It’s World Mental Health Day! To celebrate, let’s talk about self care. This is something that often gets ignored. It’s hard to manage a house, a blog, a family, a business, working, eating healthy, whatever it is you do on a daily basis. Most times the thing we put on the back burner is our own well being.
I remember when I was in grad school and worked overnights. There was no consistency in my schedule. I would come home nap for three hours, go to school nap for three more hours, and go back to work. I isolated myself all the time and never wanted to do anything other than sleep and watch TV. One day I ended up falling asleep driving on my way home from work one morning. This was my wake up call that I really needed to take care of myself better.
If you think about it realistically, if you are not taking care of yourself then you are likely half ass-ing everything you are doing anyway. It’s hard to do a good job at something when you yourself are exhausted, irritable, and not having any pleasure in your life.
A lot of people think it’s selfish to put their own needs first, but it could be the most important thing you do. Even as a parent you cannot give your children the energy and attention they deserve if you are running yourself ragged. Here is a list of self-care activities you can do to take care of yourself (and ultimately being in a better mental space to take care of your family or be good at your job).
1. Have a spa day
Get a hot bath, light some candles, put on a diffuser, use a bath bomb, do a face mask, paint your nails, do a hair mask. Something that makes you be able to sit down, relax, and breath. It’s okay to do you and to take care of you.
2. Binge watch a TV show
3. Have a game night
Playing fun games often leads to laughter. This releases Endorphins which our the natural chemicals our body releases to make us feel good. It also decreases stress hormones (which thus lessens our likelihood of getting sick).
4. Get out with some friends
6. Do one of those things you alway say you want to do, but then never end up doing
Bake some macaroons, go ax throwing, have a paint ball gun fight, do a 5k. Whatever you’ve always been saying “I want to do that someday.” Go and DO it already.
7. Plan a date night
“Being love-struck also releases high levels of dopamine, a chemical that “gets the reward system going,” said Olds. Dopamine activates the reward circuit, helping to make love a pleasurable experience similar to the euphoria associated with use of cocaine or alcohol. Scientific evidence for this similarity can be found in many studies, including one conducted at the University of California, San Francisco, and published in 2012 in Science. That study reported that male fruit flies that were sexually rejected drank four times as much alcohol as fruit flies that mated with female fruit flies. “Same reward center,” said Schwartz, “different way to get there.”
This is a direct quote, because I couldn’t have said it better myself.
9. Let yourself cry
My husband is like “Why are you always trying to make me cry?!” It’s not that I get some sick pleasure from seeing him hurt. I just know how therapeutic it can be to finally relapse all that burden.
I often hear people saying things a long the lines of “I can’t cry in front of my kids”. But let’s think about this for a moment. What is the mission in not crying in front of your children? Is it to protect them? To appear strong? Is it so they do not worry? These are all good missions for not crying in front of your children. What you are trying to do is a noble thing.
But let’s also consider the unintended messages this could send them. “To be strong I can’t have emotions” “I am weak if a cry” “We don’t talk about hard things”. These patterns of avoidance can actually be a harmful message. Avoidance as a coping mechanism is linked to all sorts of things such as both chemical (heroin, alcohol, and other substances) and behavioral (sex, gambling, gaming, shopping) addictions, self-injury, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, and more. This of course could be a cultural thing, so if this doesn’t sit well with you, do what is right for you and your family.
Actually, when talking about mental health and self care. For people who have been through any significant trauma in their lives, people are MORE LIKELY to develop PTSD if they do not let themselves experience their emotions. Holding back tears, not letting yourself discuss it, not listening to your body when it tells you what you need. Of course it is not the only factor, but it is a contributing factor.
10. Work out
This is what I look like post workout!
J.k. this is totally pre-workout. I’m a monster afterwards. But I sure feel good. Plus working out can actually help increase intelligence! It helps the part of the brain that makes connections. Working out in the AM (although less sleep certainly sucks) can set you up to learn more throughout the day.
11. Coffee/tea/hot lemon water
12. Go for a hike
FIY it is SUPER fun to fill one of these suckers up with water and then use it. The water starts to bubble and it sounds like there is a fountain running along with the actual sound of a singing bowl. It’s totally mesmerizing.
There is a DBT technique called grounding. Essentially the goal is to ground yourself in reality. If you find yourself triggered (whether from PTSD, depressed, angry, hurt, or even if you have trouble focusing) you use this technique.
Identify 5 things you can see (I like to look for things I’ve never noticed before)
4 things you can feel (this can be in internal or external physical sensations. I feel the wind on my face and I feel my heart beat starting to slow down)
3 things you hear
2 things you smell
1 thing you taste.
The benefit of an activity like this is that you can do it literally anywhere and no one even has to know you’re doing it. Get pissed off in a work meeting? Ground. Can’t stop your mind from jumping from one anxious thought to another? Ground. Can’t focus on the here and now? Ground.
You don’t always have things around like a singing bowl with you, but you don’t ACTUALLY need any props. But it is really fun to use a singing bowl, fill it with water, and add a flower to the center and then ground yourself. You don’t necessarily have to be emotionally not okay to get relaxation from this. But to hear the sounds, feel the water splashing on your hand, smell the flower, and see how cool the water ripples is a great way to meditate.
14. Be creative
16. Go see a counselor
17. Eat something healthy
18. Make your doctors appointments
19. Get organized
20. Have a cleaning party
21. Make a vision board
22. Plan a vacation (even if you can’t afford to go on one yet)
23. Create a bucket list and do something on it
24. Spend some time with your family
Attachment is a huge part of self-care. It is important to realize that our relationships with people will significantly affect us. We are social creatures. The relationships we have tend to shape the way our future relationships look like. Spending fun and bonding times with family members (and don’t forget family does not have to be blood) shapes the way we view our selves, our world, and what happy relationships look like. If you feel like your connections are not what you would like seek a counselor, try to bond more, read some books. In a lot of ways our relationships are our foundations.
25. Do something special with your pet
If you don’t have a pet, try a cat cafe or ask to take a friend’s pet to the park. There’s just something about animals that can make you feel at peace.
26. Enjoy seasonal activities
27. Google some self-reflection prompts and journal about it (or turn it into a fun date night and ask your significant other some prompts and tell them what your answers are)
28. Go dancing
29. Re-connect with an old friend
30. Go to a casino, take a nap, have some sexy time, have a few drinks, go on a shopping spree, grab some munchies.
While all of these can be considered coping skills, they can also be a double edged sword. These can all be addicting (or in the case of sleep lead to a downward spiral of depression). They should by no means been the only tool in your toolbox. If you’re concerned about your use of these things talk to a counselor or call a local addictions agency to get more info.
Set some boundaries and respect other people’s boundaries. You can’t be in charge of everyone. People make their own choices in life and sometimes letting people fall is the only way to help them. By taking on that burden, not only are you driving yourself crazy, but you are also enabling them to rely on others and not taking ownership for their part in life.
On the other token it is important to understand other peoples boundaries and try not to cross their lines. Let me know if this sounds conflicting. I can also do a blog post on how to walk that line.