This week is Mental Health Awareness week. My blog has been fairly stagnant over the last year, but I deemed this an important reason to kickstart my writing again. I have blogged on and off over the years about my own journey with my mental health and about larger initiatives such as World Suicide Prevention Day, and have found writing to be an integral part to my recovery- although I may not share my writing as much anymore.
This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week theme is Thriving or Surviving? and aims to address why many of us with mental health problems aren’t thriving with good mental health. And taking this into account, I have compiled a list of my favourite things to do when I am having a really difficult time (or just in general) to practice important self care and help me to thrive!
Listen to Audiobooks
Although I’m a book lover, it can be hard to read when you head is full of indecipherable mush, and when that happens I choose to listen to audiobooks. It involves less effort and brainpower, and there is variety the voices of the reader which I enjoy. Local libraries have good selections, which brings me seamlessly to my next point.
Go to the Library
I love the library. I think they are one of the best places to be. You don’t even have to buy a coffee, or pretend to be browsing. You can just sit, and they remain one of the places that you can truly just be in. Libraries now have fantastic apps, that you can search ahead of time for books that take your fancy to save you wasting a trip if you are a busy person after something in particular. But there is nothing greater than just browsing and seeing if anything takes your fancy (or taking in your list you made at Waterstone’s earlier that day). Also, library staff love books too (I used to be one!) and don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations!
Take time over your Lunch
I don’t just mean eating, which we should try to do anyway (I’m against eating at your desk!). I mean the night before, I enjoy taking time to pack a great lunch. I have tiny boxes for frozen fruit which I defrost over night and add yoghurt and museli (in another tiny box!), or I make rice salads whilst I’m waiting for my dinner to cook. I try to pack something a little unhealthy too (maybe a chocolate bar, or pack of biscuits) because lunch should be something to look forward too! I find I sleep a lot better when I take time the night before to be prepared. My favourite recipes at the minute are by Deliciously Ella and Ruby Tandoh’s Flavour. I love cookery books in general- again your local library will have these so you don’t have to splash out when you are looking for a little inspiration!
Make a Care Package
I really enjoy making little packages for friends and family, inspired by Blurt Foundation’s Buddy Box. However, I always forget to take time to make a little care package for myself! Those who struggle with their mental health will likely empathise with me when I say I find it difficult to prioritise myself. So I’ve decided each month to create my own You are So Fabulous package.
Contents of my parcels usually include:
- A bar of my favourite chocolate (this depends usually on what is on offer but I do like Dairy Milk or Green & Blacks)
- A face mask
- A box of tea (my favourite is usually a fruity, berry based tea- again depending what’s on offer)
- A nail polish of whatever colour I wish
Of course this is centred hugely around how I wish to be spending my time when relaxing. But I can get all of the above for less than £6, and I’m sure you could achieve something similar too if you work out those little things you like. Exchange chocolate for those fancy crisps and houmous combo you’ve been eyeing up! Don’t drink tea? Go for the posh lemonade in the glass bottle that you were never allowed as a child. Don’t paint your nails? Rent a DVD you’ve always wanted to watch.
Talk to Someone
Self care doesn’t mean focus all time and energy on being by yourself and loving every second of it. Some people enjoy being alone, some people enjoy being with others. Some of us may want to be able to enjoy being alone, but the thought worries us, and similarly may want more than anything to be surrounded by people yet anxiety may take over. Self care is tending to your needs. If you need to talk to someone, talk. Talk to someone you feel happy communicating with. Talk to trained professionals. Talk to your GP. Talk to a volunteer on the end of a phone line at the Samaritans. My first ever phone call to the Samaritans began ‘I don’t really know what I want to talk about, but I wanted to talk to someone‘ before I spent 20 minutes discussing the Great British Bake Off, came off the phone and my downward spiral was interrupted.
These are my favourite things, yet sometimes it’s difficult to function at all. On days like those, I prioritise my safety and wellbeing, and my first trick when I feel paralysed and unable to move when I wake up is to shower. This wakes me up and gets me moving, and I think I deserve a medal for that on those days. If you need to have a duvet day, have a duvet day.
There is a lot of information out there, not just during this week but throughout the year, whether you need emergency support, reassurance, advice, signposting to other services or if you are supporting someone with poor mental health.
I would recommend:
Mind:A Mental Health Charity with lots of great information and advice
Samaritans: providing confidential and emotional support
The Blurt Foundation (with their fabulous Buddy Box scheme, which makes a perfect gift for anyone you care about or yourself!)
See Me Scotland: Scotland’s programme to end mental health stigma and discrimination
Do What You Want Zine: A zine where profits go to charities and not-for-profits including Mind, Beat and Sisters Uncut. You can buy the e-book for a mere £1.99, or can pre-order a physical copy.