“I have come to believe that caring for myself is not self-indulgent. Caring for myself is an act of survival.” ~ Audre Lorde
Self care, previously known as being nice to and doing nice things for yourself, is greatly stressed as being important in managing mental illness but it’s actually pretty important for everybody.
We all need to make time to recharge our batteries, we’re no use to ourselves and anyone else if we allow ourselves to become so run down that we don’t have a drop of energy to left to give or the mental space to complete a single thought.
While people do a lot of talking about the importance of self care I don’t often see as much guidance on what actually consists of self care. I thought it might be useful to make some suggestions for people who’ve heard of ‘self care’ but aren’t really sure what it means or for people who are just too low in mood or energy to think of anything.
I’ve talked generally before about how we can be kind to ourselves but I thought a more specific list might helpful.
Change your bed sheets
I admit that this is possibly my least favourite household chore but once it’s done the feeling of sleeping on clean linen is always worth it in how much better it feels to snuggle up for the night.
Have a nice long shower or soak in the bath
Warm water is relaxing and being freshly clean just makes you feel better. This is also a great opportunity to have some space just for yourself as you can’t check your messages or updates and nobody you wouldn’t want to will come in and talk to you.
Have a nice, simple, freshly cooked meal
You need food to keep your strength up, good food with plenty of vitamins will make you feel healthier, and eating something freshly made just makes you feel like you’ve done something to take care of yourself.
If you can and like cooking make it yourself. If you don’t like cooking but think you’ll get a sense of satisfaction once you’ve made something tasty you might push yourself to do it anyway. But if you don’t have the inclination or energy it’s fine to ask or pay someone else to do it for you.
My personal recommendation would be a nice bolognese but whatever works for you.
Phone a friend
Or Skype your friend. Or go round to their house in your pyjamas.
Share tea, and cake, and silly stories. Enjoy each others company.
Take validation from the fact that they equally enjoy yours.
Read a book or binge watch a TV series
Something that’s enjoyable enough to draw you in but simple enough that it isn’t taking on your brain.
This is chill time, not concentrate or improve yourself time.
For reading I go for thrillers or a nice, thick Phillipa Gregory novel, my go to comfort TV series are Gilmore Girls, Buffy, and Once Upon A Time.
Hang out with your pet
If you don’t have one borrow some else’s. If you don’t know anyone else who has one try this – borrowmydoggy.com.
Numerous studies have shown that spending time around animals, especially furry ones can, be very calming for many people. Plus, you can chat to them about whatever you like knowing that they won’t blab, and if they like you there’s absolutely nothing that you could do outside of the relationship between the two of you that’s going to change that.
Go for a run
Now, I can’t vouch personally vouch for this one, no matter how hard I try I can’t see running as anything other than a form of torture. HOWEVER, I know many, many people who swear by the cheering properties of a good run, and who knows, maybe some of them aren’t even lying to themselves.
Do something creative
Paint, draw, knit, write, craft, take photographs.
Anything that you find enjoyable, absorbing, and satisfying without ticking any boxes off your to do list. This is about taking time for you.
Sometimes the most we have the energy or inclination for is to sit quietly without doing anything.
That’s a perfectly reasonable way of spending your time if that’s what you want to do.
You don’t always have to be doing something. You don’t have to use every single minute of your day to achieve things. Being still and resting is as valid an activity as any other.
Listen to music
Avoid songs or pieces of music that are going to make you feel worse.
Unless you think you’d like to try it for catharsis.
Clean or tidy
Doesn’t work for me but I’ve had housemates who used to clean because it made them feel calmer and happier. They claimed they actually enjoyed it.
If that’s your bag go for it.
Do not call cleaning and tidying self care if you hate it and it isn’t going to make you feel any better. Then it isn’t being nice to yourself and it can wait a little while. Even if you haven’t washed your dishes in a month – they’ve waited this long, it’s not like an extra evening is going to do them any extra harm – I can vouch for this, I have extensive experience.
Go to The Outdoors
Fresh air is good for you. If you’re not used to it a reasonable amount of time outside in clean, country air will give you a decent night’s sleep at the end of it as well.
Get your nails done
Or your hair. Or your eyebrows. Or book a session with a make-up artist on your favourite make-up counter. Or have a facial.
Anything, basically, that involves somebody else doing something nice for you and that will make you feel better about yourself at the end of it.
Play football, or netball, or basketball, or golf, or whatever. Take a spin or a yoga class. Go swimming. Do a martial art.
Whatever kind of sport you enjoy and that will get you out of the house and spending time with other people.
If you’re tired, especially if you’re worn out, sleep.
Neither your brain or your body work as well when you’re tired, so everything looks and feels worse. Have an early night and, cliché as it sounds, it will be better in the morning. Even if life still sucks you’ll have more energy and be able to think more clearly so you’ll be better able to handle it.
If you have any more suggestions please do leave them in the comments, other readers might also find them useful. If you’ve tried any of the above let us know how they’ve worked out for you.