Self care is not a one off task. You can’t just take a few days off, get a massage, have some solitude and consider that insurance for a life time.
What is self care?
Self care is a pattern of habits, gently repeated regularly to nurture your mind, body, heart and soul. It is a system of health maintenance.
Daily self care strategies can be as simple as eating well, drinking enough water, taking your vitamins, turning of electronic devices for an hour each day, leave the desk for lunch, get 15 minutes of sun.
There are many articles, resources and experts on self care. Dozens of books, hundreds of blogs and websites. I particularly enjoyed Cheryl Richardson’s book “The art of extreme self care” Cheryl teaches self care from her own personal experiences. You can buy it quite cheaply on Amazon
“ …. when we care for ourselves deeply and deliberately, we naturally begin to care for others— our families, our friends, and the world—in a healthier and more effective way.” Cheryl Richardson
This post is not another list of self care tips.
I want to discuss the bigger picture of self care as I see it. The concept of self care is widely bantered about. Committing to a routine of self care is fine and dandy however not all self care is fun, especially if you are feeling physically unwell, depressed or anxious.
When experiencing a mental or physical health episode we often hear from our care givers that we need to practice self care….and inwardly groan. How do you look after yourself when you don’t want to? What should you prioritize your energy on?
You may be practicing self care because you know it is good for you or you have been advised to by your health care professional or it’s the only thing keeping you going. It’s not always enough.
So then what? What do you so when you are ticking of those self care lists, doing nice stuff for yourself, you are socializing even when you don’t want to, exercising when you want to sleep and eating salad when you just want a muffin and you are not getting any better?
For me, there is more to self care than attending to a list of activities. I personally believe there are a few “Bigger Picture” items to consider as self care which set the ground work for those lists of tactics to work.
Ask for help
I found asking for help painful and terrifying. I am usually the helper, the nurturer. That role comes easily; being the one in need frankly sucks! Anyway it took me months to admit to myself I was in trouble let alone admitting to anyone else. Once the confession had been made there would be no turning back. Once people knew I could no longer pretend all was okay.
Yes asking for professional help can be very scary. We fear judgement, dependence on medication or other people. Asking family or friends for help is scary too because we imagine it might cause them pain to see our vulnerability or pain.
Sometimes we actually need help getting the right help.
A friend in need once told me afterwards that she would not have attended counselling if I hadn’t made the appointment for her and driven her there to be in the car park when she got out.
Even once I had told my family that I was unwell and had taken some leave, talking to a psychologist was a new level of confrontation.
I made the appointment only because I promised Rod and my GP I would. It was a 6 week wait. The day finally came and I was feeling a wee bit better, having not worked at all in that time. I sat in my car in psychologist’s car park and sent a text to Rod, “I don’t wanna go into talk to the nice lady!! Stamping foot” I feared I would say out loud to her how I was doing and she would hear the words I was too scared to say out loud.
Sometimes getting the right help is a challenge in itself! Appointments can take weeks to get and finding someone you can work with and who helps you not automatic. If I don’t find a healthcare professional (of any sort) meets my needs I immediately find another who I can relate to and trust.
While seeking professional help is very intimidating, when you do it’s a huge relief.
Take care of your body.
Self care books, blogs and lists provide lots and lots of practical physical tips to promote self care. Yoga, drink water, take your vitamins, get plenty of sleep, exercise, eat clean and green.
I am not talking about the little things.
I am talking about your mammograms, dentist care, and health maintenance.
This is very challenging if you have depression because you don’t actually care and making the appointments requires motivate you don’t have.
You also need to take your medications as prescribed, for whatever medical condition you have, depression or otherwise. If you are having trouble remembering then download an app to your phone.
Take care of relationships.
Wow this is hard. Having depression does not give anyone the right to be a nasty pain in the arse. Other people have needs. Just because you are unwell does not mean you are the center of attention.
The emotions of depression vary widely between individuals. Some feel sadness, others anger, or guilt or frustration.
I have found it important to communicate clearly,to let those close to me in on what I am honestly feeling. It is very important to let loved ones know they are not the problem. Being sad, angry or whatever does not mean we do not love them. Lack of libido does not mean we no longer find our partner desirable.
I am incredibly blessed to have an amazing partner and adult children who unconditionally allow me to be vulnerable, confused and raw and honest with them
If you are having relationship difficulties it may help if your friends and loved ones understand more about depression itself , that depression is a medical condition that will get better with treatment. Depression support is important for the depressed person and it is also important for their family members
By this I mean be a grown up. Pay your bills, maintain the boring routine responsibilities.
This too is much easier said than done. It takes effort to get out of bed some says let alone logging on and checking the credit card balance or paying the rates.
Depression is a roller coaster some days a better than others. With effective management the good days can lead into good, weeks, months even years. While you are struggling however it is important to continue your adulating roles. You will thank yourself later. If you need support with this please ask for help.
Stop doing some stuff! I don’t mean the little things like household chores. I am talking about big life grown up roles that could be sucking the life out of you, robbing your soul.
Perhaps it’s your job, office bearer of a club, your volunteer post with the RSPCA.
Admitting one is not a perfectionist and admitting I am not well enough to do something is awful. It feels so bad like I have failed myself and others, that I am lazy or weak. Perhaps it is time to be brutally honest with yourself and others. See my post on Quitting as an elite form of self care.
Self care is not a reward, it is a process and while you have to learn how to manage your depression yourself with practice you can. The beauty of self care is that you are in control of it.
Resources and links:
This article is intended for general information and discussion only. It is not intended to be, nor does it provide you with a professional opinion.
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