Mental Health Awareness Month is coming to a close, but that doesn’t mean we have to stop being aware of our mental health. Trends in maintaining mental health have only just recently elevated to the status of becoming a “fad”, and with that status, evolved into the butt of a couple of jokes, including this hilarious CollegeHumor skit over on their YouTube channel. In a society that centers around consumerism, and praises financial success, self care has started to become synonymous with treating yourself, or more accurately, spoiling yourself. While pampering yourself every once and a while when you have the means can never truly a bad thing, it’s important to remember what the basics of self care are, and work your way up from there.
So if you’re suffering with depression, anxiety, an ED, or any other mental illness, here’s your reminder to take care of yourself today, and some tips to motivate yourself to do it.
This may seem obvious to you, but when you’re suffering with a chronic mental illness, or simply overwhelmed by your daily life, sometimes even basic hygiene slips from our top priorities. When you’re running on zero to low energy, it can be tempting to simply roll into bed and lather up your hair with dry shampoo the next morning or throw on a hat, but try to fight against that urge. If you’re feeling you don’t have the time or energy, keep your showers short, or, if it just doesn’t seem worth it to you, make it an occasion! Buy some bath salts, a bath bomb, or just some essential oils and give yourself a mini “spa day”.
Do your laundry
Laundry is one of those things we also wind up telling ourselves we can just do later. And then, when we go to our t-shirt drawer, and realize we’re out of stuff to wear, we tell ourselves we’ll just re-wear a shirt for one more day. And then another. Before it stacks up and starts to become several loads of wash, make laundry a commitment. Wearing day-old clothes will really start to wear on your morale, and you don’t want that. Make a date with the laundromat or your washing machine, and be punctual. And why not treat yourself to some nice smelling dryer sheets - nothing feels better than slipping on a warm, cleanly dried shirt that smells of fresh lavender.
Exercise and stay healthy
When you’re suffering from a bout of low-energy, or just generally feeling ill, stepping outside the house might feel like too big of a challenge. I promise you, there are ways you can make it fun for yourself. If running or going to the gym is too high-impact for you, looking into some other activities that might be more your style - swimming, yoga, or even simply going for a walk. If you’ve always hated running, I especially recommend the Zombies, Run! app for your phone - nothing’s more motivating than having a zombie chase after you! Additionally, you may be tempted to stay on the ramen and instant-oatmeal diet, or in other words, anything that only requires you to add water. If you’re struggling to eat at all, I applaud you for reach for the Instant Lunch - even a unhealthy meal is better than none at all. But try to challenge yourself to eat some variety as well. If you’re out of meal ideas, Pinterest is a great place to look up easy but healthy dishes you can make, even on a slim budget.
Hydrate and eat food
Have you hydrated today? Not drinking enough water can make you foggy, and while drinking 64 oz a day isn’t exactly a cure-all, it’s not a bad habit to create. If you work in a pretty sedentary location, fill up a pitcher of water or a large water bottle and keep it handy all day. If you’re at school, try to drink a 24 oz bottle throughout the day. And don’t just snack all day. Or eat nothing. When you’re suffering with depression, anxiety, or any other mental illness it can be easily to go an entire day and completely forget whether you’ve eaten anything or not, or simply lose your appetite altogether. A good way to keep track of this may be to make lunch dates with friends, or make plans to cook dinner with someone else. You’ll feel more inclined to eat, even if you have no appetite for it, if eating is a part of a fun event, rather than just a chore.
Take care of your body
Beyond just maintaining your hygiene and making sure you’re always hydrated and well fed, remember to generally just take care of your own body. Use a moisturizer for your skin. Make a DIY hair mask to calm the frizzies, or to tamp down grease. Get a haircut if you need one, or a waxing, or a massage. Don’t skimp out on the doctor’s if you’re feeling ill. Your body is important, and taking care of it should be priority number one.
If you’re feeling scattered, overwhelmed, or all over the place, rather than letting panic spiral and trying to push passed it, stop. Take a breath. Give yourself a moment, and take it slow. Take an hour, or several, or a day, and commit yourself to getting organized. Making lists always makes me feel a little bit better, as does throwing out clutter. Take a look at your everyday surroundings. Have you allowed dishes to pile up? Junk mail to go unsorted? Cleaning and throwing things out can be an incredibly cleansing activity, especially if you give yourself the space to take as much time as needed to get it done. Make it about feeling like your best self; not about looking like your best self.
Take a break
When things truly begin to get too much, take a sick day. It may feel like you don’t qualify for one, but if you have the means, do it. Make it happen, whatever it takes, before it’s too late and you burn out, and wind up becoming physically ill anyhow. Because that will happen. Take a day to do all of the things on this list, and then some. Play some video games, have a movie marathon. Order a pizza, make yourself a cup of tea (or two), light some candles, listen to your favorite album, whatever it means to take a day and do whatever it is that lets you rest and restore yourself.
Have a first-response buddy
Or two. Or three. Honestly, have as many of your friends as you can agree to be a “first response buddy”. This is someone you can text or call when it all begins to feel like too much, so you have someone to talk to - or even better, hang out with - until those impulses begin to fade away. But be sure to have more than one person on your “first-responder” list, and be sure to communicate honestly with them about what you need, and understand what they agree to do and not do. You don’t want to overwhelm your friends. Every once and while, people need space, and that’s okay. Have a circle of six or more people you can rely on when things get tough, and if someone needs space when you reach out, give them that space, and move on to the next person on the list.
Phone a friend
Or, if a friend isn’t available, please don’t be afraid to reach out to a medical professional. If things are really bad, please consider talk therapy, or if you’re incredibly opposed to traditional therapy options, or simply can’t afford or make an appointment soon enough, please don’t hesitate to reach out to a helpline. If you’re too nervous to make a call, try one of the many online chat room options that can be used to reach out on topics from everything from suicidal ideation, to self harm, depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. 7 Cups of Tea and or the Lifeline Crisis Chat are two very good online crisis chat services I can vouch for. You can also reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Is it daytime right now? Are you still wearing pajamas? You might want to get changed. If low-energy, sluggishness, or depressiveness is something you struggle with, wearing your sleeping clothes during daylight hours can only add to this effect, as things like “daytime” versus “nighttime” clothing fall under triggers which tell our body that it’s time to sleep rather than be awake and ready to get stuff done. Or better yet, go shopping! If you’re in a tight bind financially, make a trip to your nearest thrift store or clothing consignment shop and buy yourself something at a discount. Nothing makes you feel more like a new person than literally wearing a new set of clothes. It may seem superficial, but it may also be just the thing to trigger a positive upswing.