I’ve been hoarding this post since the start of the year and as it’s Mental Health Awareness Week it seems as good a time as any to share.
“Self-care techniques and general lifestyle changes can help manage the symptoms of many mental health problems. They may also help prevent some problems from developing or getting worse.” – Mind Charity.
One very dull Wednesday evening in January I came home from work, quickly changed into my PJs and collapsed onto my bed deciding that I was going to order pizza and watch the Real Housewives because ‘hump day’ and ‘self-care’. But was it really? Is lying in bed with a large pizza really self-care? Should I instead have pulled myself out of bed to go through the long and laborious process of working out what I wanted to eat and cooking, to eventually sit down exhausted, grumpy and probably close to tears because it was a bloody difficult Wednesday evening in January. Is that self-care?
Probably not. So it got me thinking, are the actions, rituals or habits that I declare self-care really helpful or just an excuse I use to convince myself I’m looking after my mental health when sometimes I’m maybe doing more harm than good.
As someone who has struggled with their mental health I am continuously looking for ways to care for myself mentally and I fundamentally believe that finding effective self-care techniques are key to a lot of people’s everyday survival. Let us not get anything mixed up, self-care is a preventative technique. It is not a form of treatment.
In the first couple of drafts of this post I listed some of the self-care techniques or ‘structural’ changes I make, e.g. creating boundaries, putting myself first, going to an exercise class etc etc. But I deleted it all because it felt mean and preachy and really bloody privileged.
In unpicking what exactly self-care is to me, I realised that as much as it is Jo Malone Candles and GU chocolate puddings it is also about protecting yourself and creating boundaries. It is pushing yourself out of your comfort zone one day and retreating into it another. It’s being completely and utterly in love with yourself whilst remembering you’re not perfect. Sometimes it means not being hard on yourself, sometimes it means eating a whole packet of biscuits for dinner. Self-care is seeking out safe spaces be it a BME facebook group or your yoga mat. It’s going to bed at 8PM on a Saturday night, not because your body is tired but because your head needs a rest.
It is so many different things at different times but it’s your mental health so it’s your self-care.