I know self care is kind of a cheesy term but I don’t care; I’m totally into it.
Self care has been an integral part of my recovery from depression. I wrote about why it is is important for people suffering from depression in this post, but I think it’s important for everyone, regardless of whether or not you are suffering from a mental health condition.
If you’re looking to incorporate more self care into your life this year but aren’t sure where to start, here are my tips below.
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Figure out What Works for You
My therapist used to ask me what it was that I needed to do to ensure I stayed mentally healthy. Not what I wanted – which would inevitably include mountains of chocolate, a large glass of wine and maybe a movie – but what I NEEDED.
Because self care isn’t all candles and bubble baths. Its anything that you do for the benefit of your own physical, mental or emotional wellbeing.
That will be different for everyone. For example, a lot of people find that they need to exercise on a daily basis to get those endorphins going. Others need to allow themselves a bit more downtime to relax. Your idea of self care might include meal prepping for the week, getting your finances in order or doing more traveling. It might be all of the above!
Take some time to figure out what it is that you need to do every day/week/month in order to feel physically and mentally healthy then set about incorporating those things into your life.
There’s no right or wrong answer here. Your self care routine is whatever you want it to be.
If you need some ideas on where to start, I talk about what I do on a regular basis to keep my mental health in check in Everyday Habits I Use to Manage My Mental Health and The Importance of Self Care for Depression.
Plan Your Self Care Time
“Do not save what is left after spending; instead spend what is left after saving”
This quote is about saving money, but the same applies for self care. Instead of squeezing your self care into the time left over after doing everything else, actively set aside some time for your own self care and fit everything else around that. Then, most importantly, stick to it. Treat it like you would a doctor’s appointment or a meeting with a friend. It’s perfectly acceptable to prioritise yourself every now and then.
That being said, self care doesn’t need to take over your life. It’s better to incorporate little pockets of self-care, even just 15 minutes here and there, than it is to completely overhaul your entire life because that simply isn’t sustainable.
The trick is to make self care a part of your everyday routine – a habit that becomes ingrained. And like all habits, every now and then life happens and you don’t have time to go for that run, or you can’t quite bring yourself to spend hours in the kitchen cooking. Don’t be too strict with yourself. Do what you need to do and then pick up where you left off when you can.
Develop a Good Bedtime Routine
Lack of decent sleep can lead to a myriad of health problems, both physical and mental, so improving your sleep can be a simple but very effective way of practising self care.
The best way to do this is to establish a good nighttime routine to help ready your body for sleep.
Going to bed at a regular time each night, spending time away from your computer and phone in the couple of hours before bed and drinking less caffeine are all things that can help.
As I mentioned above, stepping away from your devices can help improve your sleep. But it can do more than that. Spending less time on social media can benefit your mental health and the time that you would usually spend scrolling can be spent doing something productive, or something you enjoy.
Trim Down That To Do List
If you’re anything like me, it’s all too easy to put too much pressure yourself. You start the day with a to do list the length of your arm, then when you inevitably fail to make a dent in it by the end of the day you feel all sorts of guilty and stressed out.
Learn to prioritise. Fill that list with things that are important and remove all the things that don’t really matter. If you have too much to do, move non-urgent tasks to a different day. Focus your attention on completing those most important things and you will feel a much bigger sense of accomplishment by the end of the day. And much less stressed out of course.
Try to Get Outside
Sometimes easier said than done I know. It can be difficult to get yourself outside when you are deep into mental illness. But if you can, try to get outside, even if just for five minutes. A little fresh air can make a World of difference to your mood.
Meditation is a great way to slow down and take a few minutes to just focus on your breathing. When you’re feeling anxious or depressed, a few minutes of breathing can also help bring you down from that fight or flight mode so that you can focus on some self care.
I highly recommend the Headspace app for short guided meditations, starting at just 3 minutes long.
Be Kind to Yourself
As always, try to be kind to yourself. Negative self talk is something that everyone indulges in from time to time, but for people with mental health issues it can be particularly pronounced. Try to catch that little inner critic in action and work on quieting the negative chatter.
I have just finished reading a book called ‘The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober’ by Catherine Gray. Although I’m not sober myself, I found the insights into mental health and addiction fascinating. At one point, Catherine talks about what she does to quieten her mind. One of her tactics is to imagine her mind as a sky and negative thoughts as grey clouds rolling across it. Instead of allowing those grey clouds to join together and grow into a thunderstorm, she simply observes them and remembers the blue sky behind them. Give it a try 🙂