aren’t going so well. Then no matter how pear shaped the day goes (pun intended hehe) then you can at least be proud that you have eaten food that’s good for you.
- Water: Just drink something, human beans need liquid, water yourself.