Category Archives: self care

New Year, New You?

So it’s that time of year: New Year. Ugh. I hate it. There is so much out there about New Year, New You, and I hate it. Why must the new year signal a major change? Why must we put pressure on everyone to do more and change who they are?

The thing is I do get why people choose a new year to make a change to their lifestyle. It’s a good marker. And actually I have no problem with that part. My issue is with the advertising companies and the social media influencers. We should not be pushing people to make a change. If they want to that’s fine but putting pressure on makes people feel inadequate. It may also have a backwards effect as if they’re not ready to change it will be forgotten within a couple of weeks.

Another reason I think it’s a bad thing to push people to change is that it can make people feel like a failure. If you’re bombarded with all these things you should change you start to think you’re not good enough. That somehow you’ve failed as a person and the only way people will like you is if you change everything. This is just not true. Yes there may be small things you might want to do to feel better about yourself but that’s it, you should only be doing it for you, not because some advert has told you to.

A major part of the New Year, New You dynamic is based on losing weight. It’s the time of year when adverts for gyms and dieting are prominent. You’re made to feel fat and bad for enjoying food over Christmas. This can really effect people with distorted views around the way they look and food. They see it as a sign they need to lose weight even though they may already be under weight. It can retrigger eating disorder behaviours. Or start them off. It lowers people’s self esteem.

A lot of this New Year, New You malarkey is just there to make people feel bad. To put pressure on to be someone society sees as acceptable. To quash individuality. It’s not about your happiness in the eyes of the companies pushing it. It’s about making you spend money.

I also want to tackle here another part that is linked to the New Year, New You philosophy. This is the fact that we are encouraged to look back and reminisce over the last 12 months (and in 2019 it seems the last decade as well). I know I’m not alone in hating this. I don’t want to look back at all my failures. Yes it could help me change things but it also is likely to make me depressed and feel awful. I know many people are looking at achievements but when I’ve had a year where I have been very ill mentally it is hard. I feel like a failure and end up comparing myself to others. It feels like a minefield.

So what can we do?

My advice is to just treat New Year as any other time of the year. It is just a date. Just a marking of time. It is no more significant than any other if we don’t want it to be. If you want to make a change then do, but don’t feel you have to. It’s not a necessity. Block the diet and “lifestyle” ads. Treat yourself with kindness. You are amazing to get to this point. What will be, will be. There is no pressure to put goals in place for the long term if all you can manage is the next hour or even five minutes.

If you have tips to help with dealing with the New Year pressures then feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Picture from Pinterest

Christmas Care

As the festive season is now upon us I decided to ask a few people what would help them with their mental health during this period. Here are some of the responses.

@JamesConlon_

@pjshaw192

@YvetteCaster

@eperry27

@sarahsazzlechop

@_divine1_

Self Care

A common theme mentioned by those I asked is self care. I couldn’t agree more. Looking after yourself is important. You are important. It’s OK to do things for you. You are worth looking after.

@Mike_Douglas_

@anxiousosaurus

@georgie_lloyd

@GumOnMyShoeBook

@BeyondTheBorde3

Take Time Out

If you’re struggling, as said above, it’s OK to take some time away from the people you are spending time with. Even if it’s just five minutes in the toilet to take a breather. If you can have a space you can go to away from people to allow yourself a few moments.

@Addict2L

Use your skills

If you’ve done therapy and learnt skills to help yourself. This is the time of year to use them.

@pigletish

Say No

It’s hard but saying no can be so important. Boundaries are important and at this time of year its easy to feel like we have to say yes to everything or we spoil the fun. But that’s just not true and if saying no helps us stay well then we should do this.

@BpdBryan

Money Isn’t Everything

There is a lot of pressure at this time of year to spend a lot of money on presents and going out. However if we don’t have the money we can feel stressed and even put ourselves into debt trying to please people. The thing is people value other things more than presents. They would rather you were well than stressing and making yourself ill over spending money on them. Money doesn’t prove you care. Showing love does.

@CaraLisette

@KatieConibear

@aimes_wilson

@Idaisrecovering

Don’t put pressure on you

This time of year is for you as well as others. If you can’t manage something that’s OK. You need to look after you and others would prefer you to be well than struggling.

@_NatashaDevon

@hannahrainey_

Keep planning

Over the holidays it can be tempting to just give up doing everything. While it’s OK to take a break, it can also be important to make plans so that we keep going and don’t get dragged into sitting in our heads.

@RichBiscuit21

Be open

It’s OK to tell people you’re struggling at this time of year. If you need support it’s OK to ask for it. Don’t be afraid to be open with others.

@EleanorSegall

@insideliamshead

Be with others

For some people being on their own is the biggest problem so if this affects you then make plans to spend time with people.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed to this post. If you have any tips or things that help you with your mental health during the festive period then feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Picture from Pinterest

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

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.