If you suffer from a mental health disorder such as anxiety or depression, you might have been told to use more ‘self-care’ as a treatment. It’s a valid suggestion, as mental illness can cause people to not look after themselves as well as they should. Self-care matters.
However, sometimes, self-care might not be enough. It can easily become a coping mechanism rather than addressing the root cause of your issues.
Understand that the underlying problem is important.
Taking a hot shower or bath, getting your hair styled or cut, going swimming, doing a yoga class or working out are all considered valid methods of self-care. What if you spend a little bit too long in the shower or bath? You might not have realized how long you were in the bathroom because you were so entangled in your own thoughts.
You might go for a crazy hairstyle or cut that you don’t like because you weren’t really thinking straight, which inevitably leads you to feel worse. This kind of behaviour is quite common after a breakup or similar emotionally strenuous situations.
Working out, swimming or yoga are good ways to keep yourself fit but if you start working out too much, counting calories, obsessing over everything you eat or don’t eat, taking performance enhancing medications etc. you’re not really taking care of yourself even though you might and everyone around you might think you are.
Knowing the difference between things that are and are not self-care can assist you to make positive changes in your life. We’ve added some tips below.
Accept help from other people, try not to push anyone close to you away.
Get enough sleep and make sure you’re able to relax when you need to.
Wear clothes that make you feel comfortable and confident, don’t dress for other people.
Set yourself healthy boundaries, live within your means and know your own limits.
You can’t please everyone, don’t overwork yourself trying to keep everyone happy
It can be difficult to acknowledge you have a problem but once you are aware of it, you can start taking steps to seek help. Seeking help is something a lot of us don’t consider a standard method of self-care as it involves someone other than ourselves.
A lot of people are in denial when it comes to their mental health. Sometimes, that “I’m fine” we tell ourselves and other people, needs to change. Remember that it’s OK not to be OK.
Take an effective mental health day.
If you’re not well, you’re not well, it doesn’t matter if that illness is physical or mental. Most people feel guilty at the thought of taking a mental health day off work, which is strange because a one day break is exactly what they might need. There are some actionable ways you could spend your ‘mental health day’ below.
Start your mental health day by analyzing the situations or people who cause you stress. Think about what it is exactly that you’re worried about and then try to come up with solutions to the issue. Write things down, a conversation or meeting when you get back might resolve some issues which have been bothering or affecting you.
Stay off social media, seriously. Don’t go there. Today is about you, not everyone else.
Plan what you intend to do with your day, sitting on the sofa eating crisps and drinking hot chocolate whilst watching Netflix with a blanket wrapped around you might sound like a good idea but it’s a bit of a waste of time if you only do that, all day. If you want to do something similar, schedule it into your day, perhaps at the end, after other tasks and before you start to wind down for bed. Try not to binge watch anything.
Consider the things which will benefit you tomorrow, do you have laundry or dishes you haven’t been able to put away due to overworking? When was the last time you changed your bed sheets? Do you have enough food in your cupboards, fridge and freezer? Now is the time to take care of these things. Be proactive and do things to help you feel better in the long term. Personal to-do lists are key to an effective mental health day but don’t feel too bad if you don’t manage to complete everything on your list, two out of five is still better than nothing.
Do what works best for you and if possible surround yourself with people who care about you. If seeing your mum, dad or other family members who might not be in work such as grandparents will make you feel better, you should visit them! Take a cake or something nice, offer to help them with their chores or look after them in some way. Sometimes doing kind things for others can help us feel better and more appreciated too.
Organize a session with a psychiatrist or psychologist if you really need to talk to a professional about how you feel. We also have a list of mental health resources which may help you. Make an appointment with your doctor, dentist or optician for general checkups too if you haven’t been to one for a while.
Sometimes people who work remotely tend to forget to take breaks, leading them to burnout more quickly than if they were working in the office. This could be down to ‘self-care’ vs. ‘community care’. If you notice other people making cups of tea or coffee, eating lunch or chatting, you might also get involved, which isn’t what some might consider ‘wasting time’, it’s necessary. Connecting with others, away from your screen, is a form of self-care.
If you work in an office and you notice a colleague is feeling down or simply hasn’t moved from their computer for several hours, send them a quick DM, email, text to ask if they want a hot drink or a walk. Alternatively, you could go over to them and ask in real life. Either way, they’ll appreciate this small gesture, even if they say ‘no, thanks’.
Learn what is or isn’t normal for you.
Self-care won’t solve all of your problems, sometimes solutions need to be sought elsewhere. Professional assistance and medication are usually the recommended course of action if you’re dealing with things such as voices or hallucinations, tics, delusions, suicidal, unusual or extreme thoughts. It is particularly important to seek help if your mental health is interfering with your ability to work, socialise, function normally and live in general.
It is also worth noting that ‘normal’ for you, might not be ‘normal’ for someone else. Knowing what ‘normal’ means to you, can really make a difference. There are a lot of different kinds of mental illness including anxiety disorders, eating disorders, impulse control and addiction disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), stress response syndromes, mood disorders, psychotic disorders, personality disorders and more.
Is there anything you’d like to add, have we missed anything? We’d love to know what you think. If you’re interested in sharing your experiences with us or writing a guest post for us, send us an email via firstname.lastname@example.org!
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