The Importance of Self-Care

Since I started to focus more on my mental health over two years ago, I’ve been struck by how the idea of focusing on and treating my mental health the same as my physical health seemed strange and was difficult to get used too. Gradually however, I’ve begun to get used to it and to understand how the two are intertwined heavily. This wasn’t easy though and a key part of it has been understanding self-care.

While a major part of treating my mental health care properly has been seeking help through therapy and medication, something that has proven equally important for me is self-care. While self-care is often overlooked, for me it’s the important stuff that you can do each day to help look after yourself and understand what triggers and what eases your mental pain.

At first I figured self-care to be simply about sitting down, relaxing and avoiding doing things, but this was wrong. It’s about understanding what makes you feel good when you’re anxious or depressed and also being able to recognise that it’s ok to relax and take care of yourself after a tough time.

I didn’t realise it but by chatting with others about my mental health and feeling more confident in speaking about how I was feeling when I was anxious or depressed; I was doing self-care. Getting support from friends online and through peer support groups is very beneficial for me as it helps to know you aren’t alone and going out of your mind.

So with all this in mind and with Mental Health Awareness Week beginning this week (14th May – 20th May) I wanted to share some of the self-care techniques I use and which I have found to be beneficial for my mental health:

  • Mindfulness & deep breathing exercises – this is a relatively new one for me, and I can’t claim to be a regular do-er of mindfulness but I can say I have found a lot of comfort from using mindfulness exercises and deep breathing when I am extremely anxious. I recently found comfort from using the CALM app when I was feeling anxious and it relaxed me enough that I felt a little easier at facing the situation. Equally, breathing exercises which I’ve picked up from videos on panic attacks and books on anxiety work wonders. Simply sit down, back straight in a quiet room, when you’re feeling anxious and take deep breaths. In through your nose for 3-5 seconds, out through your mouth for 3-5 seconds. Doing belly breathing, where you breathe right from your stomach works really well for anxiety and panicking as well.
  • Grounding Techniques – Grounding techniques are very useful during anxious times as they do what they say by keeping you grounded in the present moment and less focused on what the anxieties going around in your head. One really good technique is the 5,4,3,2,1 technique which is where you focus on 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste.
  • Podcasts – I’ve recently taken to listening to podcasts, particularly around mental health and will be looking to do a list of ones I’ve found really useful but so far I can say I’m really loving the “Calmer You” Podcast by Chloe Brotheridge (https://www.calmer-you.com/category/podcast/page/2/) and “Go Friend Your Self” by Dr Baker (http://www.gofriendyourselfdoc.com/). Both are free to listen too and offer great tips on self-care, improving your self-esteem and how learning to love yourself more can improve your emotional well-being.
  • Books – As shown by previous posts, including my review of “We’re All Mad Here” by Claire Eastham, I love reading particularly about mental health. I find it really therapeutic to read something that is inspirational, whether or not I can relate to the particular mental health condition or not. Obviously, I am often taken by stories I can personally relate too but I love reading stories about people who’ve overcome mental health conditions and are fighting to break the stigma and raise awareness of said illness. This explains why I found Hope Virgo’s “Stand Tall Little Girl” so inspiring and beautiful to read, which I am planning on reviewing in full when I have the chance.
  • Relaxation & Taking a Break – This is the simplest, but perhaps the most important. Relaxing, taking a break and being kind to yourself when you do so is extremely important as you should not feel ashamed for needing to take a break and spending time on your own relaxing and not doing anything in particular. We always tend to beat ourselves up about not doing enough, but why not stop this and instead treat ourselves to some relaxation and not feel bad about it?
  • Sharing My Story – Obviously I was bound to say this is a good self-care technique for me, but it really does help sharing my story, whether with friends, mental health advocates or the wider public. It can be as simple as writing some words on my blog!

These are just a few of the self-care techniques I employ and find useful, there are others I could talk about but I wanted to keep this post fairly short! I’ll leave a link below to a YouTube video by the amazing Beth (also known as Miss Anxiety) about self-care and being kind to yourself, since she expresses a lot of what I agree with in much simpler and far more interesting ways!

Best Wishes ,

Peter xx

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