The importance of self care. #WMHD16October 10, 2016
The theme of this year's World Mental Health Day is 'psychological first aid' and thanking those who give it to us. So my two pennies is: self care, and how to give yourself psychological first aid, or just a bit of a MOT.
I always thought the term ‘self care’ was the hippiest pile of shit - grouped with ‘self love’ and ‘self help’. I thought, like ‘clean eating’, it was a notion that did more harm than good, and it wasn’t until I actively tried it that I realised how important it was and how much I could learn from it.
Self care is about nothing other than looking after yourself. That’s it. Really. It’s not associated with hippies, or vegans, or mental illness. It’s not restricted to certain groups of people. It’s certainly about your mentality, but it’s not just for those who struggle with it. Everyone should know how to treat themselves with a little TLC, both when life is going well and when it’s not, and it shouldn’t be something you’re ashamed of admitting we need. It doesn’t make you weak. You need to cancel plans and have a self care day? Go ahead pal, you look after yourself.
With that in mind, it can still be hard to know how to… do it. It sounds ridiculous but sometimes we just don’t know how to best look after ourselves. We’re not taught it. We’re taught how to look after ourselves physically by exercising, showering, brushing our teeth, and eating well, but not how to look after ourselves mentally. And it’s tough, because you have to work it out for yourself. Not everyone will have the same self care ‘routines’. It’s totally individual to you. But hey, once you’ve worked it out and stick at it regularly, it may well 1) stop any mental downhill spirals, or 2) help you out of them if you’ve already dipped.
So here’s what works for me. My list of stuff I can do when life gets a bit much, my brain’s being an arse, or just when I want to check back in with myself.
- Have a bath with a shitload of bubbles and a good bath bomb. Everyone says it, but it’s true. Baths are relaxing. Some find them boring, and I definitely can’t lie there for hours, but just lying down in a vat of too-hot water can calm me right down. Phone stays in the other room, always.
- Run. Here she is, banging on about running again. Didn’t take me long. Running has been completely revolutionary for me. It gives me time away from my phone and laptop, gives me a fuckload of endorphins, gets air in my lungs and the blood around my body. It gives me time to think and reconnect with my body. Now THAT sounds like the hippiest pile of shit…
- Go outside. It sounds so bloody simple but it can totally change my day. I know exactly when I’ve spent too long indoors and acknowledge that by getting the fuck outside. I can just stand outside the back door of our flat in my pyjamas, or spend an hour in the park on my lunch break at work. The outside is a game changer.
- Light candles. I just love fire.
- Clean the flat. Sorry, yeah. I love a good clean. It makes me feel more in control when other parts of life are going to shit. Scrubbing the bathroom sink, ravaging the hob, or Freddie Mercury-ing it when mopping the floors. It makes me feel good (and keeps me on good terms with my flatmates).
- Drink water. I don’t care if it’s eight glasses a day or not, I just know that drinking water keeps your body in check. It keeps everything inside moving, stops your headaches, makes your skin glow, and stops you from getting tired so quickly.
- Find new recipes/holidays/flats. If I’m ever feeling stuck in a rut, I try to look forwards and plan. I can spend h o u r s on rightmove, booking.com, and BBC Good Food and getting excited for new things, whether it’s a different way to cook spaghetti or a getaway to the middle of nowhere.
- Do my nails/pluck my eyebrows. Your body is important, inside and out. My nails looking battered and my eyebrows looking like an overgrown garden is a sure sign that I need a bit of a MOT. The pain of plucking my eyebrows is a serious guilty pleasure and my Barry M collection is growing bigger by the second (payday).
- Colour/cross-stitch. Yeah, I’m an adult who has colouring-in books. So sue me. It’s proven to help those with their mental health and it’s so soothing. It’s also something my boyfriend’s mum and I used to do together before she passed away earlier this year, and cross-stitching is something my mum taught me when I was a little. So shut up.
- Write lists. I BLOODY LOVE A LIST. Whenever things are getting on top of me, I write down a list of everything I need or want to do in my neatest handwriting. It’s then out of my head and on to paper and I can’t ever leave a list unfinished. Competitive? Me? No…
- Read. I got a Goodreads account last October and OH GOD I love it. I love finding new books, being recommended others, reading reviews, and finding out what my friends are loving/hating. You can also create a Goodreads Reading Challenge of how many books you’re going to read in a year, so that also lends itself to the competitive streak that I clearly don’t have…
- Stick on Spotify. I actually pay for Spotify now. I AM ADULT. I mean, I grabbed my cousin’s student discount so I could get it for half price, but… whatever. I always find a new playlist to have on in the background when I’m working from home. It’s just nice. There’s not much more to it. It’s lovely, calming, sometimes nostalgic, sometimes motivating. Always helpful.
- Open the windows. This is more meaningful when Elbow’s on the above Spotify playlist, but it’s imperative regardless. As soon as I’m properly awake in the mornings, the windows around the flat are open. I want the air, the rain, the birds, even the screaming kids next door. I want the outside world to interfere with my inside world. Otherwise everything gets a bit too much.
I thought that was going to be quite a short list, but apparently there are quite a few things that come to mind when I think about what makes me feel better. And that’s rather importantly great, and something I should remember. Now where's your self care list?