When was the last time you did something kind for another person? Did you offer a listening ear, a helping hand or a shoulder to cry on? So many of us do kind things for other people every day, often at the expense of ourselves. Of course, there’s nothing at all wrong with that, but how often do you pay the same attention to yourself? When was the last time you put yourself first and did something nice, just for you?
Self care. Some of us understand the importance whilst others have been conditioned to believe that self care practices are a luxury that only a few people have time for. Whatever our belief, there’s no doubt about the fact that looking after ourselves yields a fair amount of benefits. It teaches us to value our own worth, which in turn boosts self esteem and confidence; it can make us feel much more loving, improving our friendships and relationships; it also develops our generosity, which can help us to avoid building up resentment for those that require our energy and time.
I often find it difficult to remember to dedicate time to myself, especially when the grasp of my mental illness is rather tight. Something that I think may help me, and others, to practice self care more consistently is a having an easily-accessible list of activities that can be considered. Thus, this article is born.
Relax your body
Take a long, warm bath.
There’s just something about taking a bath that’s relaxing. I like to run a hot bath with tonnes of bubbles, grab a book, and lay there for up to an hour. If you fancy a special treat, how about a visit to LUSH? Their bath bombs and bubble bars are, well, lush.
Take a Nap
Whilst they’re not recommended for those of us who suffer from night-time insomnia, naps are sometimes good for restoring your energy, re-setting your brain, and using your memory. Here’s a handy little graphic that explains the result of different nap-lengths. To avoid waking up feeling groggy you’ll need to take a nap of either 10-20 minutes or 90 minutes in length.
Put the kettle on.
Is there any problem that a cup of tea doesn’t solve? Take ten minutes to yourself and grab a cuppa. Try not to drink standard tea in the evenings, as it contains caffeine; a lovely relaxing alternative is chamomile tea. For a real treat, why not buy yourself some fancy organic tea? My favourite is Pukka tea. Personally, my favourite Pukka blends are; English Breakfast to start the morning; Womankind for a fruity treat; Wild Apple and Cinammon for a warming treat and their Night Time blend for just before bed.
Go for a long walk
Or if you’re unable to walk, just try to get outside for a few minutes. Vitamin D is important. There are of course psychological benefits of taking a walk, but even just the physical benefits make it worth it. Burn some energy, tone your muscles, and let the sunlight kiss your skin.
“Everyone should have themselves regularly overwhelmed by nature”
– George Harrison
If you can, walk alongside nature. Go to the park, to a field or a nature reserve. As little as 5 minutes alongside nature can improve self-esteem and boost mood.
I know what you’re thinking. But Yoga isn’t only about achieving a spiritual state and contorting your body into strange positions. It’s actually incredibly relaxing, yet it also strengthens and tones your muscles. What other relaxing activity does that?
Here’s a simple graphic by boots that shows some of the simplest poses. If you’ve never done yoga before then this would be a great place to start. Try incorporating it into your morning routine, so that you start your day feeling refreshed and ready for challenges.
Relax your mind
We’ve all heard about meditation, and most people shrug at the idea and insist it’s a load of rubbish. I thought this initially too, but then I decided to give it a go, and guess what? It really, really helps calm the mind. There’s a fantastic movement called “Calm” by Michael Acton Smith that introduces the concept of mindfulness; I would definitely recommend giving his book a read (available here). Along with the book comes a website, and android app and an apple app, all of which allow you to choose a “scene” for your meditation (for example, the sound of rain or a summer meadow) and contain a timer. They also contain guided meditations and Body Scans as short as two minutes – on your lunch break at work, before breakfast or between lectures at school, why not try one of these out? They help you to focus on yourself, your body and the present moment which is what the concept of mindfulness is all about.
I’ve heard so many people (including myself!) say that they enjoy reading but can never seem to find the time. Why don’t we make the time for something that we know we enjoy? Try reading for 10 minutes before you get into bed, or whilst you eat your lunch on your break at work. Have a search on amazon, or perhaps a book depository (offering free delivery worldwide) for something that you might like. Even better, visit a charity shop and sift through their book section; you might pick up a gem for as little as £0.50. And don’t criticise yourself if you read slowly – I’m a slow reader and can spend 10 minutes reading the same page, but it doesn’t matter because I’m still enjoying it.
“It doesn’t matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop”
Nanoblocks are my current favourite!
You can get pretty much any type of written puzzle in app-form, and puzzle books can be bought cheaply at The Works or a charity shop. Have a hunt, see what you can find.
Colouring is the new craze amongst us grown-ups. Walk into any book shop and I can almost guarantee they’ll have a whole stand dedicated to colouring books!
– Take a break from Social Media
Sometimes we just don’t need to see what other people are doing, talk to anyone, or tweet our latest whinge. Social media can be absolutely wonderful, but so can a break from it. Set some time aside to digitally switch-off and get your self-care head on.
De-cluttering your friends lists can also be helpful. Don’t know them? Wouldn’t say hi to them in public? See them post offensive stuff? Get rid of them from your lists.
– Write a Journal
Journalling is a wonderful way of summarising everything good that happened each day. It can put you in a good mood and allow you to remember that, even on bad ones, there is something good in every day.
If you’re struggling for ideas, here’s one. At the end of each day, write down:
– 3 things that made you smile today
– 3 things that made you feel calm today
– 3 things that you are grateful for
Don’t want to commit to writing something regularly? I was given a book called “Listography” as a gift by a friend a few birthdays ago and I think it was one of the best gifts I’ve ever been given. It’s got 160 pages and each one has a different theme for a list. For example, there are pages that say “List bad things you did as a kid”, “List people you’ve lived with”, “List your favourite music artists”, “List professions you’d like to try”, etc. It’s a great way to form a kind of “autobiography” via list-making.
There are also so many other types of ‘write / draw as and when you please’ books out there. Again, a book depository is a great place to start because of the free delivery!
– Workout, if you are able. I have several disabilities and tend to stick to Yoga or light walking.
– Cook a healthy meal full of nutrients
Not only does it allow you to feed your body essential vitamins, minerals and proteins, it also enables you to spend time creating something that you’ll later get to sit down and enjoy. What’s not to like?
– Make a big smoothie
My current favourite is banana, raspberry, natural yoghurt, mango, any kind of fruit juice and spinach leaves. The spinach leaves make it a terrible colour, but doesn’t alter the taste at all and adds some yummy vitamins.
Tell me your favourite kind of self care in the comments!