I’m happy that in the last few years mental health seems to be much less taboo, people are much more comfortable discussing it socially and privately. I’ve never been shy about my own personal struggles with mental health (depression, anxiety, and PTSD) but something I’ve always had a problem with is self-care. I hate that when we hear the term self-care we equate it with selfishness, and is usually coupled with a negative emotion, but sometimes being selfish can be one of the best things a person can be.
Living your life selfishly is different than refusing to always put yourself second to someone or something else. I’ve spent the last few years focusing on self-care, saying “no” to others, saying “yes” to myself, and having grace for when I fall into old habits.
Living in the Pacific Northwest, I suffer from a shortage a vitamin D for a large portion of the year, leading to a worsened state of depression at times. I take supplements to help with it but it can only do so much when my literal brain chemistry is fighting against me. I’ve compiled a list of how I like to practice self-care when my brain doesn’t want to cooperate, I hope they can help you too; feel free to comment with any self-care tips you like to participate in!
- Drink lots of water – Some days I can but most days I forget, I’m terrible about remembering to drink anything. When it gets back I download one of those water reminder apps that pings your phone at different intervals to tell you how much water you should drink and how often.
- Declutter – Any time my space gets overwhelming I realize that it starts to impact my
anxiety levels so sometimes I go into an intense psycho cleaning mode. This is when I move furniture around, find new things to hang on my walls, organize everything in my drawers, throw out most things I haven’t used in the last 6 months. By clearing my living space I’m able to clear my mind.
- Be mindful of what you eat – Sometimes I feel like my body and my mind are super sluggish, that’s when I’ll look at what I’ve eaten that week and I’ll usually notice a pattern of junk. When this happens, I’ll try to give up bread or sweets or whatever junk I’ve been indulging in, for a week or two to reset my system and it almost always does the trick. I also like to put time and energy into trying new recipes, making a big affair of prepping individual dishes to serve me, myself, and I, because I deserve it. I have struggled with body dysmorphia almost my entire life, so my relationship with food is a little messed up but lately, I’ve been putting more energy into cooking what I want and what my body needs; it’s been a delightful little experiment on how I can reframe my mental connection with food.
- Shake things up…literally – Whether it’s going for a run, doing mindful yoga, or trying a new exercise class, you can’t ignore the science of endorphins. After all, “exercise gives you endorphins, endorphins make you happy”, and since we all don’t want to end up murdering people I think it’s best we follow that logic. I live in such a beautiful neighborhood here in Seattle so whenever I feel boxed in or like my body is fighting me, I’ll get up and go for a walk. It could be as short as 15 minutes or as long as an hour; sometimes I’m on a set path but for the most part I just meander around, taking in the sights or (since it’s always wet here) the way rain falls on someone’s garden. Walks like these make me feel less alone and more like I’m part of the big picture.
- Sleeeeeeeep – Depression and anxiety are exhausting but not in the way most people think. When mine was at its worst, I was sleeping 12-13 + hours a night but it wasn’t restful sleep. I remember almost all of my dreams because my brain keeps me from going into deep sleep, but the way I counteract this is by taking natural supplements like melatonin or using lavender essential oils to help however it can. I also have an alarm set to go off every night at 10:45 so I can be in bed by 11.
- Replenish your spirit – I can never truly put into words the feeling in my bones that I get when I listen to and truly experience worship music. I grew up in the church and while I don’t prescribe to a specific religious base, I believe that Christ is real and the renewal I feel when I leave a church is the closest to Him I can get here on Earth. If you don’t go to or believe in the church, find an activity that you feel gives you peace, rest, and renewal.
- Less screen time – It has been scientifically proven, time and time again, that spending
less time on our technology is better for our overall mental health. In January I decided to turn off all notifications from social media applications (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest etc) which cut down on a lot of my screen time during the day. I set it up so that “Do Not Disturb” turns on automatically at 10 pm every night & an alarm goes off at 10:45 every night to remind me to start getting ready for bed. The hardest part for me is putting away Candy Crush or Two Dots, mindless games calm my ADD brain…until I start losing and get determined, then my frustration amps me back up haha.
- When in doubt, face mask it – I’ve said it before but I truly believe that there are few things in the world that a face mask can’t cure, it’s the ultimate life bandaid. Overwhelmed? Face mask. Bad breakup? Face mask. Laid off? Face mask. LITERALLY ANY OTHER SITUATION? Face mask. Face mask? Face mask.
- Play like a kid – Sometimes reverting back to a childlike state is just what the spirit needs to forget about all of the ugly in this world. Feel free to dance like nobody’s watching, climb the closest tree, color in a coloring book, play a board game etc.
- Spend time in nature – Living in Washington I have an abundance of greenery at my disposal (and I don’t mean the pharmaceutical kind, but that helps sometimes too haha). Spending time amongst the trees and its residents reminds us all that there’s something bigger than us all; that we are infinitesimal within this universe in the best way possible.
- Breathe In Breathe Out – Meditation has been around for centuries and there is a reason, it works! There are a ton of meditation apps out there, ironically almost an overwhelming amount of apps to keep people calm and centered haha. Healthline published a list of the Best Meditation Apps of 2018; I’ve personally used “Calm” and “Headspace” for breathing exercises and use “Relax Meditation” for a soothing nighttime sounds to sleep to.
- Read A New Book – I’m a book dragon, my preferable term to bookworm, so every year I set a goal for how many books I’d like to go through before the end of the year. I recently moved offices and our new location is around the corner from a library so I am loving the convenience of being able to pick up new books on my lunch break!
- Try Something New – I wrote an entire post about how I tried something new every month for an entire year. While it was nerve-wracking at times, trying new things gave me something to focus on and be excited about! I fell in love with traveling, trying new foods, and meeting people from different walks of life. I already have a few things lined up to try this year; I’m ready to pump some adrenaline and to get a few good stories to tell.
- Write out your affirmations – When I went through my big break up a few years ago, something I really found strength in was writing out my affirmations. I wrote things on post-its like “You are loved”, “You are worthy”, and “You are enough”, placing them all over my home as pleasant mental reminders to be gentle with myself.
- Go to therapy – I used to have a big pride issue with going to therapy, it took me almost losing my job to truly confront everything that had happened to me and everything I’d done to myself because of it. Finding a therapist that I truly trusted, who never made me feel rushed and always made sure that I knew my feelings were valid, was the best gift I could have ever given to myself.
“I have to believe that caring for myself is not self-indulgent. Caring for myself is an act of survival.” -Audre Lorde