We fall, we break and we fail. But then we rise, we heal and we overcome
The last 15 months has been a true test for everyone’s mental health, courage and resilience. There are people who have never suffered from any mental health problems who all of a sudden, have developed severe anxiety, which has reduced them to having anxiety attacks and panic attacks that they’ve never experienced before. I was hopeful that after this pandemic people would be a little less judgemental, they would be kinder and a lot more willing to be open and tolerant to let people just live their lives due to experiencing things that perhaps they had been quick to judge pre-Covid 19. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to have been the case and resilience and self-care is needed more than ever. I think, however, that the last 15 months have shown a lot of people just how important it is to take time to themselves and to reconnect with life, enjoy the simple things and maybe start to slow down a little more. This is my first in a series of posts for Mental Health Month and I wanted to start with the importance of understanding self-care and how a good self-care routine is key in helping toward building resilience.
A lot of people don’t realise that self-care has multiple levels as well as different meanings to each individual person but more so, that self-care and resilience actually go hand in hand.
To start this let’s go back to basic.
Resilience is the ability to bounce back from difficulties, unforeseen circumstances and curveballs that our lives undoubtedly throw at us. It provides mental protection from emotional and mental issues.
Self-care is the foundation of health care. It is doing the things we need to do to maintain our happiness, our mental health and the ongoing development of the mind in whatever way works best for that particular person. It is clear then, by these definitions, that if you find the right self-care routine for yourself that building resilience is also at the root as, like my Granny always said; “You can’t pour from an empty cup”.
For me personally, I have battled difficulties with my mental health since I was very young. From around the age of five or six, I realised that I didn’t fit in with the “norm” and it often made me feel alone. In this series of Mental Health Month posts I will talk further and more openly about my mental health journey but needless to say it hasn’t been until now being in my early thirties that I have started to grasp my mental health properly, understanding myself and what I need to get through day to day as well as making sure it works long term and isn’t just a temporary fix.
This is the first point that I feel needs to be known and understood about self-care; It is not a temporary thing, it is something that we must constantly work at and adapt to our current circumstances to move forward.
Self-Care is all about ‘self’:
Satisfying – Intentionally and personally.
Empowering – It gives you your power back and allows easier control of situations.
Lasting – It helps get your through your day, week and month.
Fulfilling – It gives you what you need in that moment and beyond.
When talking about self-care, a common misconception many people think is that self-care is all about personal care in regards to fitness, diet, skin care, hair care etc but there can actually be up to eight different types of self-care.
These eight are broken down as follows:
- Physical – Sleep, exercise, walking, stretching, yoga and nutrition.
- Emotional – Stress management, coping mechanisms, journaling, therapy, compassion.
- Social – Boundaries, support systems, positive social media, communication.
- Spiritual – Time alone, meditation, prayer, nature, sacred places.
- Personal – Hobbies, creativity, goals, identity, authenticity.
- Space – Safety, Healthy environments, stability, clean space.
- Financial – Saving, Budgeting, money management, paying bills, boundaries.
- Work – Time management, breaks, work boundaries.
The most common thing in all of these levels is boundaries. Making sure you have a good grasp of your own boundaries in different situations is a very important part of self-care and in building resilience. When figuring out your boundaries, ask yourself “What am I comfortable to give to this person/situation? And what will I hand back to them?” It is very much a case of saying “I am comfortable to do ‘this’ however ‘this’ isn’t mine and belongs at your doorstep”. One thing I find about a lot of people is that they like to take more than what is being offered to them and many people forget to appreciate who they have. Making sure you have solid boundaries in place can help you build resilience, keep control of the situation and make sure that you are not becoming quickly depleted in the situation. Never feel guilty for setting your own unique boundaries and more so, never apologise for being assertive about them. As with the types of self-care, there are many different types of boundaries; emotional, physical, material, time, intellectual, sexual and spiritual.
For more information on how to set boundaries, finding out what your boundaries are and how to not feel guilty for asserting them, Supportiv have a great page to help.
Self-care is most definitely not a one size fits all type of deal. I, for example, need more ‘me’ time and I actively set out time every day, some days more than others, to focus on my self-care needs and making sure everything I need is being met. My husband – who is neurodiverse, which I will talk about in another post in this series – needs very minimal downtime and has a minimal set of personal needs. His downtime consists mainly of gaming when he can whether it be on a phone or console, 3D rendering on his PC or one of the only ones we have in common, going for a drive. My husband is his most relaxed, focused and funnily enough, most open for discussions, behind the wheel of a car. He has a very stringent beard care routine but aside from the basics of showering, toothbrushing and hair-brushing that is as much as he does for general self-care, this works for him though, and that is what is most important.
I have ‘Self-care Sunday’. Sunday mornings is always family time in our home and Sunday afternoon is when I make sure that from top to toe I am pampered ready for the new week ahead. I make sure that my planner is up to date; I write a list of things I want to get done that week, I make sure my fitness schedule is planned, I make sure I have some sort of meals planned for the week to keep up with my nutrition and most of all I check in with how I’m doing, if anything needs changed in the next week. If I feel someone I have been having contact with is starting to drain me a little, I’ll take note of it and give myself some space the next week from that person. If I feel that I am a bit more depleted this week due to not having as much time to myself, I will make sure I plan for more time the next week for myself. As I said in the beginning, self-care is a long-term thing and you have to be willing to constantly adapt and adjust it for what you need in the moment for long term effects.
As someone with chronic illnesses, planning is a vital for me so I know what I’m doing and when so I can make sure that my internal battery doesn’t run empty also.
It took a while for me to become comfortable with the level of self-care I need in regards to my husband but I have learned not to feel guilty about taking the time I need as it does make sure I’m being the best mother and wife for my family I can be. Don’t feel guilty if you require more self-care than others, if you have more boundaries than others, if you need to do less for a few days so you can give your best for certain days, that’s all perfectly acceptable.
If you are new to self-care start slowly and work your way up. You will be amazed at the difference of just 10-15 minutes every day to do something just for you can do to for your mental health. There are a lot of little things you can do to start off and at times that best suit you, whether it be first thing in the morning to start your day off properly, after work, while the kids are at school or once they are in bed or even just to end your day on a positive note. I know life is busy but it’s easier than you may think to spend just 10-15 minutes of your day for yourself. I recently started a new change in my day and routine where I don’t turn my phone on in the mornings until I have gotten up, gotten my boys sorted with breakfast, done a workout and then eaten breakfast. I’ve not been doing it for too long but it is actually staggering the difference in my mood and productivity by changing this one simple thing. If you are finding it difficult to change your routine to find that time, you can start with just some simple changes. Treat yourself to a new brand of tea or coffee, buy yourself a bunch of flowers or a new candle, use a face mask once to twice a week before going to bed; a lot of the fresh face masks from Lush only need to be left on for 5 minutes which you can easily do right before bed while brushing your teeth.
Starting out with self-care doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive, it can be reading a chapter a day of a book, 10 minutes of journaling, sitting down with a hot beverage of choice and even a nice little treat, giving a friend a little call just to see how they are doing, giving yourself 10-15 minutes extra time in your PJ’s before starting the day. Whatever soothes your soul. Once you become comfortable with this then you can start to expand on it and look at all the areas of self-care.
I have found that it totally depends on the week I’ve had and where I’m sitting in regards to mood and yes, my cycle, on how much self-care I need and what works best for me. There are some days I like to cuddle up and get lost in a book, do some painting or photography, in some cases just listening to music can lift my mood. I’ve had days where I can listen to music and just start to dance, either by myself or with my boys and it fills me with utter joy. In times where I am feeling more depleted than others, it takes more, perhaps watching a movie I love or haven’t seen for a while or binge watching a series I used to watch, just to get a sense of familiarity and so my mind can just process how I’m feeling and do what it needs to do.
There are times of course, where it goes deeper than this. There may be times where you have to evaluate the relationships you have in your life and reaffirm boundaries, change boundaries and ask yourself some tough questions. Is this friendship or relationship bringing something positive to your life? Have you made sure to communicate any problems you are feeling uncomfortable with to the other person and given them a chance to respond or change their actions? Do you feel you are giving more than the other person in the friendship/relationship? All of these kinds of questions can help make sure that you are giving and getting the best in each relationship you have, however, if you feel that you have done everything you can to better it, sometimes it’s time to walk away. It doesn’t matter who that person is, if they are toxic or an ‘emotional vampire’ then you don’t have to keep them in your life.
You have to do what is best for kindness to self. Sometimes that is finding new coping mechanisms and ways to handle that person or situation, sometimes it’s about changing your perspective of a situation, trying to turn it around and instead of thinking “What is it about me they don’t like?” question instead “What is it within themselves that make them act in this manor?” Give yourself a different perspective and create distance so that it can sit better within yourself so that it doesn’t eat you up. Kindness to self is key.
I know there has been a lot of information in this post and if you have stuck with me this far, thank you so much, I really appreciate your time. I genuinely hope that this helps give a better understanding of self-care and resilience and how important they are for good mental health.
Be kind to each other and more so yourself because you deserve the love you give so freely to others for yourself.
Love hard. Be fierce. Horns high.