I’m a bit late with this post, I know. In fairness, I started writing it just after Christmas, and January seems to have gone by in a hazy mish-mash of ‘Thank God that’s over’ and ‘shit, I’m poor.’
I find New Year quite overwhelming (now there’s a surprise!) There seems to be this overbearing expectation to turn into some sort of upgraded version of yourself. A whole new person who has their shit together; looks amazing and carefully considers everything they put into their body. (I’m not giving up Gin…. okay!? Actually, that’s not true as I’ve given up alcohol for Lent.)
As someone who, in all honesty, has had a ‘shit year’, mentally, I find this really difficult. My anxiety already kicking up a gear; making me consider all the things I’m not. All the things I do ‘wrong’; all the things I’m shit at. All the things I feel I’m lacking and feeling like a failure because I’m still not slim & beautiful, organised or conquering the world as the clock strikes midnight on NYE.
Realistically and logically, I can’t control the future any more than I can change the past. If only’s and fretting about what has happened or might happen won’t change anything. I know it, but anxiety doesn’t allow me to move forward with this mindset.
I only know this for certain: I don’t want to endure another year like the last one, so the only part of my life I resolve to improve this year is self-care.
I don’t mean that in a selfish way, not completely anyway. I am a mother and a wife and my family’s well-being will always come first but I’m going to make more of an effort to look after myself too.
Self-care ideas for those who struggle with their mental health
In truth, everyone should practice self-care/mindfulness. It’s a healthy way of life in my opinion, yet one I neglect far too often. It’s easy to forget yourself when you care for others; when you’re too busy to eat properly and trying to do it all.
The following will feel like a fraud to me because I doubt that I will practice what I preach. But it’s true, so believe it.
Self-care is vital and that’s something I have to keep reminding myself of like many other people do too. There’s only one you. And whether you believe it or not YOU ARE IMPORTANT.
I’d also like to point out that these are based on my own experiences, and not everything will appeal to or work for everyone. But in any case, I think it’s important that we each find something that helps us look after our own selves. I hope you find this helpful in some way.
Take time out for you
Yes, I know. I raised my own eyebrows, but you know what? There are 24 hours in a day, everyone can spare at least half of one for themselves.
Take some time out just for you, whether that’s after the kids have gone to bed of an evening; after you’ve dropped everyone at school or even during your lunch break at work.
Spend this time doing something you WANT to do, not something you need to do. Whether that’s pampering yourself, watching whatever Netflix show you’re into until your eyes hurt, spend some time working on a project or enjoying a hobby.
Personally, I will catch up on the soaps, binge watch YouTube videos, do my makeup or give myself a mini facial, paint my nails, draw/paint… or even just lay on the bed and try to sleep. The latter doesn’t always work depending on how I am, I need distraction and I’ve never been good at sleeping during the day. I will occasionally take myself off to bed early though, depending on whether the kids are asleep already and what shift my hubby is on.
Now, this is a tricky one for many but if you are okay with going outside, do it… as often as you can! Recently I’ve been quite anxious if I have to go out alone but fortunately, this isn’t something I HAVE to do often. I usually have someone as company.
Anxiety aside, I adore the outdoors and feel free when I’m surrounded by nature. I love birds and trees and the rain. I feel quite at home with a camera snapping away at all the beautiful things I see.
Get active if you’re able. I used to find running was great for the mind as well as the body, but alas due to pain, I’m restricted to indoor treadmills rather than hard terrain. There’s also walking, cycling, even tennis if you’re a fan!
While I have my ‘advice’ head on, I believe that everyone should find something that takes then make to their ‘happy place’ and then make it part of your everyday essential routine, without fail. It’s all about loving yourself enough to ensure you are happy and realising that life is short and in the long run, it doesn’t matter how successful you are at work or how much you ticked off your list every day if, at the end of your journey, you never enjoyed it. You never took the time to visit the beautiful garden; never read that book, never danced in the rain; never went out in what you like to wear, never took that risk, never loved like you’ve never been hurt… never made your dreams come true.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Whether that is practically or mentally, if you need support, please ask for it. This is not anywhere near as simple to do as that was to type, believe me, I know, but if you can, do. Even if it’s to ask a loved one or friend to give you a hand with the housework because everything feels too hard, or finding a support group locally or online. There are people out there to help you. Don’t ever think otherwise. You are not alone and nobody expects you to do it all.
My biggest saviour is having someone I trust implicitly to confide in. Someone I know will always be there for me even through the rough times. I am extremely lucky that I am able to have this support but even if you don’t feel like you can talk to anyone close to you, there are organisations such as The Samaritans who run helplines where you can talk to someone in confidence.
If routines keep you feeling together and secure, then have some for you too. Maybe a new skincare/shower routine to ensure you are looking after yourself each morning. Or a simple bedtime routine; gentle exercise, maybe a twilight walk, a milky drink, a warm bath, read a chapter of a book, paint your nails, pick out an outfit for tomorrow. Then listen to soothing sounds or a podcast just before you try and fall asleep. It doesn’t have to be set in stone or something you have to do every day without fail, but sometimes something to look forward to can help focus and relax the mind a little.
Another one I find difficult to do in practice. I have this thing where I automatically feel a ridiculous amount of guilt unless I accept everything asked of me. I used to think it was selfish not to, I mean it wouldn’t hurt me, would it? Only it can. My responsibility lies in making sure my family are happy, healthy, loved and well looked after. Beyond that, sometimes I need to use any energy that I have left for me. And as selfish as that sounds, it absolutely isn’t. We all deserve to put ourselves high on the priority list, and do you know why? Because none of us are any use to anyone else if we are ill. If we are so burnt out that we can barely function; if our stress levels are so high we lose focus on what is important. Learn to say no. It’s not selfish, it just means you are taking control of you and prioritising what is actually important.
Stop being hard on yourself
This one is the hardest one for me. I have a tendency to blame myself for everything and I’m my own worst critic like many other people are too.
I get things wrong, I run out of time, I procrastinate, I lose my shit when I should just breathe. But that’s okay. It’s called being human, and I need to remember that.
Nobody and I mean NOBODY is perfect. You are enough, you are loved, you deserve good things and you are only human.
Write to yourself
This might sound strange but it’s a great way to learn to be kind to yourself. I listened to a podcast a few months ago that encouraged listeners to take a moment and imagine themselves as a small child (or your best friend if that feels better to you). Think about how you feel about yourself, your worries, things you want to do differently, things you might feel ashamed or angry about and respond as if you were a young child.
How differently; how more kindly would you respond?
This is how you should treat yourself. Gently, kindly; with compassion, with a soothing, comforting word. No judgement, no punishment. I think it’s nice to write this down so that you can re-read it when you need to. Trust me, it was a eye-opener for me and really makes you realise how hard you can be on yourself.
I think being kind to ourselves, putting ourselves first from time to time and allowing ourselves to take a step back and notice the little things in life, is a healthy way to live.
Just remember, you are worth the time.