This February I decided to set myself a challenge, to try and do a small act of self care each day: my 28 Days of Self Care. I wanted a challenge that wouldn’t be too overwhelming, but would help me to reinforce good habits as well as to notice and reap the rewards of self care.
What is self care?
Many of you have likely heard of self care- it is quite a big buzzword at the moment, and it’s highly probably that most blogs discussing mental health will also mention self care. It is essentially taking the time, or making the effort, to care and look after yourself. This can take all sorts of forms: something really amazing that you’ve wanted to do for ages, cooking a nice meal, taking time aside from socialising to drink tea and read your favourite book, have a bath. The list is endless, and everyone’s list will be unique.
This may seem really simple to some people. Some of you reading this might think that you do this every day and don’t have to count or take note of your acts of self care. It might be ingrained into your daily routine. But for some it isn’t that easy. As The Blurt Foundation put it ‘Self-care is depression’s nemesis. When we practice self-care, we’re acting in opposition to depression’s demands’. When you have low self-worth, lack of motivation and energy, or feel lost and confused as to what you enjoy doing, self care can seem almost impossible.
But the great thing about self care is that it doesn’t have to be huge, expensive or time consuming. It can be small things, like having a shower when you’ve spent the morning unable to move. It can be taking a ten minute walk in the fresh air, changing your bedsheets, hydrating yourself or eating something nutritious. But it also has the potential to unlock what you enjoy doing, work out what makes you ‘you’ and can allow you the time to rejuvenate, re-energise and relax. If you are interested in self care, or are looking for support or resources, The Blurt Foundation has some fantastic ones which can be found here. I highly recommend their free downloadable and printable Self Care Planner which- if you are as obsessed with diaries and calendars as I am, can help you either schedule or journal your self care, with weekly goals or opportunities for reflection.
So each day this month, I will try to ensure I perform at least one act of self care. I know this approach might not work for everyone, but as someone who is a heavily goal oriented person this seemed like a good way to reinforce new habits. Each week I shall update my post with my acts of that week. I hope this month will encompass both big and exciting things, and very small habits I can add into my daily routine. I will update this at the end of the month!
Thursdays are a big self care day for me. I attend my therapy on a Thursday, which allows me an opportunity to talk to an outsider, and spend time thinking about how I process thoughts. I often pair this with something tasty, in this case a Crunchie McFlurry on the way, and a Fry’s Turkish Delight on the way home!
Knowing I have visitors for the weekend, I do my washing. Usually when I’m struggling I forget to keep up with washing and keeping my environment clean. I put a load of washing in, with my favourite fabric softener, so my sheets smell new and floral when they come out.
This weekend I have friends visiting, so I decide we should all go to the cinema to see The Greatest Showman in the cinema with the reclining seats. We take cheap sweets in from Poundland and have a thoroughly wonderful evening
I’m currently sat eating my favourite treat of all (a cherry bakewell tart), listening to cheesy 80s tunes on my fabulous DAB radio and writing this blog post. Writing is a great therapy for me. I love writing; I journal daily, and I write poetry. I’m trying to slowly come to terms with the fact that hobbies don’t have to be ‘productive’ and just because my notebook is full of writing and poems that I will rarely show, that doesn’t make it a waste. I also bought this new jumper to celebrate my new challenge!
This evening didn’t exactly go to plan. I tried for a nice bath, but we ran out of hot water so settled for a shower. I made soup out of all of my spare vegetables, but it wasn’t as fabulous as I wanted it to be.
Today was a really important day for me, in terms of my self care. I get so anxious about being unproductive, especially when I look around and see jobs that maybe could be done. Tonight I had some washing I could have put on, and my carpet could be hoovered. But I’m tired I’m really tired (not used to the early starts at the moment!) and decide to look after myself. Not just tidy or clean, but take time to relax, watch a dvd and do some yoga before I head to bed at 9pm! This has been a huge revelation.
I spent the van journey home worrying about all the stuff I didn’t do lastnight, and my washing is away the moment I walk in the door. I’m currently taking diazepam as and when I need it, and this makes me drowsy, affecting my ability to drive. In my head, this has caused a little inconvenience at work, mostly because I’m too nervous to stand up for myself and would rather not take my medication and assist others with long drives/project scheduling. This, combined with the upset that I didn’t do anything productive lastnight, makes me worry that today may actually be the start of a downwards spiral. However, not all self care has to be productive and I shower, eat a decent meal and try to sleep.
Today was another Thursday Therapy day and my tasty Thursday treat today was a chocolate bar and some Diet Coke (my favourite soft drink- which I can now add that I’ve given up for lent and it is HARD).
This evening I decided to put on nice clothes, brush my hair, go out and drink beer. I ended up playing table tennis at midnight, and having a lovely evening!
This Saturday I’d been invited to go over to my friends’ house to watch the rugby. There would be snacks, cake, and good company. Yet at the time I really had to be getting my bus, I was curled up in bed (tired, and very hungover- which is something I rarely feel and can absolutely not handle!). However, I recognised that I wanted to be around people, and decided to get up, shower and spend the day with my friends, which was a lovely day and a lot of fun.
Today I took myself out. I went on a lovely day to Glasgow, where I treated myself to lunch, met a friend and delivered a small parcel full of goodies to another friend who has been really helpful during a really difficult time.
The revelation of time as self care, made on Tuesday, was not the only realisation I made during this process. Today, I asked for help when I really needed it. It became clear self care was not just important to help raise my self esteem, it was vital to my self-worth. I go down to my parents for the foreseeable short term.
I let myself rest when I needed it. I recognised I was exhausted in the middle of the day, and took myself to bed. I ended up sleeping for three hours. Then we made pancakes!
After a difficult start (I didn’t manage to leave my bed until 2pm), I made myself lunch and decided to choose a film to sit and watch with my mum and sister. I chose Trolls (obviously) and then we watched Inkheart, and I had a lovely relaxed movie afternoon.
I’m still at my parents, but I was adamant I was not going to lose time like I did yesterday. I decide not to join my family on a trip, as I’m tired. Okay it may be 10am by the time I got up, but here I am writing this at midday having completed a 20 minute yoga routine, showered, got dressed and just finished eating a lovely plate of eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms and spinach. I’m having niggling thoughts about my lack of worth, but for the moment I am immensely proud.
I cooked dinner for my family, which made me feel happy. I love cooking, and listening to my radio, singing and dancing, as the food is being made.
After trying on Thursday, I started my yoga again, this has helped me to relax and feels energised. I downloaded an app which features short 20 minute routines, meaning I can do one a day easily.
Today was the first day in 10 days that I wanted to go outside. My family would ask me and I would tell the truth, which was I didn’t want to. Yes, fresh air helps everything and walking is brilliant, but I wanted to watch films, write and read instead. I got up so quick, put on my shoes and coat, and went outside, forgetting to turn off the film I was watching! I treated myself to a cup of tea from a local tea shop and wandered around the town for about an hour.
Although I was supposed to return to Edinburgh today, I made the decision to give myself a little more time with my family.
Best self-care ever today: running to a shop with 1/2 price pic’n’mix, buying a cup and eating the lot!
Today I returned back to my flat after a small period away. I arrived with time to spare before my bus, so treated myself to a cake and listened to my audiobook on the journey home. When I got home, I had a little wobble and a cry but then channel this into positivity and I tidy my room ready to start tomorrow with a clean space.
I bought some tea when I was at home, from the local tea shop. It’s called Grace Grey (after Grace Darling) and is a more floral version of Lady Grey. When I get back from Thursday Therapy, I pour myself a cup of tea and get stuck into working on a task for a job interview I found out about today, which is a Skype interview I could only schedule for tomorrow. They have suggested I should be interviewed for a higher role than I have applied for, which was a lovely boost to my self confidence!
Today may have been the first day I didn’t actively note an act of self care- pretty good going seen as I’m 23 days in! I did make a phone appointment with my doctor however, to discuss moving forward and the potential to begin citalopram again.
I’d arranged to go to Glasgow with my friends and watch the rugby, which was a lot of fun. However, when it got a little loud for me I took the decision to step outside and go for a wander, finding a doughnut with sprinkles on top, and having a few moments to relax before rejoining the group.
I was quite wary of today as I was tired and can feel a cold coming on. However, I set time aside to do one of my favourite things: bake! I baked a rose, cardamom and pistachio cake which are flavours I adore but have never used in baking. It was a success! I used this recipe from The Hungry Australian if anyone is interested in recreating it. Instead of making the icing as suggested, I simply made a thick glace icing with icing sugar and water, threw in some crushed pistachios and drizzled it on top. I then threw on some more pistachios and rose petals.
Today was great because I finished my first full day at work for a wee while. I realised I don’t have that long in Edinburgh and after an advert flashed up for Ballet Hispánico’s Carmen I decided to buy myself a ticket. I then found another cheap ticket to the Russian State Ballet of Siberia’s Cinderella and decided, as it has always been a dream of mine to see the Russian ballet, to buy those too! So I have two wonderful evenings ahead of me!
Although tired after returning home from work and after spending an hour lying on my bed when I got home, I managed to motivate myself to get back up, eat, get a hot water bottle and fruit tea, change into clean pjs and get into my bed with my book.
I made it to the end of my self care challenge. I’m currently at home, after an office closure during a red weather warning for snow! After I’ve finished my work for the day I’m catching up on boring self-care- my washing, cleaning and updating my diaries.
So… Was It Worth It?
In one word: yes!
Although some of the things I would have done regardless of my challenge, some I wouldn’t have. On those days where I was lethargic, and felt myself slipping into the familiar state of exhaustion where I’d just stare at the walls, I tried to find the motivation to do something relaxing, rather than lay there for hours and feel terribly guilty about it. Guilt is a big thing for me, and during this month I tried to shake the guilt about being unproductive with my free time. I don’t have to constantly have something to show for my free time. Watching films, cooking a nourishing meal, listening to music is just as important as a hobby that produces something at the end of it. I’ve always had a hangup about not having creative hobbies where I don’t craft or make anything, or can show anyone what I can do. However I’m also learning that I can only do so much, especially during periods of poor mental health which I did experience this month, and in these times looking after myself is a top priority. That doesn’t mean I need to eat my 5-a-day, get 8 hours sleep, exercise and drink 2 litres of water daily- although that would be a dream! It means letting myself rest when I need it, asking for help, getting out of bed, washing, eating something (however healthy) and trying to stay hydrated.
It has been a hard month, but reading back over my little self-care journal I have realised how far I have come. A few years ago when I had another difficult time with my depression and I was diagnosed with BPD, I wouldn’t have dreamed of dedicating time to myself. It’s a good feeling when you invest in yourself, because I know I’m investing in my future and taking the time to boost my self-worth!