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How to show yourself a little self-care

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Self-care. Everyone says it, but what actually is it and how you can you do it?

 Essentially self-care is exactly what it sounds like; it’s just taking care of yourself. It’s how you replenish your spoons (if you have a mental health condition and have never heard of the Spoon Theory, check it out here. It will help your relationship with your condition, as well as putting it into an easily digestible context for those in your life who might not fully understand it).

Self-care doesn’t have to be expensive spa treatments and it definitely doesn’t have to be costly. Despite its slightly prescriptive sound, there is no one right or wrong way of doing self-care; it all comes down to you as a person. So, if you’ve been struggling with self-care, or the methods of self-care that people have suggested to you have only succeeded in stressing you out more, check out the list below for different kinds of self-care to suit your needs (and your budget).

If you can’t get your mind to calm down:

This is especially pertinent if you have anxiety, insomnia, issues with stress & concentrating, or anything in those general ballparks.

  • Find a way of venting what your mind is saying. Some people write diaries; some people play instruments; some people make lists. One of the best ways of sorting through a haze of mental confusion is to actually vocalise what you’re thinking.  
  • Listen to things you find peaceful: classical music, ocean noises, ASMR, video game soundtracks. Audio stimulation is a great way of framing your mind, so if you listen to things that give you feelings of calm, that tends to spread.
  • Try out some mindfulness and/or grounding techniques. There are loads of apps and tutorials that offer guided meditation or help you centre yourself, and they’re full of age-old techniques to settle busy minds.

If you can’t face getting out of your house/bed:

Dealing with things like bipolar disorder, depression or social anxiety can be debilitating and having to navigate the outside world can be tricky at the best of times. On the days that you can’t leave the house, here are some things you can do from the comfort of your own home.

  • Wash your hair. You know back when people had the go-to excuse of washing their hair to get out of things they didn’t want to do? There is some validity to that. Washing your hair is very therapeutic when you have the time to actually commit to it. See what you have in the bathroom and get as fancy (or not) as you want. Just a quick shampoo or a full-on shampoo, condition and hair masque treatment. Then spend the next few hours delighting in how nice your hair smells. I guarantee it will make you feel like a new person: guys, this includes you too!
  • Make sure you drink enough water and eat. Remember that the most basic things that keep us alive are also forms of self-care, especially on really bad days. If you’re at the point where you’re not sure how to take care of your mind, focus on taking care of your body. At least you’ll have one less thing to worry about.

Ensuring you eat can be especially difficult if you struggle with an eating disorder so try to eat at least something small and filling if you can’t handle full meals. Toast, fruit, eggs, nuts and pulses are your friends.

  • Invite a friend round or have a housemate day. On the days that you don’t want to leave the house but have enough energy to socialise, get people to come to you. Game days/nights are a great way to use a limited amount of spoons but still have a fun time with people you care about. I recommend board games (if you have them lying around) or any of the Jackbox Party Packs (if you have a bit of extra cash – you’re looking at about £20). If none of those are an option, break out some cards or play one of those car games you used to play as a kid.

Sometimes, you can feel so down that even getting out of bed is too much. That’s okay! There is a lot you can do to feel better without having to even leave the room (except to go to the bathroom and get food, which, please do).

  • If you live with other people, get one of your housemates to bring you food. If you’re feeling social, you can have a bedroom picnic and if not, a meal for one while you’re snuggled in bed.
  • Watch something that gives you joy: something that makes you laugh, or makes you happy cry, or makes you scream – whatever floats your boat! Netflix, Amazon Prime, Youtube, All4, BBC Iplayer (if you have a TV licence): there are so many options for filmed entertainment that you can watch while wrapped up in a duvet.
  • Let your obligations know what’s happening. If you have work, lectures or social commitments that you honestly can’t even fathom handling that day, don’t feel guilty by cancelling. Your mental state is important and you can take a sick day for mental health.

If you’re stressed:

Life can be a great, big ball of stress sometimes. And it’s easy to let that stress take over your life. If you’re stressed and need to take a step back, here are some good self-care tips.

  • Make, order or buy a meal that comforts you. That might be asking your mum how she makes your favourite soup; ordering a big, cheesy pizza; or buying a ready-meal spaghetti bolognese. It could even be as easy as chicken dippers and chips. Sensory nostalgia is a really good way of calming you from the inside out. Think of that scene in Ratatouille when Ego eats the ratatouille and is immediately transported to his younger, happier self
  • Have an indulgent shower or bath. Very much like washing your hair, taking some time out for a shower/bath, that is more for relaxation purposes than logistical purposes, is therapeutic. Being able to ramp up an everyday task so that you can give yourself a little bit of pampering can work wonders. Use your favourite scents and have some 'you time'.
  • Physical expression is also great. Go for a run, dance, go the gym, play a sport, have a swim. Do something that lets you focus on your body and park up the mental stressmobile for an hour or two.

If you generally just feel a little bit rubbish:

Self-care is good for everyone; you don’t need to be dealing with ill mental health to practice self-care. Maybe you’ve been working too hard, or have fallen out with someone close to you, or even have just had a bit too much to drink the night before. Here are some general self-care tips that can apply to a whole range of situations.

  • Sleep. Having a nap or good night’s rest works wonders for most things that ail you.
  • Watch Vine (RIP) compilations: there are SO MANY on YouTube, ranging from well-known to majorly underrated – mostly all pretty hilarious. Laughter may not be the best medicine, but it’s pretty darn good. And some Vines will definitely engage that Schadenfreude we all have and make you feel better about your life.
  • Snuggle your ( or someone else’s) pet. Cuddling animals offers so many restorative positive effects and if you don’t have a pet or know someone with a friendly pet, there are therapy animal centres all over the country. And if you can’t get to one, are allergic, or just don’t like animals, there’s always the stuffed variety. Alternatively, you can always hug your favourite human.

Remember, not every kind of self-care is helpful for every person. Some of the tips on this list might not work for you and that is completely fine. The most important thing about self-care is making sure that you’re doing something that actually feels beneficial to you. Don’t be afraid to take some time to find out what makes you feel better so you know what to turn to when you need to process things.

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