Self care is one of those concepts we all immediately assume we have a grip on. Whenever my counsellor, sister, stranger, youtuber etc. ever mentioned self care, I thought “of course I do that” or even “I know I’m good at self care.”
When I was younger, I definitely was. When things got rough at home, I would retreat into my room, light candles, meditate, do yoga, read, write, sleep, anything I knew I needed to be mentally healthy.
Then, as I grew up, I realised I didn’t have as much time: school took over, extra curricular activities stole precious hours, sleep was cut into by homework or revision. When I sunk into my bed at the end of the day, I fought sleep and tried to watch YouTube videos like I used to, believing this counted as ‘self care’.
But of course that was not self care, as I kept losing sleep every night, making it harder to wake up in the morning.
Self care can be defined as this: an activity that helps to improve your mental health and wellbeing without causing stress or anxiety.
It sounds very simple. Yet in practice it’s incredibly difficult. Everyone has something: a job, school, someone who they care for, which means that we don’t have as much time as we used to. When I was younger I didn’t have as many stresses as I do now. Often I find people ignore their mental health believing in the “short term pain for long term gain” mentality.
During school terms in 2018, the only time I truly took for myself was the 15 minute walk to school and back where I could listen to three songs. In my darkest moments, these could be the highlight of my day. Gradually, I found myself taking a longer route home so that i could listen to 5 or 6 songs and just enjoy my time, stress free. I would come home and I never felt truly relaxed.
In these moments, I needed self care to help me relax, but it all sounded impossible to fit in, and there was no way that I tried to fit it into my busy schedule. If anything, it stressed me out to think that i had to allocate an hour to ‘relaxing’.
During the summer, my sisters and I were always occupied with caring for our Mum. We would do it all again if we had too, without a shadow of a doubt, but it is not unfair for us to say it was incredibly hard. When we had a spare moment, even if we were absolutely on the floor with fatigue, we would enjoy our moments to ourselves. For example, I would often read in the hospice or by Mum’s bed when she came home from the hospice. When Katie had to drive to Asda we would take the 10 minutes to scream lyrics to songs.
If we never ever had a break, we wouldn’t be here today.
If you don’t have time to do those long self care activities that come up when you google self care, here’s a few you could think about incorporating into your day:
- Buying a different, maybe more luxurious shampoo/conditioner/body wash to use. This will make your body feel great, and looking after yourself physically helps you to look after your mind. This is also great for anyone who struggles to remember to wash due to a caring role, responsibilities, or mental health issues. This small thing can go a long way.
- Watch one or two YouTube videos if you get a chance to take a break. I found David Dobrik in 2018, which was great because his 4min 20sec videos never failed to make me laugh, but also didn’t last too long either.
- Do a quick ‘body scan’. This is when you close your eyes, and try to focus on your body parts to work out what they need. This can centre you, and if you have forgotten to get a drink or eat in the day, this will remind you and make you feel better. I used to beat myself up a lot for not eating or drinking because i just forgot. In my head I would revolt against my forgetfulness, screaming “how do you forget a basic human need?!”. This made my self worth go down. But, this technique avoids that.
- Eat some fruit. I’m not saying dont eat an unhealthy snack. But, if you’re anything like me, when i ate so many unhealthy things during 2018, I didn’t feel good about it like usual, I just felt unhealthy, which made me feel worse.
- Try to think of things as a “win”. For example, I have eaten fruit this morning, thats a win. I had a shower this morning with my new conditioner, thats a double win. Now I can watch a YouTube video, and that’s a win too. This may seem small, but changing your mindset with small things like this does wonders. You feel more optimistic, happier, and you want to repeat these positive activities, which again helps you in the long run.
If this is all the self care you have performed today, I am grateful to you for seeing yourself as worth this positive attention. Its very easy to forget ourselves in hard situations.
After Mum passed away, I helped Katie to write a ‘Self-Care List’. Katie found self care very difficult to just wrap her head around, especially now that Katie had time to care for herself. Some of what we put on that list includes:
- Buy fresh flowers every week.
- Go swimming.
- Make scrambled eggs and mushrooms for breakfast.
- Go for a run
- Listen to music.
For me, activities on my current self care list include:
- Go for walks alone with music.
- Make healthy and filling dinners.
Soon enough, these activities have become second nature, and now we can look back and see how far we have come.
You deserve to see yourself as a priority, and you deserve to feel cared for. I hope you can incorporate even a few things into your day, and eventually move up to the ‘big’ activities, like exercising, going to counselling, reading books etc. Good luck.