A year of lockdowns and loneliness highlighted the importance of self-care for our mental health. Bubble baths, outdoor walks and baking were just some of our chosen weapons in the fight for wellbeing. But as the restrictions ease, how do we maintain our self-care routines? And what happens when self-care isn’t enough?
If you think you’ve been hearing more about self-care, you’re not wrong. As well as the advice and hashtags that overwhelm our newsfeeds, the number of internet searches for ‘self-care’ has more than doubled since 2015 (Google Trends, 2021).
Take a quick scroll through Instagram and you’d be forgiven for mistaking self-care for bath bombs and turmeric lattes. The truth is, both of these things can have a part to play in your version of putting yourself first, but those small moments of material enjoyment should always be peppered into your feel-good routine as part of a greater holistic whole.
Self-care is a long-term commitment to good physical and emotional health. It’s a routine, not just a one-off moment of indulgence. Whether you’re carving out time to read in bed in the morning, attending regular gym classes, journaling, pursuing a hobby, or even finding joy in cooking, gardening and (why not?) abseiling, caring for yourself is an active, ongoing quest for your version of stability and inner peace.
Research shows self-care has a whole host of mental and physical benefits, including reduced stress, improved emotional regulation and lower blood pressure. So, it’s an invaluable addition to most wellbeing routines. But, with the prevalence of mental health conditions rising, we need to recognise the limits of self-care, too.
SELF-CARE AND MENTAL HEALTH
In England, 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health condition of some kind each year (MIND, 2021). Even if we haven’t suffered with mental illness ourselves, we almost certainly know somebody who has.
Although self-care can be a helpful way to manage the symptoms of mental health conditions, it isn’t enough for everybody. If your symptoms are particularly distressing or overwhelming, you might need formal treatment – and that’s totally ok, too. Self-care and mental health looks different for everyone, but that’s what makes us unique! It’s all about finding out what works for you.
Mental health needs to be given the same weight and urgency as physical health, and that means consulting professionals. Unfortunately, only 1 in 8 adults with a mental health condition are currently receiving any kind of treatment in England (MIND, 2021).
Suffering alone or just waiting for feelings to pass can make things worse. If negative thoughts and feelings are creeping in more frequently, and you notice a change in your state of mind, behaviours and quality of life, this is the time to seek help. Healthcare professionals are there to work with you to get the best treatment plan in place.
FIND YOUR ZEN
Knowing your personal triggers and identifying what a healthy, balanced lifestyle looks like for you is the first step to centring yourself. With understanding comes structure, and we all need a bit of that. I know, for example, that if I exist in a disorganised space, my brain will take it upon itself to mirror the chaotic energy. Thanks for that by the way, my dear human mind – really productive.
Once you’ve pinpointed the actions that cause you to feel off balance, you can then adapt your routine to complement your findings. With that self-knowledge and clarity will come a greater sense of peace.
But it’s not just about eliminating triggers. You need to identify what makes you tick, too. Doing more of the things you love, even if that’s just a small daily go-to like giving yourself five minutes extra to read or dance around your room, is a surefire way to boost your mood and make the most out of everyday life.
The pace of the world around us can sometimes dictate the speed at which we live, but now’s the time to make that a pattern of the past. Create meaningful connections with those around you, take time for yourself and realign with what really matters. Only you know what works for you, and following the pack can quickly lead to burnout, so prioritise identifying your unique needs.
For us, Mental Health Day is a reminder that everyone has their own individual struggles. Change starts by having the difficult conversations, arriving at greater understanding of our own minds and knowing when to reach out for professional help.
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