It’s a growing trend now to take a self care day, look after number one, be there for yourself. It is an amazing idea to put back the basic concept of looking after yourself into a nice trend that makes you feel justified in doing it. While how much time you should be spending on self care is debated, among your average people, it is a huge success. Among the mental health community it is falling on deaf ears.
How Does Self Care Affect Mental Health?
It’s a basic line of thinking that makes sense to me as someone who has struggled with mental health issues for years: it’s too simple, I need more help than that. And of course you would be right in thinking that. Everyone is sick of being told to just go for a run or to have a nice bath, but does that mean we shouldn’t be taking care of yourself?
Good mental health isn’t something you do or don’t have. Like anything, it has a spectrum. This is meaning to say that, while a lot of people have good mental health, very few people have perfect mental health. That is because mental health is a complex puzzle that can be dependant on a number of factors. Factors such as:
- Physical health
- Self care
And many more. I’d like to take this time to point out that I am not a trained professional, these are just observations I have made as an individual. I am genetically likely to have anxiety, depression and OCD. I was blessed with the two former and not the latter. I am aware that there is nothing I can do to control that. I have an iron deficiency and I don’t exercise frequently, which contributes to my exhaustion and encourages me to stay in bed. My surroundings are often a mess and I rarely take time to sort them out, I don’t often do things labelled as self care and I am currently in a situation that triggers many of my problems.
How Important Is Self Care?
Out of the five situations that I listed, none of them are good, but only two of them are out of my control. If I am genetically obligated to suffer then why should I bother with colouring books or bubble baths? Because they make you feel better. I know that I can’t be cured but can anyone? Or are we all just at varying levels of coping with it?
Self care activities are important because they add points to your mental health and make you feel a little bit better than you did before. I’m not saying create a full on self care plan, I’m just saying that a few self care strategies for stress management can really go a long way.
How Do I Practice Self Care When I’m Depressed?
I’m not saying that you should be going for a run or tidying your house if you don’t feel like it, I’m just saying next time you look at these self care ideas and dismiss them on the basis that they won’t cure your illness, don’t see them like that. Instead see them as painkillers, devices to make your pain a little more bearable and a way to alleviate the stress and anxiety that it brings you.
Emotionally, self care can be difficult on people suffering with depression and anxiety. The key is to never push yourself to do more than you can handle. Always stay where you are comfortable. Because, if you’re not, is it really self care?
Five Types Of Self Care That Everyone Needs
Yes, everyone. Including you. There are a hundred and one things that you could be doing for your mental well being, whether you have an illness or not. But these five exclude nobody. And they can help, I promise.
1. Establishing A Good Sleeping Pattern
If you have been in and out of good sleeping patterns all your life, you will preach the difference between a good and bad night’s sleep. This self care isn’t easy for a lot of us, but a common misconception is that it is sustainable to do nothing about it. People who claim to survive on little to no sleep have genuinely gotten used to a lower standard of life. You can get out of this habit by setting bedtimes and wake up times and not getting in bed at all outside of these hours.
2. Eating And Drinking… Well
If you suffer with depression this honestly may come as a surprise to you but just because you made the effort to put something in the oven doesn’t mean it’s good for you. On a happier note, just because you can’t muster up the energy to put something in the oven doesn’t mean you can’t eat well. Swapping sugary snack foods for healthy ones like mixed nuts and dried fruits will help. As will swapping your energy drinks or coffee for water.
3. Take Any And All Medication Necessary
Whether intended for mental or physical health problems, taking your medication is always in your best interests. You need to be consistent as well. I take a range of medication including anti-anxieties, food supplements and more and I will always take them because I think that it’s necessary to do so. NEVER skip any medication unless told to by a medical professional.
4. Achieve Some Form Of Physical Activity
I know that it doesn’t always seem possible and that running doesn’t seem appealing enough to try but make sure you get yourself moving a little bit. Whether that is gentle stretching, walking a certain distance or going up and down the stairs once every hour, your body and mind will thank you for the endorphins* that you create.
*Endorphins: happy hormones
5. Maintain A Basic Level Of Hygeine
Whether this is as small as washing your face or as big as having a relaxing bubble bath, you deserve to feel happy and clean. It can be difficult to accomplish this, so, on the days that i don’t feel as if I can have a proper wash, I keep a bottle of body spray by my bed. Even if all you do is change your pyjamas into clean ones and spray down yourself and your bed covers. You have made progress today.
What Does Self Care Mean To You?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on what you think is and isn’t effective for your mental health and what self care everyone should be doing!
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