So many of us struggle with the idea of self-care. We think it’s selfish, or a luxury, or a fluffy time-suck designed for other people. But the truth is, self-care is essential for everyone. It doesn’t need to be expensive, and it’s not all face packs and crochet either – sometimes the basics of day-to-day life count as self-care.
In this post, we share 26 everyday things we can do to look after ourselves – our A-Z of Self-Care.
Ask for help
When we’re struggling, it can be all too easy to isolate ourselves from our friends, and avoid speaking to our GP or mental health team. But nobody can function entirely by themselves; we need to try and ask for the help we need from those around us. We deserve help and support.
We have boundaries in all aspects of our lives. When our boundaries get wonky, we feel resentment building up. It’s important to try and straighten out these wonky boundaries.
When we’re really low and our energy is depleted it can be hard to find the motivation to whack out the antibac; however we often feel better when our living space is clean and tidy. We don’t have to attack the entire house at once though. When we’re up to it, it’s good to try and tackle a room at a time – or even a bit of a room at a time.
Do the dishes
Dishes are something that can build up very quickly. But the more we procrastinate, the more stuck on the tomato sauce gets. And being aware if that fact is stressful.
Stacking the dishwasher – or popping dishes in to soak after each meal – can therefore be seen as self-care. It’s boring yes, but it stops the dirty dishes from piling up, and helps us feel more in control. If we’re really struggling for the energy to wash up, we could use disposable crockery and cutlery for a while. It’s not the most eco-friendly solution but it is possible to get compostable crockery and cutlery that we can put in the food bin.
Empty the bins
Taking the bins out is another task that feels difficult when we’re feeling low and lacking energy. But when we do tackle it, it’s pretty quick to get done. Plus getting rid of rubbish lying around gives us a lift.
Remembering which day of the month each colour bin goes out can also be hard. Having the dates on the fridge or popping a reminder in our phones can help us to remember.
Food is a really hard one because it can take a lot of energy, motivation, and thought, but it’s also something which can have a big impact on our mood. Trying to keep a range of foods in the house can stop us from living off chocolate (as appealing as that might be!). We could do online shops or box subscription services if we’re struggling to get to the supermarket. When it comes to cooking – we could batch cook and freeze meals on days when we feel a little better, or get some ready meals in.
Getting dressed can feel pointless and a waste of energy if we have nowhere to go, or don’t have the energy to leave the house. Occasional pyjamas days can be just what we need, but staying in the same pyjamas all day every day can make us feel really icky. Even if we just change from one set of pyjamas to another, changing our clothes every day can help us to feel more human.
Have a shower
When we don’t care about ourselves, and don’t have any energy, having a shower isn’t normally high on our list of priorities. It can be something which can help with routine. It can also feel like we’re washing the day off, or can help to wake us up on a morning. If we don’t have the energy to stand up and wash ourselves, sitting under the running water or having a bath can also work.
Important life admin
It’s hard to do admin when we have a foggy brain. Often important life admin, like renewing our car insurance, can have a time limit on in which can feel really stressful. Tackling paperwork a little bit at a time can help to make sure we get it done before the deadline, without it all building up and getting out of control. If we’re struggling to get it done, there are organisations, such as Citizens Advice Bureau who can help with some aspects of life admin, such as benefits applications.
Join a support group
There’s nothing quite like the relief that comes when someone says ‘I get it’ or ‘yeah, me too’. Support groups can be online, like our peer support group or offline. They help us to feel less isolated and often people in the groups might have ideas to help us manage our depression symptoms.
When we feel low and our energy and self-esteem have taken a nosedive, it can be hard to motivate ourselves to get to appointments. Often we will feel like we don’t deserve them. We think we’re being a time waster, or taking an appointment from someone who needs it more than we do. We might believe our appointments are pointless because we’ve lost all hope of getting better. But that’s not true: we absolutely need and deserve support, and professionals are here to help us.
Thanks to the invention of washing machines, washing takes less energy than it once might have done, but can still feel like an overwhelming task. Sorting, washing, drying, putting away – and then doing it all over again. Tackling laundry in batches can help, as can rewarding ourselves when we complete each ‘phase’. If we’re really struggling, we might consider taking the whole lot for a service wash.
Medication isn’t limited to just taking our anti-depressants regularly. It includes ordering and picking up our prescriptions before they run out, and taking all of our medication as prescribed. If we have a lot of different meds to remember, we can ask our chemist to order them for us each month. We can also ask the chemist to count them out into blister packs for us rather than giving us a load of boxes. Some chemists might charge for this but many do it for free.
No (say no)
Saying no can be so hard. We often want to please others, and don’t value ourselves enough to put our needs first. But protecting our boundaries is important. If we say yes to everyone all the time, we get tired very quickly and constantly feel like we’re running on empty. We can’t be effective if we’re spread too thin. As such it’s really important to learn to say no every now and again.
Open a window
Fresh air can help to lift our mood. It can help everything feel cleaner and can make breathing to feel a little easier. We might not have the energy to get out of our PJs and get outside, but even just opening a window can make a big difference.
Put things away
Whether it be the dishes, clothes, DVDs or books, it’s very easy to get stuff out and not put it back. Once we start doing that, it can begin to add up until everything feels messy and overwhelming. Putting things away as we finish using them helps prevent a big build up. Less clutter makes us feel more calm.
Spending time around people can fill our heads up and make us really tired. We can become hyper-sensitive to little noises and everything can feel too much. Having some quiet time can help us recharge. We can put the lights down low, have a low noise level, and just relax for a little while.
Refill your car
It’s all too easy to run the car with a red light on for a while. We might be running late in the morning, or just want to get home on a night without the added stress of the petrol station. But while we ignore the light, the possibility of running out of fuel and getting stuck somewhere is always on our mind. Popping into the petrol station as soon as we need to puts our mind at rest.
Sleep is hard to get right. Often we will sleep too much, or not enough. It can have a big impact on our mood, so it’s important to try and sleep to vaguely ‘normal’ sleeping patterns as much as possible. If it’s something we’re really struggling with, it’s definitely worth bringing it up with our GP.
To do list
Getting all of our jobs out of our heads and onto a sheet of paper can help our minds feel a little less cluttered. Ticking items of our to-do list helps us feel productive. It’s worth experimenting with different kinds of task lists to see which feels best for us (we share a few ideas here).
It’s all too easy to sign up to email newsletters, social media accounts, and phone notifications. But when our phone is constantly dinging, our inbox is never below 100, and we can’t reach the bottom of our timelines we can get super overwhelmed. Unsubscribing once services stop being of interest to us (rather than just deleting each message that comes in) can help to reduce the amount of information being thrown at us. It can also help us to really focus on those things we are interested in.
Visit the dentist
Lots of people are afraid of the dentist. It’s especially common with those who suffer from depression, because our illness stops us looking after our teeth. But avoiding the dentist is only likely to make it worse – problems are much better caught early. Some dentists specialise with working with anxious patients: we may want to ask about this when we book.
Wash your hair
Even if we manage do jump in the bath or shower, washing our hair can still feel like a lot of effort. We might be tempted to skip it. But having clean hair is good self-care – it makes us feel as though we’re looking after ourselves. It can also help us to feel less self-conscious when we see people. Dry shampoo is a useful stand-by for the days we can’t find the energy.
If there was ever something to make us question our self-worth, it’s the expectations we force ourselves to live up to. They might be completely unrelated to anything that really matters to us, yet we still feel like we have to try and reach them. This is particularly true if we struggle with perfectionist tendencies.
Working out and pursuing what we want – rather than what others want for us – can be incredibly scary. But it’s also very liberating. We might worry we’ll be rejected by our loved ones for not reaching their expectations. However we quickly learn all the important people will stick around anyway.
You come first
We can’t help others if we’re completely run down ourselves. Putting ourselves first might feel selfish, but it’s not, it’s just looking after ourselves. In the same way that on an aeroplane we’re told to put our oxygen mask before helping others, in our day-to-day we need to prioritise ourselves too.
Taking time to switch off and zone out can help us to recharge our batteries. Getting stuck into something we enjoy – whether it be crafty, arty, horticulture-based, sporty, or something else – can help us to switch off from the rest of the world and give our brains a break.
Self-Care – a reminder
As this list shows, acts of self-care aren’t always lovely or pleasurable. Sometimes they’re annoying, or downright boring! But our focus always needs to be on how self-care ultimately makes us feel. Most of these tasks will offer us relief or satisfaction when they are done, or benefit our mood or wellbeing. And that’s important, because we are important. Even if our head tells us otherwise.
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