Following on from my post last week, I wanted to write about some of the things that helped me when I was struggling most, and that I continue to do now, to keep me on an even track.
These are of course just the things that helped me and I find/found useful – they may not be of any use to others, but I thought I’d share them here.
So, here we go…
- Feed your body.
Microwave rice with cheese and sweet chilli sauce. That was my depression meal of choice. It was hot, it was quick and it required absolute minimum effort to make. But it didn’t fuel my body properly and it fed into the constant cycle of feeling rubbish.
When you’re down in the darkness, it can feel like a mammoth task to make a proper meal. But you can’t even try to begin to sort your mind out if your body isn’t taken care of first.
Start small. Buy a packet of grapes and leave them by the side of your bed, where they are easy to reach. Have a handful a couple of times a day.
Try and have three ‘meals’, even if two of them are toast. Try and work your way back into a more normal routine of breakfast-lunch-dinner, even if it’s not at the ‘normal’ times of day.
Feed your body, it deserves it.
2. Drink water.
I am the absolute worst for this – even now! – but water is so important. Again, it can feel like a massive task to keep yourself hydrated but the best way that I’ve found is to make sure I have a huge bottle of water with me all the time.
And break it down, so you don’t feel overwhelmed. Start with a few small sips and eventually, you’ll find that it’s all gone. Add squash if that feels boring but try and get as much water into your system as you can. When you feel crap, adding a dehyration headache to the mix is just going to make everything feel so much harder. Trust me, I’ve been there.
3. Get some fresh air.
The reason that the stereotype of a depressed person is someone that can’t get out of bed is because when you’re depressed or anxious, your bed is the only place where you feel safe.
So getting out of it can feel impossible.
But even just a few minutes of fresh air each day can help you feel a little bit less like a creature from the deep.
Again, start slow. Open your bedroom window. Leave the blind or curtains shut if you need to, but open the window and let the breeze in. Then open the blinds. Then try sitting near an open front or back door (I used to do this all the time, when I was ill the first time and living in my little cottage). Then build up to sitting in the garden. Then walking down the road. Then around the block. And before you know it, you’re outside.
4. Tidy up.
You know the saying; tidy home, tidy mind?
We all know that simply tidying your house up won’t cure a mental illness but bringing some order to the chaos could help you feel a little better.
As with the other things on this list; start small. Just clear up the area around your bed. Get rid of any plates and mugs, throw away the old tissues and straighten up your bedside table. And then build from there, one of the best self care tips I found was to change your bedsheets. There is nothing nicer than fresh bedsheets.
The Little Things.
Those four are the main things that I found help me to feel a little more human; eat properly, drink a little more water, get some fresh air and clear some of the clutter from my room.
But there are dozens of other small things that I do, which all consitute self care.
These are just a few…
- Taking a hot bath with some of my favourite products. There are few things that a hot bath can’t help to ease.
- Watching some trashy tv, to help switch my brain off for an hour or two.
- Reading. Bonus points if it’s under a soft blanket.
- Colouring in. It’s so relaxing and it helps you to focus only on what you are doing in that moment, instead of letting your brain spin out in a thousand different directions.
- Taking the time to do my nails.
- Pottering in the garden. I’m not a great gardener but even just spending half an hour outside, planting and watering stuff can help me breathe a little bit easier.
- Getting organised. There is a fine line between being organised and being obsessive but after learning the difference during my CBT, I know what to watch for, to make sure I’m not crossing over. When done in a healthy way, being organised is a definate act of self care, because it lowers my stress levels to know that I have everything in hand.
- Drinking tea out of cute mugs.
- Treating myself sometimes to the things that I want. #treatyoself is a real thing.
- Cooking food that I enjoy.
- Watching old films. Disney will always have my heart.
- Exercising. I will freely admit that I haven’t done much of this lately but I get a really great buzz from working out.
- Listening to music. Choose carefully – as music can bring you down, as well as lift you up – but the right soundtrack can be such a boost.
- Wearing comfortable clothing. Trust me, you’re never too old for Harry Potter pjs.
The biggest piece of advice that I always give when people ask me about self care is this; the way you’re feeling is real and valid and allowed.
Once I accepted that fact, a big part of the weight that was on me was lifted.
Find what works for you and do it; no apologies needed.
If my list doesn’t work for you, that is completely fine – you’ll find a list of your own.
And talk. Talk about what’s happening to you, don’t hold onto it, it will drag you under.
Talk, shout, scream if you need to; just get it out and let go of it.
You are not alone and you’re doing so well; I’m proud of you.