I am delighted to write about the self care that worked for me. Making sure you are taking care of your mind and body is so important. I will share ideas that have helped me and I hope can help you in return.
Having had lived experience of mental illness and now in recovery, I have practiced a lot of self care over the years and found that some has worked for me and some hasn't.
I have also had experience of various kinds of therapies; Working with psychologists, psychiatrists, occupational therapists and support workers in conjunction with creative and group therapies.
So where should I begin on my self care journey? Lets take it back to basics.
1. Be Kind to yourself
This sounds like an obvious one, however, how many times have you heard your self critical voice berating your every move and denying yourself the right to rest, relax or be unaccountable?
Understandably, your inner critic can get worse when you are depressed or anxious.
So how can you be kind to yourself?
If you are having a tough day, don’t berate yourself for not doing what you wanted to do, for not doing the laundry or washing the dishes. If you can’t leave the house, don’t beat yourself up.
Practice being kind to yourself instead and although you may not silence the critical thought, distract yourself with self care, such as - taking a warm bubble bath, smelling some calming lavender oil or a scented candle.
Listen to your favourite music, chat to a friend. Treat yourself to a hot chocolate or take a walk outside.
Be gentle with yourself and don’t push yourself too hard.
2. Be as healthy as you can
Try and eat healthy, regular meals (comfort foods are OK sometimes!) and drink lots of water. Being dehydrated can make your mood worse and its so important for optimum health.
If you struggle to prepare meals, see if you can get extra support.
Additionally, gentle exercise is always a good mood booster. I have often struggled with exercise as I really dislike it but I have found that if I focus on something gentle, something I enjoy, like dance - that it is more approachable. Other gentle exercises could include Pilates, yoga or swimming - if you can’t face the gym!
3. Take your prescribed medication on time
If you have been prescribed medication, it is really vital to take it as described by your Doctor.
This is a really important part of self care. However, if you are struggling to remember to take it on time or need support from your mental health team, please reach out for help. Mental health professionals are there to support you, particularly if you don’t have the support of family or friends or a wider support network.
4. Check in with yourself - use a mood diary
This can be really helpful - buy a plain notebook and each day rate your mood from 1-10 (Low to Good) so you can track triggers and patterns. Sometimes also journaling and writing out how you are feeling can be extremely helpful, particularly if you can’t rest well at night.
Do also seek help via your GP – there are many types of therapies that could help.
5. Sleep Hygiene
Sleep hygiene means preparing a good bed time routine - so you are well rested. Lack of sleep can have a negative impact on mental health issues. It can exacerbate depression, anxiety and other conditions.
I find that listening to a guided meditation or relaxing music before bed and winding down by not using technology too much to be really helpful.
Ultimately, be kind and gentle with yourself - have compassion to the fact you may be struggling now - but you can get through it and reach recovery. This won’t be forever.