I’ve gathered up some more tips on self-care that I use. These are ones that I always forget about but have rediscovered recently when newer techniques haven’t been working. Any feedback or any of your self-care tips are gratefully received!
Being Creative. I am possibly the least artistic or poetic person you can come across so I never show anyone any of my work, but I do find it so useful taking a piece of paper and just letting my brain flow through my hand. Sometimes it is the best way to describe how you are feeling, especially if you are drawing as the colours can really reflect on your mood. I used to do some Creative Therapy at my Therapy Centre and at the beginning of each session we would introduce ourselves, say why we were there and then describe how we were feeling as if it were a piece of art/architecture/sculpture etc. and then we would try and draw it. I can be so stubborn and love to not do as I’m told so quite often I wouldn’t draw but end up just writing words down across a page – i.e. I would write horrible words that would describe my dark mood in red (hate, death, lonely, fuck, etc etc.) and then around them in a calmer colour I would write more positive words (peace, love, family, serenity etc etc.) I would fit as many words on the page as possible until they stopped flowing and it was such a great release. I also liked to use imagery and one time drew a pair of hands delicately craddling a feather, as that was how delicate I was feeling. And when I was going through withdrawal and was constantly in fear of relapsing I drew a small angel with two huge devils mocking it with flames all around. I didn’t really plan for these things to be drawn but when you let your subconscious flow it just happens and can really help work out where you’re at. I was at a convention recently for addicts and one guy had just come out of rehab and was a real ‘hard man’ and he stood up and said that he’s found his release in writing poetry and read some of his poems, they were just magical!! He had the place in absolute bits! Give it a try, see what you can do and don’t punish yourself if you’re not the best artist or your poetry doesn’t come near Shakespeare, just see what comes out of it and if it helps you. And if there are other creative forms that you’d rather do then go for it, whatever works for you!
Reading. I love a good book! I never make time to read and end up starting about 5 different books at once but if you set some time aside to get in to a book it is such a brilliant escape. I would recommend light hearted reading so that it doesn’t trigger off too much dark stuff in your head, and especially reading really easy reads. One thing about depression and all other mental health illnesses is that it is SO hard to concentrate longer than…butterfly spreads it’s wings… you get my point, I hope..?! So, easy, light hearted reads are perfect to get in to. I would recommend some titles but my memory is shocking and I’ve lent the books out so can’t remember the titles. Some that I loved, but admittedly listened to as audio books as I didn’t have time to read, were ‘The Little Flower Shop By The Sea’ by Ali McNamara and ‘The Little Old Lady Who Broke All The Rules’ by Catharina Ingleman-Sundburg – super easy reading/listening!! Other books that I would recommend that are more self help type books are ‘Walking On Sunshine: 52 Steps to Happiness’ by Rachel Kelly and ‘Emergency Poet’ by Deborah Alma and is a collection of beautiful poems to read when you’re in a specific mood. I will happily take any recommendations if anyone has some?
Company. Depression and such Mental Health Issues can be the most isolating illnesses and you can feel so alone even if you’re in a massively crowded room. One thing that I have found since coming in to recovery is who my real friends are. When you find those friends, and family, who just accept you for who you are and don’t flap at every tear you shed, it can be the best therapy. My friends now know that if I call them last minute for a ‘girls night’ they know that that will usually entail watching Frozen (or something similar, or crappy TV) in PJs, eating pizza in bed. My sister is used to this now too. Company can be so vital to recovery, especially when friends and family have learnt how you need to be handled. Something that people don’t realise is that when you call them and ask them to come over, you don’t necessarily want to talk to them or be entertained, you just want someone in the room who will let you cry and not say anything, will let you lean/lie on them and stroke your hair. Another type of company that I love being in and always heals me, is being in the company of young children. I have two nieces and a nephew (at the time of writing..!) all under 4 and if I’m feeling blue I will go to their houses and just play with them. They create all these amazing little fantasy lands that you can escape to and play make believe, they will tell you as it is, and they are so damn innocent and clueless to the big bad world out there. They live in the moment and being with them can really draw your attention back to the here and now. Most importantly though, kids can be fucking hilarious!!!
Talking. When you’re feeling really crap and isolating from the world, you don’t really talk much. If, and when, you can, talk to someone you trust and just tell them a bit about what’s going on for you right now. Bottling up emotions and feelings can be so dangerous and can lead to a massive set back. I am so honest and open with my family and closest friends about how I’m feeling because if I’m not then I will suffer on my own and it just builds up and builds up until you burst, and to them you are bursting for ‘no reason’. So be honest and open and you will find that even if you do have a massive meltdown, they will be there holding your hand and helping you through it. You also need to keep yourself in the real world and talking to people helps you do this. If you stay isolating all through your recovery and don’t talk to anyone, you will get a massive shock in trying to fit in to the outside world when you’re better. Sharing your story with other sufferers can really help also, you can identify with things they have been through, and they can identify with what you have been through and it really helps you feel less alone and less of a ‘weirdo’.
Easy Hobbies/Distractions. I’m not going to lie, I would fly off the fucking handle any time someone who didn’t suffer said ‘well, why don’t you get a hobby’… ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME!!! If I had the energy to have a hobby I would have probably found one by now. So I used to just create small little ‘hobbies’/distractions that I could do whilst being bed bound or sofa bound. The two main things I did were start a scrap book (mine was made with articles from Time Out magazine of all the restaurant reviews and recommendations) and making friendship bracelets. I never made any actual bracelets, but just the plaiting or weaving was a good enough distraction for my hands whilst binge watching TV and it meant that I wasn’t constantly on my phone. You can find any ‘hobby’ or distraction and fiddle around with trial and error to see what helps you. I originally bought all my wool because I wanted to learn how to knit… not a good idea for someone who is super clumsy and has mega anger issues. I would only ever get about 2 or 3 lines in before cocking it all up and throwing it across the room. I’ve also found playing Lego really therapeutic. We have a Lego trunk that must date back at least 30 years and I could spend days sat in front of it just building things. See what you can find that can help you.
Meditation/Relaxation. Make sure you take time in your day when you’re feeling down to squeeze in some meditation or relaxation exercises. I touched on them a bit in the first post on Self Care. If you’re feeling super tense and uptight, lie down on your bed or sofa (somewhere comfortable and flat) and close your eyes. Take a few deep, long breaths in and out,then squeeze your toes for 5 seconds (unless you get cramp..) then let them go and focus on relaxing them as much as possible. Then move on to your calves and do the same thing, doing this as slowly as possible, working your way all the way up your body. Once you’ve reached your head, clench all the muscles in your body at the same time then let them go and try to focus on letting everything go and melting in to the bed/sofa. I find this really helps me to relax and de-stress. I’m really bad at doing meditation for myself so I quite often listen to guided meditations. However, one that I do like to do is to sit or lie down in silence and focus on each of my senses – what you can feel touching you (clothes, mattress/chair), what sounds you can hear (near or far away), what you can smell, what you can taste and what images you see coming in to the front of your brain/behind your eyes. I really love doing the guided meditations that take you on a relaxing walk down a beach or through some woods etc. I’ve recently downloaded an app called Virtual Hope Box and on it they have various meditation videos/audios, including three guided meditations set on a beach, in a forest and on a country road. There are hundreds of podcasts that you can download to help with meditation, you just have to try a few and there will be some that will make you cringe and want to scream or there will be some that you click with, see what you can find that suits you.
I hope these all help you find a bit of inner peace. You don’t have to try them all, just see what suits you and most importantly, be kind to yourself, don’t stress yourself or push yourself. Take it all at your own pace, these are things that have worked for me and may not work for everyone. I’m sure I will have another post again soon with more self-care tips.