It may sound simple, but in its broadest terms, self-care is anything that makes you feel good, or at least better, in an emotional or physical sense. It’s a very individual thing and can cover anything from the more simpler things in life, such as having a refreshing shower to the more complex acts of taking up a hobby or working for a charity.
When you’re truly debilitated by your mental health issues, however, even the very basic stuff such as wanting to be clean, safe or not suicidal, can feel impossible to achieve. The frequently heard suggestions of take up yoga, eat healthily, recite positive affirmations, do something altruistic, whilst all making perfect sense, do nothing for you if you’re in a really bad place with your mental health.
We all know exercise is good for you, and so is eating well, being active, staying positive and fully engaged. They are all excellent ways to stay well, but (and it’s a big but), when you’re truly low, they are absolutely useless and fail to deal with those times when you’re completely incapacitated, perhaps living on a diet of crisps and cola, with a mountain of laundry piling up in a house that’s turning into a complete tip!
Maybe when you’re more stable, settled and feeling ok, you’ll focus on the intensive training for that 10k run or cooking yourself a really complicated 15-ingredient healthy recipe, but right now you’re feeling desperately low, profoundly depressed, and not able to even lift your head up to function at a very basic level……and do you know……..feeling like this is totally ok!!!
All you need are some strategies to help you so you can start to feel able to function again. So, here we go with some really useful ideas shared amongst some of my clients:
- Open your curtains – even if this makes you hiss like a vampire at first, you’ll find it does actually make you feel more human after a while.
- Get some air – if you can’t make it outside for 5 or 10 minutes for even a short walk, that’s ok, just open the window and breathe in some clean, fresh air from outdoors.
- Have a shower or bath – no need to attempt to meditate, just focus on the sensation of the water falling on your skin and take in the fragrance of the bubble bath or shower gel so it invigorates your senses.
- Wash your face – nothing fancy, a wet wipe will do if you can’t manage soap and water, but at least you’ll start to look fresher, even if you don’t feel it.
- Get dressed – whether you sleep in the nude, in a onesie or in some other weird rig-out, a simple change out of your night time attire into your day time pyjamas will help.
- Drink water – some of symptoms of dehydration resemble depression, so if you can’t do the obligatory daily 2-litre thing, then at least remember to drink a glass of water whenever you can.
- Stretch – you don’t even have to get out of bed for this one! Arms, legs, hands, feet, all outstretched, can remind us that any useless lump of a body can begin to feel free and full of life.
- Write a to-do list – not too challenging, just a daily routine list to help you prioritise. Even if you only have a little to focus on, the very act of ticking items off your list can make you feel productive.
- Tidy your immediate surroundings – the phrase, ‘tidy house, tidy mind’, really does apply here. You don’t need to carry out a major spring-clean, just being able to see some clear, empty space works a treat.
- Fill a bag with rubbish – a small supermarket bag will do. Chuck out whatever is on the floor and empty the fridge of all your out-of-date stuff. Bin anything you absolutely know you’ll never use.
- Smell something good – perfume, body lotion, incense, aromatherapy oils, garlic bread, whatever takes your fancy and makes you feel warm and comforted. This is ideal if you’re feeling panicky.
- Eat something – we stop nourishing ourselves when we’re really down, so unless someone can do the cooking for you, find some food, whatever it is, good, bad or indifferent, just make sure you eat.
- Move – shake about a bit to get yourself into first gear and you’ll find that when the blood starts pumping, it’ll be easier to walk around the entire house or even up and down the street.
- Talk to someone – a friend, or even someone on-line, can help you while away the time, with no obligation, to help distract you out of your low mood. Talk about what interests you, not your woes.
- Breathe properly – excellent for anxiety and panic attacks, don’t underestimate the benefits of learning how to do this properly. Relaxation is not the same as sleep, so if you need more info about this or anything else from the list above, get in touch with us at inspirationalwinners.com