what is self care?

2021, mental health

Hello!

I feel like I know what self care is, right? It’s women on Instagram having a pamper night with a sheet mask, a bath bomb and a partner who’s prepared to take arty photos in the candle light. It’s taking time away from social media and listening to what your body wants, whether it’s a Netflix binge, a long walk or a cupcake.

Maybe it’s taking some time for yourself, maybe it’s having a shopping spree and buying something new, maybe it’s having a healthy routine and meditating and getting enough sleep at night.

This week has been stressful – I finished my contract in my previous job and didn’t know what was coming next. I’m not good at handling change and I’m really not good at knowing what to do with myself when there is an expanse of nothing with no end date – I was excited about having some time off, but my mental health dive bombed and I didn’t know what to do with myself. I’ve been applying for jobs all week in between not being able to get off the sofa, really having to convince myself to eat proper meals, not making it through the day without a nap and then not sleeping until the clock reads ‘am’, which I haven’t done for a long time.

(I did get a job on Friday though, so the ‘never ending expanse of unemployment’ was only a week, which is nice)

But that’s not what I want to write about – I’m trying to listen to my body, I’m trying to figure out how to help myself. I’m going to bed early, I’m making an effort to eat vegetables and not eat all the chocolate and drink all the coca cola I’m craving. I’ve spent time doing my cross stitch project while watching a lot of House MD on Amazon Prime. I’m making to do lists and trying to do something ‘productive’ each day because I know it helps me feel like I’m doing something more meaningful. But I feel more dissociated and distant than I’ve ever felt before.

Self care can’t just be face masks and bubble baths and meditation? Surely there’s got to be something I can do to make myself feel better, right?

I mean, reading a book about a teenager being stalked by a serial killer and demonstrating her somewhat terrifying knowledge about crime scenes whilst suffering from severe PTSD about one of the previous cases she solved in the other books in the series probably isn’t helping, but I also just want to finish it so it’s done and I can read something a bit cheerier.

I’ve seen lots of tiktoks recently about the chronic failings of the British government in the middle of a mental health crisis – a crisis line that suggests baths and meditation and doesn’t help even when people ask to be sectioned and admitted for mental instability. It feels patronising.

So, what’s the point? What is self care? Does it even matter when the medical professionals we’re meant to be able to confide in and trust are prescribing having a wash and lighting a candle to do some breathing exercises?

I think self care is an overrated term – I know that making an effort with my sleep, not engaging with media and entertainment (and books) that mess with my brain and giving myself some structure will help me feel more control. Baths make me feel vulnerable, I find walks boring and meditating makes me think too much. A sheet mask isn’t going to help my physical anxiety symptoms, painting my nails won’t help me cope with change and writing in a journal about my feelings isn’t helpful right now.

Sometimes you’ve just got to ride the wave and remember that you’ve made it through this before and you will do it again.

(but any and all suggestions of things you do to feel better than you need ‘self care’ are more than welcome please)

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

when the world feels heavy

2021, mental health

Hello,

I haven’t really had any inspiration to write recently and that’s usually a subconscious sign that I’m hitting burn out. I’ve been running on empty for a little while now – getting out of bed approximately 10 minutes before I need to start work, doing my 9-5 from my home office, cooking dinner and sitting on the sofa until bedtime.

Now that I’ve recognised that I’m running on empty, I’m giving myself permission to step back from the manic, productive life I’ve prescribed myself – putting basic self care tasks like showering and emptying the kitchen bins on my to do list and not worrying about things like blog posts and instagram posts that aren’t essential.

But it still feels like a lot – I feel like everything is blurry, like I have a long list of everything I need to do but I can’t focus on it. There’s a weight on my chest and an ache in my knees and I can’t sit still but everything wears me out. It’s one huge paradox of wanting to be better and productive and make time to really relax, but feeling like I’m trying to walk through water and everyone is speaking to me in a language I don’t understand.

I need to do this, I need to be here, I need to remember to do that, I have to be an ‘adult’, I have to buy this and save for that and more and more and more.

And the thing is – I’m not special or unique or alone in this; everyone is busy, everyone feels weighed down and everyone has it hard. Everyone’s been through ‘a lot’ – everyone’s lived through trauma, but that doesn’t mean we all have to handle it the same way.

The world may weigh the same but that doesn’t mean everyone can carry it.

Paired with the relentless news of global despair, waiting for my second vaccine dose and the impending 25th birthday that feels oddly significant, it’s all feeling like a lot right now. And I’m struggling.

But what is helping is knowing where to put my priorities – I can’t afford time off work right now, so most of my energy goes to that. After work I wind down by cooking dinner (I’m still super hyped about HelloFresh – click here if you want a discount!) and watching whatever American medical drama I’m in the mood for (if my fiancé is home it’s Grey’s Anatomy, otherwise I’ve just started The Resident and I dip into House and The Good Doctor every now and then) whilst I try to potter on my laptop with whatever gentle task I’ve set myself – recently it’s been researching fireworks for my wedding or looking up dance classes to start in September.

Then I go up to bed regardless of how early it is and generally I read my book till I fall asleep. Then I do it all over again.

So far, I haven’t recuperated any energy at all but I haven’t had a full on raging breakdown so I consider that a success.

Sometimes the world feels heavy. Sometimes a bath and a face mask isn’t going to solve everything. But learning to listen to your body is a journey and every step is progress.

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

self care tips for when getting out of bed is hard

2021, lifestyle, mental health

Hello!

I’m not qualified to give advice on mental health, but I have been living with a mental health condition that has been somewhat deteriorating as the pandemic goes on, so I thought I’d collate a list of tips and tricks I’ve been putting into practice over the past few months that can make day to day life a little bit easier, when life is already hard enough.

  • if you need to shower, have a 2 in 1 shampoo and conditioner so you only really need to use one product and it feels less intimidating. It’ll only take a few minutes (depending on how efficient your shower is) and hopefully you’ll feel better for being all fresh and clean (clean, new pyjamas are always wonderful after a shower too).
  • sticking with the theme of washing, doing dishes is one of the things I find so hard when I’m feeling low but the longer you leave it, the more it piles up and the worse it feels. If you do feel up to do anything (no judgement from me if you don’t), fill one washing up bowl, fill it with hot water and some bubbles and make your way through that one bowl. Put on some boppy music, get the washing up gloves on and just get through the one bowl. I find having a definitive end makes something much easier. If you’d rather, set a ten minute timer and do whatever you can in ten minutes – even doing a little bit is better than nothing.
  • You’ve got to eat even if you don’t feel like it, but this one is worth a bit of preparation on a good day in advance – either, batch cook and freeze a portion of something easy that you can defrost and microwave or have some microwave meals or easy frozen food like chicken nuggets in the freezer, that way you know you can feed yourself without it becoming a big hurdle to climb over. If it’s got vegetables in, that’s a bonus, if you just need some oven chip potato-y goodness, you do you.
  • Download a habit app for the basic things – not only will it serve as a physical reminder to do them every day, but ticking it off can be a great hit of endorphins when you really need them! I have reminders every day for brushing my teeth, moisturising and taking my medication and it’s useful not only to remind me to do those things, but it lets me know when I’ve stayed up too late as well.
  • Little tasks like watering any house plants, painting your nails or writing a new to do list are smaller things (at least for me) that feel more achievable and avoid doing the ‘big scary tasks’ for a little bit. If you’re feeling a bit more motivated (or want to do another one of those productive procrastination tasks like making lists) maybe you can take the ‘big scary’ task and break it down into smaller ones to make it feel more manageable. Then if you want, set a timer for an hour or so to work on whatever it is you need to do, but know that end he end of that hour you’ve achieved something and that’s enough!
  • Change your clothes – even if it’s from pyjamas you’ve slept in to clean pyjamas and taking your hair down, brushing it and putting it back up again can make you feel so much fresher.

These are only little things, but on days where you can’t bring yourself to get out of bed till the late afternoon, little things like this can make all the difference. The psychological impact of feeling like we need to be on it 16 hours a day is so damaging and so hard to get out of.

When I drafted this post I wasn’t working a 9 to 5 job from home and now that I am, this kind of self care on bad days is much more difficult to implement. But I think taking it slow, communicating with your managers or whoever when you need to, and just doing what you can is enough to get through it.

Being gentle with yourself is the only way anyone can get through a pandemic – take it one day at a time, do what you can and advocate for yourself when you need to. You can to this – this will end.

Thank you for reading – I hope you and your loved ones are happy, healthy and staying safe!

Sophie xx

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trying to maintain a routine with bad mental health

2020, mental health, organisation

Hello!

Small disclaimer – this post is about mental health and although speaking from experience, I am not a trained professional and what works for me will not conclusively work for everyone. If you are concerned about your mental wellbeing, please book an appointment with your doctor or if you’re in crisis contact one of these support agencies or call 999.

When someone says they’re going through a low period with their mental health, the stereotypes suggest that person is finding it more difficult to find joy, doesn’t leave their room or house and doesn’t want to socialise. Whilst these can all be true, what people don’t often talk about are the more physical responses that make mental illness incredibly difficult to live with – stress headaches that painkillers don’t help, digestive issues, constant feelings of nausea, not sleeping well or sleeping too much at the wrong time, alongside the lack of motivation to even to basic things to take care of yourself including showering, cleaning and making food.

When someone is in this state of mental illness, one thing they often crave is feeling normal again – wanting to feel more productive, wanting to not feel the need to burst into tears and the thought of the washing up; wanting to feel like themselves again. Creating a normal routine when you’re not in a normal headspace can be incredibly challenging and needs a lot of patience and gentle encouragement that someone feeling that ill often doesn’t give themselves.

But there are little changes you can make that are small enough to not feel overwhelming but big enough to hopefully make you feel a little bit better each day. I’m still figuring out what works best for me, but these are a few things I’m trying to make part of my new routine.

  • make a list

I’m a big list maker and I appreciate that not everyone needs to write down everything to have a sense of what they’re going to achieve each day, but when your brain feels like absolute mush, having a list can help take circling thoughts and make them feel more concrete. Even if that list is brush teeth, eat breakfast, shower, eat lunch, eat dinner, brush teeth then it serves as a visual reminder to do those things and you know that you’ve taken some basic steps to look after yourself even when you really don’t want to. Good job!

If those kinds of things don’t work for you (personally it makes my list feel way too long and overwhelming), try making a three point to do list – one high priority task, one medium priority task and one low priority task. For me at the moment, my high priority task is job hunting (but I only spend an hour doing this otherwise it gets too much), my medium priority task is doing my daily writing for NaNoWriMo and my low priority task is a craft activity, because doing something physical but inevitably inconsequential is really relaxing for me!

Making lists that work for you can be a massive learning curve, but give yourself permission to learn from what doesn’t work and start small and build up – things will get better!

  • turn that list into a schedule

Again, potentially a little niche, but the one reason I find myself continually going back to education is that I like the structure of having a timetable and knowing when something will start and end. When I was working on my dissertation I found it really useful to schedule an hour or two and know that after that time I could stop but I’d still done an hour of work and that actually made me work better in that hour.

If I’d done this the five months before my diss was due I definitely wouldn’t have needed an extension, but we learn from our mistakes or something.

But a schedule works really well for me! I’ve started using an app called Tiimo, as recommended by Paige Layle on tiktok, which is a scheduling app that has cute little icons and is really easy to use, as well as sending notifications to both my phone and my smart watch about what I’ve planned for when.

My favourite thing about tiimo as that I don’t see it as a concrete schedule – I get notifications about what I should be doing things but sometimes I need to laze on the sofa and play Animal Crossing and maybe have an accidental nap. But tiimo just assumes I’m doing what I’ve scheduled and congratulates me when I’ve finished a task! Having a schedule that doesn’t feel concrete and feels more like gentle guidance I’ve found is really great for me mentally and gives me the freedom to choose whilst also giving me the structure of a routine if I feel ready for it.

  • don’t spend all day sitting in the same place

Speaking of spending all day on the sofa – if you feel mentally capable, try and move and do different tasks in different places. Even if you just sit and watch YouTube or Netflix in different places, I guarantee that not sitting on the sofa all day will make you feel less sluggish by the end of the day.

I try and start my day sitting at the table I use as a desk, maybe sitting on the sofa for lunch or in the afternoon and then even going up to bed early with my laptop and sitting up there for a bit I feel much better than if I’ve sat on the sofa in the morning and not moved until I go up to bed.

Obviously if you live somewhere bigger than a one bedroom house, it’ll be easier to find some variety but make the most of what you’ve got – if you feel up to it, rearranging your space can be therapeutic too!

The step up from this is actually going for a walk outside or maybe even doing exercise, but when you feel physically ill with headaches and tummy aches the thought of doing anything too physical can just make it worse. Work up to it.

  • have regular mealtimes (and try and eat at least 3 fruits/vegetables a day)

Having regular anchor points throughout the day can break it up a little bit and making getting up in the morning feel a little less intimidating. I’m a creature of habit and though I don’t always eat breakfast, I usually start making lunch at 12pm and aim dinner for 6pm not because I’m hungry (though I usually am) but because that’s when I expect to do it.

Listening to your body and knowing when you’re actually hungry is a difficult skill to learn, especially when your body can tell you you’re hungry when in fact you’re bored, thirsty or procrastinating.

Eating healthy and preparing food isn’t always easy, but things like peas and sweetcorn can be done in the microwave, many green beans only need to be boiled for a few minutes and most vegetables can be laid on a baking tray in the oven for 20 minutes and taste amazing with a bit of seasoning. There are lots of ways to eat healthy with little preparation and cheaply and although chucking more chicken nuggets and chips in the oven or a ready meal in the microwave feels easier, if you can, putting in a little effort will do wonders in the long run, even just to prove to yourself that you can do it.

  • give yourself time for a routine before bed but don’t put any pressure on yourself to sleep

Many people have trouble with sleep regardless of their mental state, but when you’re low and you can’t sleep, everything feels worse and it becomes this awful cycle of looking at the clock, wishing you were already asleep, lying with your eyes open and starting the circle again.

Having a routine and giving yourself time to wind down, whether it’s a skincare routine, reading a book, watching YouTube videos or playing mindless phone games, the change of pace will hopefully help.

When you do eventually settle down to sleep, don’t put pressure on yourself to fall asleep by a certain time and if you don’t have to, let yourself compensate in the morning. I know I’m fortunate, in a way, at the moment to not be working or have any reason to get up at a certain time, but sleeping until my body needs me to even if it’s much later than I really want to is more important for my mental and physical health in the long run than forcing myself to pretend to be this super productive morning person I can’t be at the moment.

 

Mental illness is unpredictable and bloody inconvenient at the best of times – but it doesn’t last forever. It is an episode and it will end, however much it feels like it won’t. Learning to deal with your new ‘normal’ in the present, especially in a pandemic – is all anyone can expect from you, including yourself. You are not alone and things will get better.

Thank you for reading – I hope you and your loved ones are happy, healthy and staying safe!

Sophie xx

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top 5 self care tips

2018, mental health

Hello!

I’ll be honest, this week has already been tough and it’s only Wednesday – I won’t go into details but it has made me think about what I need to do to look after myself, and I’m working on listening to my body more and making sure I was doing something that wasn’t detrimental for me in the long run.

The thing with self-care is that it’s all very personal – you can watch a hundred different self care videos and read blog posts but none of them will be a quick fix or perfect for you, not quite anyway. But they can give you ideas – something to try that maybe you hadn’t thought of, different things work for different people but sharing what works for an individual might be useful for someone else, which is why we should share!

I’ve made a video on this before – it was about a year ago and things have changed since then which is why I want to talk about it again.

(But here it is in case anyone fancies a watch!)

So this is my new list of self care practices that I’m using right now!

  1. Properly resting – not keeping myself busy, or trying to tick something off my to do list. Not necessarily sleeping but taking time to just watch TV or YouTube without doing anything else – not trying to multitask. Giving my brain a break and not trying to max out productivity at all time. And also sleeping more regularly – I go to bed about 10pm and get up between 7am and 8am and that’s working quite well for me at the moment.
  2. Spending time cooking – I find cooking really therapeutic and when I’m making something that doesn’t involve just chucking it in the oven and serving it, when I really cook and make something from scratch it’s just so satisfying. Especially where I’m really trying to focus on my diet and losing weight at the moment (which is proving quite the challenge for my mental health, I’m incredibly self aware of dark though patterns, it’s draining) so cooking with lots of vegetables and knowing exactly what’s going in to what I’m eating and it makes the diet a bit easier on the brain. But spending an hour so a night on making dinner just really helps me focus and relax.
  3. Talk to someone supportive – this is quite a personal one, as I’m aware that not everyone is lucky enough to have someone supportive in their circle that they trust to talk to when they’re feeling down, but I’m so glad that I have someone that does. But there are some people that are the opposite of supportive – they make you feel like a literal pile of poo because they don’t understand, saying things like ‘it’s fine just calm down’, ‘just cheer up’ or even ‘you don’t have depression or anxiety, stop attention seeking’ (all real life examples) and those people 1) aren’t worth your time and 2) when you’re feeling low anyway, just don’t surround yourself with these people if it’s possible. Seek support in the people that really love and care about you.
  4. Spend some time outside – a gentle walk (as opposed to an exercise walk, I’m very unfit so walking is exercise for me), just sitting in the garden or even sit near an open window if that’s what works for you but just being near fresh air, taking a deep breath and having a few moments of calm can be really beneficial, especially if you’re in a moment of panic. Maybe meditate if that’s your jam! I’d like to be at a point that exercise is my go to when I’m feeling low or anxious but I’m not there yet, because I’m very unfit but the wheels are in motion and it’s officially a work in progress.
  5. Listen to your body – sometimes, all you want to do is lie in bed and sob uncontrollably and not have dinner because you messed up a new recipe and the thought of eating is scary and makes you feel physically ill (cough cough), this probably isn’t the healthiest tip but sometimes, you need to just let yourself be sad. The important bit of this part is if you’re going to let yourself wallow, is that you don’t continue it – it’s a short term thing! Let yourself be sad and not eat (just, an example) for that one night or one day and then the following day, eat properly, get some stuff done, get back to it. Letting yourself wallow in feelings isn’t a bad thing as long as you know it’s temporary and short term. Maybe you won’t feel better the next day but the wallowing is done.

I’m not a mental health professional and I don’t recommend that anyone takes any advice from this, I know that I like engaging with content like this because talking about mental health is important and should be talked about. I don’t know if this will help, but I’m trying.

Mental health is a tricky topic – it’s incredibly individual and what works positively for one person might not have the same effect on someone else, so it’s about working on listening to your own body and figuring out what makes that ache in your chest go away.

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

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taking a break – disappearing from the internet

2017, lifestyle, photography, student

Hello,

It’s been a long time since I last uploaded a blog post. In fact, I didn’t upload anything at all in July – the last post I wrote was about the 24 hour gaming marathon I did at the end of June and then July just got away from me.

I felt like I needed July – June was so manic busy and I just thought July was going to be my month for myself. And in a way it was because I didn’t blog at all in the month. But it was because I was quite busy and I had a lot going on in my head and I just couldn’t focus enough to write a blog post.

I needed space – I’ve talked about how I’ve been having a bit of a blogging crisis recently and most of it is because I gave myself a schedule of uploading three times a week and whilst the regularity was good for me at the time and it made me upload consistently, I felt so detached and ingenuine in what I was writing. Everything felt formulaic and as if I was doing it for followers and that’s not what I want from my blog and I’ve figured out a way to try and combat this.

Rather than making a list of ideas and allotting them to specific days and uploading three days a week and sticking rigidly to a schedule, the way I’m going to try having a list of post ideas and just working on them one at a time – writing one out, playing around with the draft and making it the best it can be and making sure I have good pictures without giving myself the time limit or the deadline of getting it up by a certain time on a certain day.

I want my posts to be more genuine and be a truer reflection of me – I feel like my blog and the words on it aren’t an expression of who I am and I want to spend the time on my blog to make my words mean something.

I miss writing, even writing this post feels a little bit like coming home and I’m glad to have got the ball rolling again. Having a month off was completely unexpected, but I think I needed it to reach a conclusion, make a plan and find the focus to want to get my love for blogging back.

I’m not sure any of this made sense, but I’m excited and glad to be writing again.

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

 

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Depression | Update Monday

2016

Hello,

I’d be lying if I said that these past couples of months hadn’t been a struggle. I’ve been trying to document my workout regime and weight loss and the writing of a 100,000 word book in two months but it’s not been anything like that and every other post has been a story of extreme ups and downs.

This month I’ve been feeling very sporadically – I’ll be sad for absolutely no reason (which is literally what depression is, I know) with no kind of stimulus, it’s just like my brain shuts down and my chest hurts and I don’t want to move and I just want to sit and eat and not exist.

In June I was busy, productive and happy – I was packing to move out of halls, I was getting lots of shifts at work. My mind was occupied both in terms of having something to do and in that I was blogging every day so creatively I was completely on top of everything – every post seemed to be about organisation in June because that was how I felt, super organised and in control.

Since then I’ve just felt empty. I’m still blogging and I did a lot of editing for YouTube and I’m trying to be as creative as I can be. I’m working as much as I can and trying to keep myself busy but I just don’t feel as satisfied, I don’t feel like I’m doing anything. The only way I can describe how I feel a lot of the time is sadness, in it’s simplest, most basic form.

I don’t want to sleep – every night I just lie awake and it’s like my body is trying to punish itself because I just have no desire to sleep. I think such awful, dark thoughts that I actually scare myself, I’m surprised that I’m letting myself think these things.

Often I just feel completely lack lustre and have no energy, even to do things that normally make me really happy – like writing, making videos and even working out, to some extent.

And don’t even get me started on feeling tired literally 100% of the time.

That’s why I couldn’t stick to working out or actually rewriting my book – because I’m genuinely afraid of failure and to face that I’m already failing by being so behind, just makes me want to ignore it and not acknowledge it but I can’t; I feel guilty for not being motivated.

I’m so scared of getting help, the thought of trying to tell another human being what goes on in my head, particularly when they’re a GP Doctor who really doesn’t care about me at all and won’t believe anything I have to say as anything more than ‘she’s a hormonal student being melodramatic’.

I’ve tried talking to people, people I trust and a couple of professionals but no one quite seems to get it and a lot of the time I get told that I’m definitely feeling one way when I know that inside I’m not. I can’t go through that again.

I don’t really know what I’m doing or the point of this post. I am getting better at handling myself and trying to push through the down days and pull myself out of it.

I guess I’m okay, just not right now.

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

 

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