Category Archives: self care

Summer Self Care

As I write this it is the hottest day of the year. The temperature is close to 37°C and I’m melting, the dog is melting, the cats are melting, everyone is melting. So I thought I’d put together some ideas for summer self care.

1. Sunscreen

With the sun boiling us, it is important we make sure to use sunscreen. Sounds obvious I know but it is something I often forget. This can be catastrophic for me as the medications I’m on mean I’m sensitive to sunlight and burn easier. It is quite common with medication for mental illness and we’re not always told about it. And if you’re hopping outside then maybe add a hat and some cool shades 😎. (Yes I’m aware I sound like an old person trying to be cool, look what turning 30 does to you).

2. Keep hydrated

Again sounds obvious but is another one I fail massively on. I’ve never been good at drinking plenty and I’ve paid for it with kidney problems. It’s something my mum nags me about regularly. Drinking will help our head too. It means we can concentrate better and feel better in ourselves. Obviously water is the best thing to drink but really as long as you’re putting fluid on your body it doesn’t matter. An ice lolly is also a great way to hydrate.

3. Staying inside

OK, bear with me on this. I know I advocate getting out as much as possible but when it’s super hot it can be safer to stay inside. So don’t feel you have to go out in the sunshine. If it’s safer stay inside with the fan on.

4. Get outside

Yep I know I just said stay inside but I want to cover the whole summer not just the hottest day of the year. When the weather allows try and get some time outside. Being among nature especially can be beneficial. Or going for a walk is great self care too. Obviously it’s all about being sensible. Also if it’s summer rain soak up the smell after, it’s one of my favourite smells.

5. Read

If you’ve got the concentration, reading can be great self care. In the summer it is nice if you can find somewhere to chill with a book, be it the garden, park or beach. And if going outside isn’t your thing then it’s the perfect activity to do indoors.

6. Get out the pool

Having a puppy has revolutionised summer. We now have a paddling pool “for the dog” but it’s also lovely to dip your toes in. So why wait for the excuse of having a dog or child to put a pool out and have a paddle. Also if you’re feeling particularly energetic (so not me) then why not go swimming (obviously in a swimming pool rather than a paddling pool).

7. Gardening

I’m not the greatest fan of plants. Having hayfever seems to of turned me against them. But this year at the group I attend we planted flowers and tomato plants and I’ve really enjoyed watching them grow. It’s also given me a sense of achievement. There are many studies exploring the impact of gardening on mental health, all positive. My favourite are sunflowers🌻.

8. Take a shower

In the heat there is nothing better than getting under the shower. It is a really good bit of self care too. Even a wash is good. And you’ll be surprised how much better you feel.

9. Do the little things

Finally, while it’s hot it can be hard to get the motivation to do things but if we can keep doing the little things like taking our medication then that is what’s important. Break down tasks into smaller bits to make them more manageable. Little steps lead to bigger things.

Those are just a few ideas for summer self care. If you have your own feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Picture from Pinterest

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1000 Days Of Self Care

As many of you know, especially if you follow me on Twitter, I have been doing the #365daysofselfcare challenge created by The Blurt Foundation. This involves trying to do some form of self care each day. Recently I managed to reach 1000 days. Therefore I thought I’d reflect a little and discuss self care again.

First of all let’s totally go over the point that self care isn’t selfish. It is the act of looking after and treating yourself with respect. People may interpret it as looking out for number one but really it’s bigger than that. By treating yourself with kindness you are helping those that you care about too. In order to be the most effective friend, parent, son, daughter, carer or partner you need to be in a fit state yourself. Self care is important.

Why did I take up the challenge?

The reason I started #365daysofselfcare was because I knew things needed to change. Mentally and physically I was a mess and I had no respect for myself. I felt worthless. Then I saw that The Blurt Foundation had started this challenge. I’d never really considered self care before; why would I when I felt so rubbish about myself? I decided to read about it and discovered it didn’t have to be big gestures but instead could be simple things that meant I was looking after myself. I thought I’d give it a go, after all what harm could it do?

What do I do for self care?

As I’ve already said self care isn’t all about spa days or trips to the cinema (although they obviously do count as self care and are great if you can do them). Sometimes self care is a nap, getting dressed, having a shower, clean pyjamas or just eating and drinking. It might sound boring but self care doesn’t have to be exciting. It’s just important that you are looking after you.

What’s been tough?

Doing some form of self care every day is not always easy. To begin with it was really strange deliberately doing something each day to look after myself. It was a totally alien concept and I felt like I didn’t deserve to look after myself (and quite often I still feel this way). There were many days where I didn’t feel I had done anything that constituted self care. I learnt though through talking to others that I was actually engaging in self care without realising it. Doing it as part of the #365daysofselfcare challenge actually made it easier, especially at the beginning, as I felt I was doing it for other people rather than me which spurred me on when I felt worthless. Also having the support of The Blurt Foundation team, as well as other people taking part, made things easier too.

Overall I would highly recommend trying to incorporate some form of self care into each day. It helps me be a little more respectful of myself. It makes it easier for me to be there for others and feel less of a hypocrite when telling others to look after themselves. Even if you just start small it is just as important as the big things, maybe more so.

If you want more info on self care you can check out my blogs on the subject here or check out this information from The Blurt Foundation. A very big thank you to Jayne Hardy and the whole The Blurt Foundation team. If you want to follow me on the #365daysofselfcare challenge then head over to my Twitter. You can also keep connected on Facebook and Instagram.

Thanks to Jayne Hardy and The Blurt team for the pin.

Come Outside

If you’re an adult of a certain age in the UK you will remember a programme called Come Outside, which had a lady going on adventures in an aeroplane with her dog Pippin (not an animation, a real woman, plane and dog!). It was prime viewing if you were off school sick. You may be wondering why I bring this up but I’ve realised something lately: being outside is good for my mental health and so I should of taken Auntie Mabel’s advice a long time ago and gone outside.

There are a number of reasons I found going outside difficult. Sometimes even my own back garden felt off limits. My anxiety around being in public places was the worst part. I found going out alone difficult and things got gradually worse until I couldn’t use public transport (my only means of transport at the time) or be alone outside the house apart from attending my medical appointments and even then I needed music to cope. The idea of going for a walk was horrifying. At one point agoraphobia was added to my diagnosis.

The thing is, with some changes that have enabled me to get outside more often, I have realised that being outside actually aids my mental health. I’m very lucky to live in a house with a back garden. Although at times it has been hard to get into it, I’m glad I managed to work through it to get out there. I now hate it when it rains as it doesn’t feel pleasant going into the garden and I can’t sit out there. I’m no gardener but I do find mowing the grass therapeutic. I put my music on and enjoy seeing the finished lawn with its lines (is it even a lawn if it doesn’t have lines?).

So what got me into the garden? The answer: Guinea Pigs. I got myself two Guinea Pigs. And due to my mum’s stance that she wasn’t having them in the house they lived in the garden (in the shed or garage in the winter). This meant I had to go outside every day to them. At first it was really tough. I’m not the greatest with dirt and it was an adjustment to dealing with it every day. But I loved my boys so much that the challenges were fighting through.

The problem was though that they didn’t get me away from home on my own. This was something that got harder and harder. Things went even further back when my Guinea Pigs passed away. Going outside got harder again. Then I started slowly in the summer trying to sit and read out in the garden. This slowly got easier, especially without the dirt aspect and having my cats sit with me helped. But again I wasn’t really leaving home alone apart from attending medical appointments and I had started to go to a group at my local Mind which had been recommended by my psychiatrist. Public transport was a definite no and walking alone was also something I didn’t feel I could do.

The biggest change for me came with another new addition to the family: a puppy. Suddenly I had a little thing that needed me to go out. To begin with it was a case of going out with someone else to walk him, but this was still progress, I was out walking. As he got older I felt more confident taking him out on my own. I didn’t feel alone as he was with me and he’d shown he was protective of me. He made my confidence grow. We also took him to puppy school. Again, to begin with, I couldn’t go on my own. It was hard coping with new people but he was my focus in the classes so that helped.

Now I walk him regularly on my own and enjoy it instead of constantly being anxious. Don’t get me wrong I still get anxious at times going out with him. Also in puppy school I now take him inside alone (my dad waits outside). I’ve also started doing some voluntary work which involves going into new situations on my own regularly. Without my puppy I couldn’t of done it. Without going outside I couldn’t of done it. Not everything is perfect. I still can’t use public transport or go to busy places alone but I’m making progress.

So what are the benefits of going outside? There are many benefits to mental health as well as physical health. These include:

  • Stress relief
  • Increased concenteation
  • Better short term memory
  • Restored mental energy
  • Sharper thinking and creativity

Getting outside makes me feel more able to deal with things and to even escape my thoughts for a while.

So even if it’s just sitting outside for 5 minutes or standing in your doorway, getting outside can help. Take slow steps to get there. Don’t over do it. And don’t punish yourself if you can’t do it straight away. For more information on going outside check out these links on the Mind website which detail different aspects on getting outside.

If you have any advice please feel free to use the comments or Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

36.5 Days Of Self Care

As I’ve mentioned before I try and do some form of self care each day. This idea comes from The Blurt Foundation who brought us the awesome #365daysofselfcare project (You can read about my experience here). So I thought it was about time I shared some ideas of things to do that count as self care as it’s not always obvious what constitutes self care. It doesn’t have to be big gestures. It can be small as long as you’re putting you first. Self care isn’t selfish though. It helps us help others. It fuels us. So below find my 36.5 ideas (365 different ideas was beyond me, sorry).

1. Have a shower: This, supposedly, simple act can make all the difference. It makes you feel more normal.

2. Have a nap: Naps are amazing. Sometimes a nap can be just what we need.

3. Go for a walk: Getting outside is useful. It seems hard but the exercise can release endorphins.

4. Brush your teeth: This is one I struggle with but it does make me feel better.

5. Take your medication: Always a good thing. It may seem small but it’s still self care.

6. Read: If you have the concentration, taking the time out to read can be therapeutic.

7. Eat something: This is quite important. You need to be nourished to help you feel better. It doesn’t have to be massive or complicated.

8. Put clean bed sheets on the bed: This one takes a little more effort but is there anything better than clean sheets?

9. Put on clean pyjamas: This just helps you feel a bit nicer.

10. Brush your hair: Sometimes this feels the hardest thing to do but it can help us feel more human.

11. Attend medical appointments: Not always easy but it helps if we look after ourselves physically and mentally.

12. Talk to someone about how you feel: Talking is useful if we’re struggling. Or even if your not. Sharing your feelings is a good thing.

13. Wash your hair: This always makes me feel more human, especially when I really don’t feel like doing it.

14. Write: Having an outlet for what you’re feeling is always good or can be useful as a distraction.

15. Watch a movie: This can be a useful distraction. And it can make us feel better if we act opposite, for example watching a comedy when we feel sad.

16. Meet a friend: It can be useful to get out the house and meeting a friend can be a useful reason to get out. If you don’t feel like going out then maybe invite a friend over. You don’t need to talk just be together.

17. Build a pillow fort: Sometimes we need to get in contact with our inner child and what’s better than to make a pillow fort.

18. Catch up on TV: This can be a useful distraction.

19. Play with pets: Animals are an awesome way to make yourself feel better. They are really comforting I find.

20. Paint: Being creative can be a useful way to express yourself.

21. Bake: This can be soothing and you end up with something yummy to eat afterwards. Win, win.

22. Do some colouring: This can help us focus on something and get out of our heads for a while. It can be really relaxing too.

23. Play a board game: It can be nice to cut off from social media and technology for a while. A board game can allow us to do just that.

24. Listen to a podcast or music: These, again, are a good distraction and can quieten the thoughts in our heads.

25. Visit a bookshop: I love being around books. A bookshop can be a really calming place to be as its generally quiet.

26. Drink water: Keeping hydrated is important.

27. Have an early night: Sleep is also important. Having the occasional early night can help us feel better

28. Create a self soothe box: This can be useful to get ready for when you’re distressed or feel awful. It can incorporate things for each of the senses. So that could include a blanket, some nice smelling candles, your favourite treat, etc.

29. Play with Lego: I love Lego. I find it soothing to organise my Lego. But building is just as good.

30. Have a bubble bath: If you want to just lay back and enjoy the warm water then go for it.

31. Go out in the garden: If you have a garden then it’s an easy way of getting fresh air with no social contact.

32. Watch the clouds: While you’re outside, or even through the window, watch the clouds and just focus on the shapes you see.

33. Curl up with a soft toy: Soft toys can be a great way of feeling safe. It’s not childish.

34. Take photos: Focusing on the image you want to capture can be absorbing and allow you out of your mind for a while.

35. Take a break from social media: Sometimes we just need to shut off and it can be helpful to our wellbeing to take a break every once in a while.

36. Sing: You don’t need to be good but just singing can lift your mood.

36.5. Say No: This may be the hardest of the lot. It’s OK to say no to things when they are not in our best interests. It’s not selfish.

So there are a few of my ideas for self care. Feel free to share your own ideas in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Picture from Pinterest

Why Taking A Break Is Important

Recently I had a short break from blogging, or doing anything linked to campaigning, and it brought up a lot of different emotions. I thought, therefore, I would reflect on that and discuss why it was important to take a break as well as ways to take a break.

Why did I take a break and how did it make me feel?

The main reason I took a break was because everything was becoming overwhelming. I was struggling mentally and physically. I’d had some news that made me take a step back and look at my life. Basically I just wasn’t coping. When I first decided though that I was going to take a short break I wasn’t happy with my decision. I felt an intense feeling of guilt that I was putting myself first. I also felt that I was letting people down by not blogging or campaigning as much. However as I got further in to the break I started to feel a little better about the whole situation and realised that it was what I needed in order to carry on helping others.

Why is taking a break important?

Taking a break is important as it allows you to regroup and recharge. If you wear yourself right down you cannot continue to help other people and your fear of letting others down is more likely to become a reality. The phrase “you can’t pour from an empty cup” is so true. Without the break, when I took it, I would have been out of action longer and had to say no to people. It was also important for me mentally as my head was becoming clouded and I was losing enjoyment in what I was doing. Being able to recharge brought back that enjoyment.

How can I take a break?

Here are some ways that helped me take a step back:

  1. Go offline: switching off from the internet was key for me. It may have only been a few hours at a time but it allowed me to focus on enjoying the moments I was living rather than constantly checking social media.
  2. Don’t plan too much: allow yourself time to just be without always rushing to appointments or being stuck to a schedule. Free time is key to having a break.
  3. Be in the here and now: don’t always be focussing on recording what you’re doing. Be present. Enjoy the moment.

Overall taking the break was the right thing to do. It’s allowed me to come back with more ideas and take part in more events. It’s not always easy to take a break but it’s important.

If you have any tips on taking a break fee free to share in the comments or on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Coping With Stress

Stress is a part of everyday life but when you have a mental illness it can be more difficult to deal with. We all know what it is like to feel stressed and to deal with the pressures of life. There is, however, a link between mental illness and stress. Stress can cause mental illness but also mental illness can cause stress. Therefore it is important to be aware of the signs of stress and how to cope with it.

Stress can give us both mental and physical signs to look out for. You might feel irritable, anxious, depressed or like your thoughts are racing. Your behaviour might change and you might find yourself finding it hard to make decisions, snapping at people or unable to concentrate. The physical signs of stress can include headaches, indigestion, feeling sick, being tired all the time or having problems with sleep. For more information on the signs of stress check out the Mind website here.

How can I cope with stress?

Below are a few ways that I have found helpful when trying to cope with stress. Hopefully they will be useful.

1. Have a routine: Routines really help me when I am feeling stressed. They mean I make sure essential things get done and I can build into them other things that I need to do. Routines make me feel safe and secure. However, try to be flexible with your routine otherwise it can create more stress if things don’t go to plan. It is ok if routines have to change. It is not the end of the world though it can feel like it.

2. Learn to say NO: This is something I find incredibly hard to do but it is so important. It is ok to say no to things in order to give yourself time to look after you. Self care is important and the phrase “you can’t pour from an empty cup” is so true. However, I understand that it can be difficult as you don’t want to let people down or feel left out. The truth is you will let more people down and miss out more of you keeping saying yes and then the stress gets too much.

3. Try to be organised: This is easier said than done sometimes but being organised can really help. When I plan things it really helps to reduce my anxiety and I would be lost without my phone to help me. Having everything written down and recorded helps me to feel more at ease and I stress much less about an event if I know what I am doing. 

4. Talk to others: The phrase “a problem shared is a problem halved” rings very true at times of stress. If you talk to others about how you are feeling you may find they can help you. And even if they can’t it can be highly therapeutic to get how you are feeling off your chest. You might be surprised and find others are feeling the same which can make you feel less isolated and alone. I

5. Avoid drugs and alcohol: It can be tempting when stressed to self medicate with drugs or alcohol. This is very rarely a good idea and will more often end up making you feel worse. Try instead to eat well and drink plenty of water. This can help you feel much better.

These are just a few ways to cope with stress that I have found useful. For more information on stress check out the Mind website. If you have any ways that have helped you cope with stress feel free to share in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter.

Things That Help My Mental Health

Having a mental illness is exhausting and can take it out of you. This means it is important to find things you like or enjoy that can help you when you are feeling particularly bad. Below are some of the things that, over the years, I have found help me and how they’ve helped me. I haven’t included people or pets in this as they are separate things I feel deserve a blog post of their own.

1. Harry Potter: I am a massive Harry Potter fan. I love the world and the detail in it. But Harry Potter means a lot to me because of how it has helped me. I grew up as the Harry Potter books and films were being released. It helped me to fit in with friends at school. I was never very good at making friends but it gave me something to talk about and have in common with others. Harry Potter helped me feel less alone in a world that was difficult for me to navigate because of my mental illness. Harry Potter also offered me an escape from the real world and a brain that was struggling. It still does. I revisit Harry Potter again and again when times are tough.

2. Reading: I’ve already mentioned my love of Harry Potter but reading in general has always been a huge part of my life and something I love to do. It offers me an escape from the workings of my mind, and takes me into different worlds. It can also help me understand more about myself. I read a wide variety of books, encompassing non-fiction and fiction. I’ll read about philosophy and psychology, to understand about our brains and society, but I’ll also read children’s books to escape from the difficulties of the day. I just love reading.

3. Music: I don’t think I would still be here if it wasn’t for music. It means such a lot to me and is a big part of my life. I have found an escape in music; when things are difficult it is easy for me to lose myself in the songs. It is also a great distraction from the voice I hear; I can just out my earphones in and try to drown it out. Music has also helped me to express how I am feeling, not by playing myself, but by finding songs with lyrics that express what I am trying to say. At times I’ve found it hard to show an emotion but music has allowed me to do it in an easy way.

4. Writing: It might be hard to believe but I used to hate writing. Throughout my education I was told I was no good at it so I resisted doing it. However since leaving education I have found a love for expressing myself this way. It helps me to get things out of my head and written down in front of me to see. It has become my main way of expressing myself; I’d much rather write something down than say it. Now writing is something I am passionate about and would love to do as a career. I feel it is something I am getting better at with time.

So those are a few of the things that help me with my mental health. There are others that have had an impact too. What things have helped you with your mental health? Feel free to share in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter.