As we probably know by now, life isn’t always sunny and happy. It can be devastating and difficult and often sucks – a lot. This is especially true if you have a mental illness. Some days, when everything feels hopeless, it can be easy to fall into a pit of despair. It can be difficult to get out of bed in the morning, maintain your relationships, and even do the most basic things. This is where self-care comes in. With increasing awareness of mental health issues, the internet has become a resource for self-care tips. Some work for everyone and some don't. These are the ones that work for me, and I want to impart my knowledge onto people so everyone can feel their best in tough times.
1. Breathe. Probably the most basic of them all, remember to breathe. Take 3 deep breaths: in through your nose, out through your mouth. Be aware of your breathing patterns. Be aware that you’re alive, you’re still here, and you will make it through whatever it is that’s upsetting you. Do this a few times a day.
2. Remember to do essential things. It can be easy to forget to tend to your basic needs when you’re feeling stressed, depressed, or down. Self-care isn’t all about caring for emotions, it’s also about caring for your body. If you haven’t showered today, shower. Remember to eat some food and drink water. Get out there and exercise. Take a nap. Do whatever you need to get your body feeling healthy.
3. Unplug. This one is incredibly helpful for me. For an hour or a day or two, put your phone on airplane mode, don’t use your laptop, and disconnect from the universe for a bit. Seeing upsetting news headlines, people, or events can really take a toll on one’s mental health.
4. Call your mom, dad, sister, brother, or best friend. Self-care should make you feel nurtured and loved. There are few people who are better at that than your parents, your sibling, your best friend, or anyone else important to you. Hearing the voice and affirming words of someone who loves you and whom you love in return can fill you with positive, happy feelings.
5. Get outside. Being outside, especially when you've been cooped indoors all day watching Netflix, can do wonders for mental health. If you live in an area full of grass and forests, great! Get out there for half an hour and sit down. Be quiet. Reflect on yourself. If you live in an urban area, go to the nearest park and let the world pass by as you are one with your mind.
6. Clean your room. When I have a depressive episode, my room, desk, and living space in general tends to be an absolute mess. For me, it’s extremely relieving and cathartic to organize everything and feel as though I have control over my items again. Besides, if I don’t do it now, the mess will get even worse.
7. Feel. Just let your emotions run free. We often label emotions as “good” or “bad,” which isn’t very healthy. Have you ever seen Inside Out? If you’re feeling sad, upset, angry, depressed, or heartbroken, it’s okay. Really. Laugh when you can, cry when you need to. When you learn to accept your feelings you can make peace with them easier.
8. Change up your routine. Routines lead to monotony, monotony leads to boredom, and boredom leads to stress. It’s a vicious cycle in which humans trap themselves and it ultimately ends badly. Completely change up your day. If you usually eat cereal for breakfast, make some eggs. Take a different route to work or school. A simple change in a routine helps me feel like I have control over my life and I'm stuck in Groundhog Day.
9. Meditate, say a prayer, read poetry. When your body and feelings sync up, it’s important to get your mind in the game too. Do something spiritual or inspirational. There are a lot of ways to heal yourself through the words of people or things other than yourself. The prayer for serenity has always helped me in tumultuous times.
10. Make your favorite meal.
11. Reflect on what it is you're thankful for. Being thankful isn't just for Thanksgiving. Often, humans are so caught up in their personal turmoil that they seem to forget their favorite things in life. In the midst of these struggles, think for a moment about what gifts in life you've received and what gifts you can give to the world. Reflect on what and whom you love. Reflect on your personal talents. Give yourself a veritable ego boost. What are your good qualities and talents? What do you contribute to the world?
12. Remember, "this too shall pass." Bad times can seem insurmountable when you're experiencing them. But don't forget that they aren't forever. You shoulder the rough times and you get through them as you see fit. It may be helpful to write a letter to your future self, reminding you that things ultimately do improve. When you open the letter months later, you remind yourself that you're much stronger than you thought. And it's true: you are strong, you are valid, and you are amazing.
I hope these self-care tricks help you out of whatever slump you're in currently. You can do it. I believe in you.