In my last post, I talked about why self care is so important for mental health and how a lack of self care contributed to my own depression. But when you are so used to letting your own self care slide, as I was when I first developed serious depression, it can be difficult to know where to start.
So to help you along I’m starting a monthly series with ideas of things that you can do in the month ahead to care for yourself and your own mental health.
So here we go…three ways to practice self care this May.
Be More Compassionate to Yourself
I can’t remember a time when I was ever kind to myself. When I accepted myself for the way that I am and wasn’t constantly drowning in a sea of negative self talk. I still have a tendency to overload myself with to do lists that are unachievable and obsess over trying to become a perfect version of myself. I then beat myself up and feel completely depressed whenever I haven’t met whatever impossible goal I set myself.
Chances are, a lot of you can relate to that. I think it’s pretty normal these days for people to be overly hard on themselves and speak to themselves in unkind ways.
This month, try just being aware of how you speak to yourself. Try noticing every time you are talking to yourself in a way that is negative or overly critical. If you’re finding it difficult, as I did, my therapist gave me a good tip that might help you along. She told me to look out for all the times I was using the word should or shouldn’t.
“I should go for a run”
“I should be doing [insert onerous task] right now”
“I shouldn’t be feeling this depressed”
“I shouldn’t be eating this”
Not only are those shoulds and shouldn’ts piling on more pressure than you need, but they are most likely accompanied by a whole host of negative self talk. In my case:
“I should go for a run – I’m so lazy and unfit and I’m never going to lose weight unless I go for a run”
You get the picture.
When you notice that you are speaking to yourself in this manner, try simply rephrasing the negative self talk into something more positive. Something that is kinder and more accepting.
“I did want to go for a run but I’m so tired after a really busy day that I just need to chill and that’s okay. I might try again tomorrow.”
It’s difficult at first and takes a lot of practice but over time you will find yourself truly starting to become more compassionate and accepting towards yourself. And if it seems too much to challenge every negative thought, try just taking it slowly and challenging one or two of them.
Learn to Say No
It’s not just you who piles the pressure on yourself; other people do too. Whether it’s a family member telling you what you should be doing or a work colleague passing work on to you that will result in you working longer hours.
It can be difficult to say no to these things. A lot of us feel compelled to people-please and we worry about what people might think if we were to simply say no, without giving any regard to ourselves and our own needs.
As a depression-sufferer, I understand that it is sometimes important to push yourself to do things that you don’t necessarily feel like doing because you know that it will benefit your mental health. For me, I feel better when I am regularly seeing friends and exercising and will make myself do those things even when I don’t feel like it.
However, I am also working on looking after myself and making my own mental health a priority. That means that when things come up that I either don’t want to do or won’t have a beneficial impact on my mental health I am learning to simply say no.
Try doing that yourself this month. If you feel pressured into doing something you don’t want to do, simply say ‘no’. No need for any explanations. When you say no to the things that don’t bring you joy or help your mental health it helps clear space for the things that do.
Do a Social Media Cleanse
We’re just about to head into summer and no doubt social media will soon be flooded with people flaunting their new ‘summer body’ or their amazing holiday snaps. All of that is great but if you are struggling with depression or low self-esteem then it turns into a complete minefield and you’ll no doubt be tempted to start comparing your everyday normal life to other people’s highlight reels.
So take some time this month to sit down and look through the accounts that you follow. If any of them don’t bring you joy or are potential triggers for your mental health then delete them and instead fill your feed with people whose accounts make you happy or inspire you in good ways.
As someone who is actively working on my depression, eating and body image issues, I recently did a big cull of my Instagram feed and removed any potentially triggering accounts. My Instagram feed is now an absolute joy to scroll through and I know that there is unlikely to be anything flashing up that makes me feel like shit.
Need some inspiration? Check out these Five Inspiring Mental Health Advocates to Follow on Instagram.