Self Care

After a couple of days of quite ‘heavy’ posts, I thought it might be nice to do something a little more upbeat.

Last night I went on a YouTube binge to cheer myself up. Although YouTube is rather a sad place for the gay female community at the moment (if you don’t know why, you probably don’t care, so I won’t bore you), I also got some time in to watch one of my favourite mental health YouTubers called Emma Wicks.

I love Emma’s videos for so many reasons. She’s incredibly brave, honest and raw with the content she shares on her journey to recovery from PTSD, depression and social anxiety, and I greatly admire her for that. For some reason, the YouTube community had their mental health awareness week a couple of weeks ago and for it, she made this video with some self care tips:

I decided to take some inspiration from Emma, and do a little post on my own self care tips and tricks.

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My very, very basic self care rules:

  1. Get out of bed
  2. Have a shower
  3. Get dressed
  4. Leave the house (even if it’s just to sit in the garden)

These are known to my friends and family as ‘The Emily Rules’. I have used these rules as the foundation to build my recovery upon. They also happen to be the first four challenges in My Year Without Fear.

Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote these rules for myself in my diary, as a way to challenge myself to overcome my illness and start moving towards a better place. For me, they act as a measuring tool for how I am coping. If I am in a good place, I can do these four steps without even thinking about it. Other days, when getting out of bed is hard, it can take me all day just to get through them. If I can’t bring myself to do them at all, that’s when there should be real cause for concern.

I have a few friends who have come up with their own ‘*insert your name here* Rules’ and my CBT therapist actually said it was something she was going to pass on to other patients. If you find you struggle to get started with the day, I’d encourage you to give them a go, or even tweek them a little if there’s something you think is missing or needs a specific focus in your life. A friend of mine has swapped ‘leave the house’ for ‘eat breakfast’ as he struggles more with getting himself to eat than going outside.

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The Extended Emily Rules:

These rules only come into play if I am managing to get through the others with relative ease. It’s like the self care level up. They don’t have to be done in any particular order and I can pick and choose whichever and however many I want to do. Though obviously, the more I can do, the better.

Vent

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Writing is my main creative and emotional outlet. I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I’m not very good at talking about my feelings and my diaries are where I have done the majority of my emotional venting for the past 14 years. I write most days, whether it be a personal diary entry, a post on here, some work on my book or advice to a friend. I always try to make sure I write at least a little bit, as it never fails to make me feel as though I have achieved something for that day.

Laugh

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Laughter is like an inbuilt, natural medicine. Catching up with friends is great for combating feelings of loneliness, but for me, laughter makes everything feel much more worthwhile. If you aren’t up to seeing someone in person, I would recommend phone calls, voice notes and Skype above all else, as they make the contact a little more tangible than just typed words on a screen. Plus, sharing giggles is infinitely more heart-warming.

Eat

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Of course, eating healthily is preferable, but eating at all is integral. Sometimes when I am down, eating is something that I can really struggle with. So pacing myself and trying my best to eat as close to three times a day as possible can really help lift my mood. Rightly or wrongly, I’ll often treat myself to Chinese Take-outs and dairy free ice-cream to help bring me out of a slump. You gotta do what you gotta do to make yourself feel better.

Move

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Exercise. I know. Whenever I talk about the importance of exercise I get flashbacks to my year 7 self having an asthma attack in P.E. and exclaiming ‘once I leave school, I am NEVER running again!’. Low and behold, running is one of the things that I find really helpful for low mood and anxiety. Most of the time though, I prefer to just walk everywhere, which is aided by the fact that I don’t have a car. I also love going to yoga classes. But if you’re like me and can’t always afford them, I recommend a YouTube channel called Yoga with Adrienne. She’s wonderful and her videos are easy to follow, whether you’re a novice or an expert.

‘Move’ also incorporates my love for travel. This depends on just how good I’m feeling, but if I can hop on a train to explore somewhere new, I am always guaranteed to feel great. Even better if it’s a plane…

Create/Distract

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I know knitting isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I just love it. Alongside writing, it is my main creative go-to. Not only does it focus my mind and distract me from my thoughts, I also get to create something for myself or a loved one to wear . For you, it could be something completely different like playing video games, learning a new piece on piano or baking a cake. Whatever it is, make sure it is something that makes you feel enriched and will give you that all important sense of achievement and/or enjoyment.

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The Emily Rules Level 3000

Ok so there aren’t actually any more rules, I just wanted to add a couple of extra notes. The tips I have included above work for me and have been carefully thought out over a very long period of time. They may not be great for everyone, but the important thing to consider when figuring out your own ways to feel better is that they are personal to you. Which might seem obvious, but hear me out.

Many, many people will recommend things like exercise and a good diet as ways to help improve your mood. To be honest, I’ve never heard reports to suggest otherwise. But the reason that ‘eat healthily‘ isn’t listed above, is because it is something that I find really difficult to focus on when I am down. I can get really stressed out when I can’t bring myself to eat the ‘right’ things and in the past I’ve actually gone without eating at all, rather than opting for something a little less nutritious. I think that if I am not eating ‘well’, then I am not trying hard enough to get better, which brings about all sorts of unhealthy and unwanted thoughts.

Of course when my head is in the right place, I try to eat as well as I can, as a healthy diet can do wonders for your mental health. But as this isn’t something that tends to come naturally to me, I try not to push myself to focus on it first and foremost. Getting myself to eat enough calories on a regular basis can be challenging enough without the added stress of considering all the other health benefits of what I am consuming.

My point is, it is better to eat something than nothing at all. If exercise freaks you out, it is better to walk downstairs and watch TV all day than it is to lie in bed and stare at your ceiling, berating yourself for not wanting to go out and run. If social interaction scares the shit out of you, texting someone is better than being frustrated than you can’t muster the courage to actually dial a number. The important thing is to listen to your body and not put too much pressure on yourself to do all the ‘right’ things at once.

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Self Care Tricks

To finish, I want to share a few of the self care ‘life hacks’ that I have come up with over the years, that help to make sure that looking after myself on the bad days is as easy as possible.

  1. Always keep emergency food rations by your bed. If you really can’t get up, at least you can still eat.
  2. If you can’t go outside, crack a window open. Fresh air is never a bad thing.
  3. Carry an emergency wash kit in your bag at all times. If you end up staying at a friend’s, you can still feel clean when you wake up. You can also make sure that any medication you need to take is included too, so you don’t have to worry about rushing home.
  4. Vitamin tablets and Omega 3 supplements are a life saver. I do NOT recommend these over a healthy diet, but if a healthy diet is something you really struggle with, they are definitely a good back up when all you’re eating is crap.
  5. On a really bad day, set a goal of changing you bed sheets and your jammies. You’ll feel a little bit fresher and brighter for having achieved something.
  6. If you’re spending an entire day indoors, try not to spend the whole day in one room. Be adventurous, even if you just sit somewhere else for five minutes. The worst thing is when your bedroom begins to feel like a prison.

I hope you’ve found a least some of these helpful or insightful! You can find many, many more self care tips from the professionals on both the Mind and NHS websites. Also the featured image at the top of this post is from Reason’s to Stay Alive by Matt Haig, which I already recommended but will do so again, because it’s brilliant.

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