You only have to search the likes of Instagram and Pinterest for self-care and you are met with a barrage of posts about hair care, exercise, make-up, face masks, luxury bath products, fashion, jewellery and all sorts of other things that to me are less about self care and more about “treat yo’ self”. It’s all sorts of flowery, feel good stuff that in itself is fine but is not really what self care is all about.
There are loads of self-care journals on the shelves now too, many giving writing and creative prompts for you to fill in as and when you choose.
And while these things can help us feel good about ourselves and assist in feeling happier and more positive on a day-to-day basis, they don’t really address the issues we face when we have mental health issues.
When you are in the pits of a mental health illness (for me that would be anxiety, stress and depression) disorder/illness/issue the last thing on your mind can be to pick up a journal and write or create. Your only instinct is to survive and get through the episode and out the other side. Housework, basic hygiene, eating and even sleep cease to be important and having someone tell us to take a bath with a luxury brand product is not helping in any way, shape or form. When it is too much effort to even get out of bed and make a drink and see to our basic needs this is where I have to disagree with modern-day self-care.
I read something, a list of self-care “tips” when I had my anxiety attack the other day which gave really “helpful” advice such as “Get more sleep” and “Have a deep and meaningful conversation”, “light a scented candle”, and even “Close your eyes and rest for 5 minutes” and I got really angry. If I could get any more sleep I would, trust me. I have tried and failed and having some poncey list telling me that this will help just infuriates me. As does the advice to have a deep and meaningful conversation, for me, when I am in desperate need of self care, talking to someone, let alone having a meaningful conversation is laughable, I just want to be left alone. Lighting a scented candle, when I’m having a period of anxiety just magnifies the anxiety I already have so that really isn’t helpful. And I’m sure whoever came up with “Close your eyes and rest for 5 minutes” has never experienced stress or anxiety or any other condition where being able to rest would be great if we could totally unplug our brain and our racing thoughts.
And then I started thinking about what self-care really is, it’s about being a friend to yourself, the best friend, the one who tells you, honestly, that you stink and forces you to take a shower, wash your hair, brush your teeth or do the washing up. I’ve been there, and I have had no care for washing, brushing my hair or teeth, staying in pyjamas that I’ve been wearing solidly for a week, having no energy or motivation to do anything except lay there and avoid everything. And I’ve been the one that has forced myself to go and shower, and it may have taken me an hour but I’ve done it, and, do you know what? Just that simple act of standing under running water and getting clean has helped me feel a teeny bit better.
So, heres some advice.
Eat regularly, don’t worry if its healthy or not, even if it’s a bag of crisps or a few haribo at least you have eaten something.
Drink. Water is the easiest. Set an alarm on your phone and try to take a few sips through the day.
Brush your teeth. Just this small act has made a huge difference to how I have been feeling.
Tackle one task at a time…if the bins are full then empty them. If the sink is full then take your time and wash everything. If the counters are grubby then clean them.
Change your clothes, if not everyday then at least every other. It really feels like the greatest accomplishment.
Force yourself to shower or bath, even if its only 10 minutes, it will help.
Self care isn’t about long baths, lie ins, scented candles, journals or anything like that. It’s about existing and really getting to the root of the problem, being your own best friend and doing what is best for you. So, sorry to all you modern-day self-care lovers, but that stuff aint working for me when I’ve hit a real low.