Verity is a Physics with Teaching Bsc (Hons) graduate. In her spare time, she likes to cook, read and play video games.
As someone who has frequently had poor mental health days and even weeks, I understand how easy it can be to neglect yourself. Sometimes, even the most simple tasks can feel overwhelming, but ignoring them makes you feel guilty. This guide will list a variety of self-care ideas and tips, some of which are practical, some of which are comforting, some of which are about creating a nurturing environment.
It's important to remember that self-care is important, however, you can't fix every problem on your own. Reaching out to health professionals or getting counseling can make a life-changing difference.
Self-Care Tips and Ideas
- Call a trusted family member, friend, or support line, and talk it all out. Sometimes saying them out loud and rationalizing your thoughts can make them less scary.
- Contact your place of work and call in sick, take a mental health day. (Note: this should not be something you are doing extremely frequently. If you feel as though you are struggling to work due to your mental health, contact HR and talk about requesting a sabbatical if that's possible).
- Practice saying "no." Decline any requests to take on extra, unnecessary workloads for a few days. You don't have to flat out refuse, simply rearrange commitments to later in the week to allow yourself a few days to breathe.
- Book a session with your counselor/therapist/psychologist/psychiatrist, etc. They are there to help you.
- Change the sheets on your bed and then go to bed early. There's no shame or embarrassment in going to sleep at 9 pm if you have to, and the clean sheets will feel like a refreshing treat.
- Watch something lighthearted/silly/funny. Whether it's your favourite comedian, a cheesy teen movie (I'm thinking Mean Girls), or some youtube gaming videos. It doesn't have to be something new if you're struggling to focus; it can be something you know off by heart.
- Ask your friends for some love on social media. At the end of every day, I post a mental health update on my twitter. If I've had a challenging mental health day and I'm feeling guilty because I've not completed my to-do list, I know that when I wake up the next day a couple of my friends will have replied with supportive and encouraging messages. Then, when I'm having good mental health days, I can do the same for them. If you are worried about admitting that you are having a poor mental health day, then there are anonymous resources that you can use, too. Gamers Fighting Depression has a Reddit page that can be posted to, and a Discord server where they have 24/7 text support chats, and a weekly voice support chat.
- Look at "Faith in Humanity Restored" lists on Buzzfeed or Youtube to remind yourself that there is good in the world.
- Wrap yourself in a comforting blanket and have a hot drink, some green tea, or hot chocolate. (Try to avoid coffee since that can increase heart rate which can make anxiety worse).
- Stay hydrated. Fill a big bottle of water and set a reminder to take a big drink every 30 minutes or every hour. Lethargy and headaches are caused by dehydration.
- Breathe. If you have a preferred breathing exercise, do it. If you don't, try some on Youtube until you find one that you like. My favourite exercise is simply to lay on my back with my eyes closed and my hands on my chest (just above my stomach), and to consciously shift my breath to my abdomen. I breathe deeply. I make my first in-breath 1, first out-breath 2, next in-breath 3, next out-breath 4, and so on until I get to 10 and start over. Then, when I feel comfortable with that, I visualize my tension leaving my body on every out breath. This usually has me relaxed and calm within 5 minutes.
- Eat something. You don't have to cook something from scratch. Even just chicken nuggets and chips have protein and carbohydrates in it. You can even just eat some breakfast cereal to keep your energy levels up. If you can make a quick sandwich with a slice of meat, some cheese, and some lettuce in it, that is good enough. If you are worried that you won't have the motivation to make something even basic, then try and get some breakfast cereal bars or energy bars.
- Have a shower or a bath, or whatever feels right for you. Shampoo and condition your hair; if you want to shave or exfoliate do it. Apply your favourite moisturiser when you get out. Put on some clean clothes that make you feel good, whether it's PJs or fancy clothes.
- Go outside if you feel up to it. You don't have to talk to anyone. You could just take a walk to the nearest park and back. You could go to a cafe and have a cup of tea, or go to the library and read a book for 20 minutes. If you play a game like Pokemon Go, you can go out with the aim of catching 20 Pokemon and then go back home.
- Move your body gently in ways that feel good. If you feel like going for a jog then, by all means, do so. If you'd rather stay inside then do some gentle stretches or 15 minutes, or try to do some Yoga,
- Go to a group meeting or a public forum where support is offered. These can be at community centres, churches, hospitals, schools or universities.
- If you suspect that something may be wrong physiologically, then call your doctor and get an appointment. If you think it might be very serious, you think that you may be in danger, or you worry that you will hurt yourself or another, then call the emergency services, or the Samaritans, or go and check in to the ER (A&E).
- Do something that will engage you and keep your hands busy. Writing, drawing, knitting, sewing, sculpting, or baking. You don't have to be good at it or show it to anyone.
- Write everything down. Open a notepad and just write everything that you are feeling, in any form that you like. You can delete it after you are done if you want. Alternatively, you can write everything down in a diary to help you keep track.
- If you're feeling overwhelmed, try making a list of the things that you have/want to do, in order of most important to least important. Then break it up into small, manageable chunks.
- Send a text to some family or friends, asking them to check in with you once daily to make sure you've eaten, etc.. It's easy to forget, and you're more likely to do something if someone you love asks you to do it.
- Clean up your immediate environment. It can be something small and quick to do; take all the rubbish and dishes out of your room, wash some dishes, take out the trash, put your dirty clothes in the washing machine, put your clean clothes in the wardrobe, clean the toilet, hoover the floor. Making your environment less cluttered will make it easier for you to relax, and it will give you something to focus on.
- Read something. An informative article, a good book, your favourite poetry. Just for an hour, or to help you unwind before you go to sleep.
- Take a break from technology. If you're feeling under pressure from what you're seeing on Facebook, getting overwhelming notifications from Instagram, or being stressed by the news you see, take a break. Delete the app from your phone if you have to, allow yourself to not check the news. Just remember not to isolate yourself for prolonged periods of time because this can be detrimental to your mental health.
- Transform your bedroom. If you like you can put up some fairy lights or posters, or if you want something more you can rearrange all of your furniture to something new. You are in control of your environment.
- If you have some disposable income, use it to make things easier for you. Get an Uber home instead of public transport, or buy yourself lunch instead of packing something the night before. Use it to go see a film that you like or get yourself some art to put up in your room
- Go and visit a pet store or volunteer at a local animal shelter. You will be able to care for something and might get to pet some cute animals. Volunteering will also add some stability and routine to your week.
- Listen to some music. Let your emotions out via the music. Or, put on something happy and upbeat, and dance to it.
- Do some meditation. There are many good mindful meditation exercises on youtube. My favourite ones to do are full body scans.
- Go to church or to a spiritual community service. Listen to what others are saying around you and take the guidance that you need.
- Do some colouring. Print off some pages from the internet or grab an adult colouring book. Take an hour to just colour in and be creative.
- If you need to cry, do it. Let your emotions out. Allow yourself to feel. Safely express any emotion that you need to. If you need support with this, then reach out to services that will give you help.
- Educate yourself about what you are going through. Read books or articles, talk to other people who have been through what you are going through. Understanding what is happening will make everything a lot less scary and overwhelming, and will make it easier to seek out the help that you need.
- Try to establish a routine. Get up and go to bed at the same time every day (even on weekends). Take any medication at the exact same time every day, set an alarm if you need to. Forming habits can be hard, but with the help of schedules and handy apps, you can slowly build up some good habits. Start simple by just making sure you brush your teeth when you wake up and before you go to bed, and then start adding more when you are ready.
- Make your own list of self-care that you know works for you. Try to engage all of your senses.
- Accompany a friend or family member while they go out. If your friend needs to go to the shops, volunteer to go with them and help them carry their groceries home. If your mum needs to go put gas in the car, go along for the ride. Getting out in little ways every day can make you feel better in the long term. If you play a game such as Pokemon Go, go out and catch Pokemon for 30 minutes with a friend, compete to see who can catch the most Pokemon.
- Practice grounding and relaxation techniques. Find the ones that work for you. Make a folder in your bookmarks for your favourite ones so that they're easily accessible.
- Do something spontaneous, or try something new. Try a new recipe, or order a takeaway that you've never tried before. Watch a film or a documentary that you've never seen before. Sign up for a class at the local community centre. Walk a different way home.
- Go to the gym. Or find an exercise activity that suits you. Go swimming or boxing or run on the treadmill. Regular exercise is very important, doing an activity that will use up excess (sometimes nervous) energy will make it easier to fall asleep at night and the routine will make sure that you have an excuse to leave the house.
- Seek a healthcare professional. These people are trained to understand mental health in a way that you might not be able to right now, they also have access to other forms of help. You might need to see a nutritionist to put a meal plan in place. You might need to see a psychologist to talk through the way you respond to stress in your life. You might need a therapist to help you process a traumatic event. You might also need some medication to help with issues such as depression. You do not need to feel ashamed of telling your doctor or healthcare professional how you have been feeling, they see people with mental health problems every day and they are there to help you.
- Write a letter to your future self about all of the important life lessons that you've learned. Make it encouraging and compassionate. Write in your letter the things that you would say to your best friend if they were feeling bad. Write some of the nice things and words of encouragement that your friends and family have said. Then seal it in an envelope and open it up again when you are feeling bad.
- Every time someone says something nice to you or about you, take a screenshot and save it in a folder. Take a look at it whenever you're feeling down.
- Please remember that the tough times are temporary. It might not feel like it when you're in a bad place, you might feel like you're in the eye of a huge storm. But help is out there in many different forms. Reaching out and getting help is the hardest part, but once you've done it you can start your mental health journey and there will always be people supporting you along the way.
Thank You for Reading
Thank you for reading this self-care guide. I hope that it has been helpful to you. Remember that your feelings are always valid, and that help is always just one phone call, text or google search away.
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2017 VerityPrice
Treathyl FOX from Austin, Texas on February 11, 2020:
That Number 19 works like a charm. I call it a Brain Dump. For me, it's like taking out the trash. Once I throw it out and clear my mind, I can move forward and try to get something productive done. And it's something you must do frequently. It's not like ONCE and you're DONE! Thanks for this article. I am sure it will help others.
Treathyl FOX from Austin, Texas on September 02, 2018:
Voted YES. I've done Number 35.
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on December 15, 2017:
A good list especially when so many are suffering silently.