Sunday, 2 July 2017

The 'self care' advice worth taking


You can't scroll through Twitter these days without encountering a thread of 'self care' tips. They're all over blogs, vlogs and even magazine pages. The recommendations made in self care content range from the perfectly sensible (e.g. eat something), to the downright ridiculous (purchase some organic lavender oil spray and spritz your new fairtrade cotton bed sheets to your heart's content while adding even more unnecessary steps to your to do list). 

If you're not doing so well mentally, for whatever reason, the simplest daily task can feel like another mountain to climb. That's why however trendy it seems, self care is important. If you struggle to completely look after yourself sometimes then having key actions to focus on can help you get into a routine and take your mind off of your troubles. 

Self care is not, however, an endless tick list of treats and luxuries. It's not an aspirational lifestyle choice. It's not a 'trend'. The internet seems to have forgotten that part. For many people, myself included during a few periods of my life, getting out of bed at all feels like an achievement. There's no need to then add the weight of a bunch of unobtainable goals. It's all about taking things one step at a time

It's not healthy to set unrealistic expectations for yourself. Instead focus on 2-3 simple things you can do each day, and try to make these a habit. If you have to put a written list somewhere to remind yourself then do it, but don't beat yourself up if you don't succeed, just start again.

Some realistic things you can do to look after yourself

Get out of bed

Even if you just move to the sofa, getting out of bed will make you feel more awake. If you have trouble falling asleep then separating day and night locations could also help. By the time you've gotten out of bed, you may even start to feel like getting dressed, having breakfast etc. Even if you don't, you've succeeded at motivating yourself just a little.

Wash your face, comb your hair and brush your teeth

I find brushing my teeth such a chore when I feel down, but once I've done it I feel weirdly cleansed. The same goes for washing your face. Self-care isn't about looking perfect, it's about being clean and feeling a tiny, tiny bit better for it.

Take your medication

Whether you're on prescribed tablets or are taking the supplement route to deal with whatever you've got going on, skipping doses is going to make them less effective and help you less in the long run. If it helps, you could get one of those weekly pill boxes to keep track. Keep it somewhere prominent e.g. by your kettle or on the bedside table. If you're not taking anything at all, it could be worth looking into if things are bad - there's no shame in asking your doctor.

Talk to someone

Even though I'm rarely truly by myself, in episodes of anxiety or depression I manage to convince myself I'm completely alone. Of course, that's never true, but I need to be reminded of this. Finding someone to talk to, whether through a helpline, a partner, parent, other relative or a friend, could make you feel a lot lighter. I can't tell you the amount of times I've gone quite literally crying to my parents as a grown adult because I've struggled to cope. They're always ready to listen and help me get my thoughts in order. Asking for help or advice doesn't make you weak, annoying or needy, and social interaction is important. A problem shared is a problem halved.

Go outside

You don't have to take up an extreme sport or buy hiking boots, but moving around a bit and getting some fresh air and sunlight is so important for your health. Vitamin D is a natural mood booster and a lot of us don't have enough of it. Even if you just step into the garden, it's a change of scenery.

Drink something. Eat something.

It's easy to forget to look after your body's basic requirements in the midst of a panic attack or when you feel like you're in the pits of despair. I have to admit that when my anxiety is simmering away in the background I'm more of an emotional eater (Krispy Kreme's for breakfast, anyone?). However when it really takes hold I can go the whole day without feeling hungry or thirsty. It's like that part of my brain has been disconnected. A slice of toast and a glass of water isn't much, but can keep you going when you're not interested in putting together a gourmet quinoa and avocado salad.

As far as I'm concerned, anything else is a bonus on those days where everything seems to take ten times the energy and effort it usually might. And who knows, once you've conquered the basics then maybe you'll be ready to start adding in new steps and getting back on your feet.
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