Self-care is super important for keeping our mind and body healthy. As cliché and indulgent as the phrase may sound, its crucial we learn to look after ourselves when life gets a bit too much. Self-care isn’t ‘one size fits all’, and everyone has a different perception of it. Find out what works for you when you’re feeling anxious or stressed, and utilise it!
Here’s my personal A-Z of self-care ideas:
In an age of technology and gadgets, there’s an app for pretty much everything. There are a lot of self-care applications out there, like mindfulness meditation and mood diaries. However, no one seems to talk about other apps or games that release stress and give aid as a distraction. Here are a few of my favourites:-
- Balls VS Blocks – This game has pretty much taken over my life due to how addicting it is. It’s like a combination of Ballz and snake. It’s a fantastically distracting game. Read more about it here.
- Sudoku – When my mind is in overdrive, I like to tackle a Sudoku puzzle to focus my mind on something productive. Whether its one at the back of a newspaper or an app to play on the go, Sudoku puzzles fertilise your brain cells in all the right ways.
- Pinterest – A beautiful visual bookmarking tool that helps you to find and share exciting new creative ideas. Whether you need some inspiration for art, self-care, photography, crafts or recipes – you can discover just about anything. When I’m feeling down, I like to scroll through my Pinterest app to feel instantly motivated.
- What’s Up? – A fantastic free mental health app that combines some of the best methods to deal with illnesses like depression, anxiety and stress. It includes helpful and grounding coping strategies, breathing exercises, information and facts, as well as a personal section with a diary, forums, a habit tracker and a catastrophe scale to help you put your worries into perspective.
What’s not to love about a bubble bath? Whether you just want to chill with some candles burning, read a good book or give yourself a bubble beard; a long soak is a guaranteed source of relaxation.
Being horizontal in water has even been scientifically proven to improve your mood! In a study carried out by the University of Wolverhampton, it was discovered that baths can improve well-being and optimism. This is possibly because they may mimic the warm, liquid environment of the womb. Subconsciously we feel relaxed and safe.
Side note – if you’re feeling sad, try to say the word ‘bubbles’ in an angry voice. I guarantee you won’t be able to do it and you’ll start laughing!
Sometimes, all you need to do is have a great big, body shaking, hysterical cry. Allow yourself to let it all out. You can easily hold a lot of negative emotions inside and sometimes you just need to drain your tear ducts. Be dramatic as you like. Scream, punch a pillow, whatever. Although, if you wear makeup I’d recommend removing it before hand as I always forget and end up as mess of snot and mascara. It’s not a good look.
In……….and out………..In…………and out………
Maintaining steady breathing when you’re feeling particularly anxious or panicky is extremely important. I count to 100 in 2’s and it calms me. Even numbers are important to my OCD, and it’s the only time I can use it to my advantage as because of the disorder, even numbers make me feel safe.
You could try counting in time to your breaths, lay completely still or try reciting all the characters in your favourite TV show.
If, like me, exercise is a bit of an alien concept to you, you may groan at this one. I’d love to be able to work out more, but I panic when I get out of breath and my depression consumes most of my energy.
However, if you are able to do some heart pumping activities, it’s extremely beneficial for your mind as well as your body. Exercise releases endorphins – happy chemicals that elevate mood and decrease stress. I admit I’ve got quite lazy since I passed my driving test, but I love riding my bike by the river in the summer. I wrote a post about it here.
FAMILY & FRIENDS
I believe keeping your friends and family close is very important for anyone’s quality of life. They can provide a self-care package of unconditional love, support and understanding.
One of the repercussions that upsets me the most about my mental health is how it’s robbed me of most of my adolescent friendships. My depression caused me to constantly cancel plans because I felt too sad or scared to leave the house. It isolated me and made me extremely difficult to maintain a solid friendship with; so understandably a lot of my ‘friends’ vanished. The only positive to come out of that is that it shows you who your real friends are and makes you appreciate them even more. If someone doesn’t accept you for who you are, warts and all, then they’re not going to help your well-being. Focus on those who love you no matter what.
Get Up & Dress Up
I’m fully aware this can be easier said than done. Sometimes, the chore of dragging yourself out of bed with little to no energy can be near impossible. Let alone having a shower and getting dressed. I have a little poster next to my bed that says, ‘No Matter How You Feel – Get up, Dress up and Never Ever Give Up.’ It’s a bit cheesy but it certainly gives me a push sometimes.
Winged eyeliner is my thing. I don’t feel or look myself without it and it’s usually an indication to others that if I’m not wearing it, I’m having a low day. It’s become a bit of a trademark for me. It’s strange that a simple flick of black across my eyelid can be the difference between each persona and makes me feel more comfortable in myself.
Maybe, you have your own thing. Perhaps a certain hairstyle or choice of clothing. Whatever is it, try your best to execute it on a low day, because it may give you that little boost you need to face the day.
HOME SWEET HOME
Your home is meant to be your safe place. I’m quite an accidentally untidy person, but I always feel more comfortable in a tidy organised bedroom. When there’s a black cloud over you, it can be hard to find the motivation to whack out the Mr Muscle. However, it can be quite therapeutic wiping away a layer of dust or taking your unwanted clothes to a charity shop. What’s that saying? A tidy home is a tidy mind.
Don’t hold back. Indulge in your favourite junk food, binge watch a new series on Netflix or treat yourself to a bit of retail therapy. Why not? You deserve it!
Have a meal with your family, learn a new skill or join a support group. A feeling of accomplishment and being around people who understand what you’re going through can do wonders for the mind. It can be scary I know, but there are so many possibilities outside of your comfort zone.
LISTEN TO MUSIC
‘When words fail, music speaks.’ – Quite an overused saying I think, but a bloody true one. Music can be an escape and a powerful coping mechanism. If your mind is flooding with negative thoughts, music can take you to another place. Whether you need an upbeat mood booster, or relatable lyrics to cry to, it will be there to help you.
Medication for mental health can be a life saver and an essential part of a person’s recovery. I take 200mg of Sertraline and I have done for nearly 4 years. They’re not magic beans – they won’t cure you instantly. However, they can make the road to recovery a little less bumpy.
Popping pills isn’t for everyone though, and that’s okay. Everyone needs to be comfortable with their own methods. You could try a herbal alternative. I’ve heard great things about St. John’s Wort – a ‘traditional herbal medicinal product used to relieve the symptoms of slightly low mood and mild anxiety.’ I haven’t tried them personally as you’re not meant to take them with antidepressants and/or the pill, but I know a lot of people who rave about them. Find out more here.
I think cats are definitely on to something here! What’s wrong with catching up on a few Z’s with a short nap during the day? It’s been proven to increase memory, concentration and alertness – so I’m thinking there should totally be nap time in the work place. Even Google uses high-tech nap pods to keep their employees energised!
I LOVE a good list. Aren’t bullet points great? It’s a simple, yet effective way to plan ahead and tidy up the brain a little. You don’t need to limit yourself to boring to-do lists either. Try writing down your future aspirations, things you’re grateful for or your own self-care ideas. Sometimes, I like to write a list of things I dislike the most about my OCD and depression, and then screw it up and throw it away. It can be satisfying.
Be creative! Brain storm with a mind map or create your own bullet journal. Your imagination is limitless.
You may have read a post I wrote a little while ago called ‘How My Cats Help My Mental Health.’ If you haven’t, it includes a load of facts and figures about how our pets scientifically benefit our health. The post is what is says on the tin, so I won’t repeat it all here.
The moral of the story is basically, pets are great. Whether it’s a cat, a dog, hamster, parrot, stick insect or an entire farm, their unconditional love is worth getting out of bed for.
Sometimes, being in a noisy location is not good for your already racing mind. Take a step back and find a quiet space to gather your thoughts. I love turning on my fairy lights and reading a book for some relaxing peace and quiet as I can engage my brain as well as relax it.
‘A reader lives a thousand lives.’ – I love this quote. Whatever your chosen genre is, escaping to another reality and following someone else’s life for an hour or two can be an amazing mood booster. Fictional or not. I can get quite easily emotionally invested in certain books, and by invoking my thoughts, it takes my focus away from negative thoughts for a while.
I’ve written a few reviews on some of my favourites here, and will be adding more soon!
The aesthetic experience of a beautiful sunset is one that shouldn’t be taken for granted. If your mind is clouded with worry, look up at the infusion of unique colours that flood the quiet sky and simply watch for a few minutes. It’s a proven mood booster. View them with wonder and awe to reset yourself after a stressful day.
Talking is something us mental health advocates and bloggers bang on about a lot – but its super important. Without sounding dramatic, talking about what’s going on in your head and how you’re feeling can be the difference between life and death.
I know how tough it can be to open up about things you may not even understand yourself yet, and it’s not for everyone. However, for me it makes all the difference. Whether its to family or friends, your partner, therapist, online community or support group – try your best not to bottle up your emotions. There is always someone you can offload too – even if you talk about something completely unrelated like sharing jokes or discussing interests.
UNPLUG FROM SOCIAL MEDIA
Never ending notifications from the online world constantly bringing my phone to life. I admit I’d be quite lost without it. In this day and age, your mobile connects you to the rest of the world and its as if they have the same importance as an internal organ. Even the sheer panic of seeing ‘2% battery remaining’ is enough to raise your blood pressure.
However, sometimes it can get quite overwhelming and it can be good to take a step back for a bit – whether that be a few hours or a few days. I spend a lot of time on Twitter – I’m part of an amazing mental health and blogging community so it’s important to me to stay in touch with them as well as my followers who kindly read my blog. It’s okay to take some time out for yourself sometimes though. If, like me you put a lot of pressure on yourself to regularly update your blog too, time away can help to regain perspective and motivation.
VISIT SOMEWHERE NEW
Experiencing new things and places is great for refreshing the mind. Channel your inner Dora the Explorer and go on an adventure, or simply eat at a restaurant you haven’t been to before. It’s easy to stick to the same routine because we love familiarity – especially those of us with anxiety. However, visiting somewhere new forces you to throw yourself in at the deep end! There are so many possibilities to discover new likes and hobbies as well as meeting new people. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to do it again, so what’s there to lose?!
Whether you put a pen to paper or you blog, writing about emotionally demanding issues and personal experiences can have great therapeutic value. Expressive writing is an effective medicine for helping you understand your thoughts and feelings by externalising them and viewing them in black and white.
It also improves your communication skills and can connect you to other people. I’ve met a lot of amazing people after I started writing publicly about my mental health. I wrote a post about it here.
…and I’m not talking about that annoyingly catchy Labrinth song.
Art is a form of expression, and an amazing one at that. When you think of the word ‘art’, you may default to the image of an easel and a paintbrush. It’s so much more than that though, and the creative possibilities are endless. I love drawing and it really helps me if I’m feeling anxious. I’d urge everyone to pick up a pencil and try it. Even if you’re not great at it, you can get away with it by calling it abstract. 😉
Of course, drawing isn’t the only way you can creatively express yourself. You could try performing arts, music, writing or mix up your fashion style.
What’s not to love about funny cat videos? I’ve lost hours to YouTube through watching behind the scenes content from my favourite shows, movie trailers, hilarious pet videos and Carpool Karaoke. It’s a great and effective distraction for the mind.
You may be thinking ‘Zen-what?!’
The zentangle drawing method is a relaxing, fun way of creating beautiful images with structured lines and shapes. They’re quite like mandalas, but more elaborate. Anyone can do them, as they can be as simple or complex as you like. A lot of adult colouring books use them, however I prefer to draw them myself. I find them so satisfying – it’s like a form of artistic meditation. Here’s an example of one I’ve drawn…
What are your favourite methods of self-care?