Monday, 7 January 2019

Self Care: The Practical Update.*

One of my most-read posts on here is about my favourite methods of self care. However, that post is nearly three years old, and as my mental health has recently settled in a more stable place, I have felt more and more like I owe it to myself to think outside of the candle-lit bubble baths, and to take on some more responsible and practical self care goals. I still think it's absolutely crucial to be gentle with yourself when you're struggling or low, but sometimes the things we don't always want to do are the catalyst for bigger changes.

Make skin, body and haircare a priority

While I don't necessarily feel the need to wear makeup on a daily basis, there's something about a properly cleansed and moisturised face that makes me feel like a whole new woman. But skincare is something I can often neglect: whether it's the fact that I've rejected it in favour of a lie-in, or that I can't bear to look at my own face in the mirror, sometimes I just let it slide for weeks and then wonder why my skin is so dry that it physically hurts. And with haircare? Well, my dry, lifeless mop of hair doesn't get greasy for literally weeks, so there have been times when I've stayed in bed for days without running a brush through it, never mind washing it. When I am at my lowest, the effort involved with something as simple as just washing myself seems outrageous. This year, I want to dedicate an hour in the mornings and evenings to just purely looking after my skin and hair - even when I'd much rather ignore it and give up on my appearance. Such a tiny act can make a crack in the negative lens I sometimes view myself through.

I feel at my best when I'm using natural products; it makes me feel like I'm giving my body a treat it deserves. Kelp seems to be a bit of a wonder-ingredient at the moment, and I've tried out four kelp based products from Dermikelp that have definitely left my skin and hair feeling refreshed and revitalised. I've tried kelp products before and loved their soothing properties, so the Gentle Cleansing Body Wash was the perfect choice for calming my irritated, weather-beaten skin. It lathers up beautifully and I could feel it cooling and refreshing me. Following this I used the Nourishing Moisturising Lotion, which was great as I'm terrible at keeping my body moisturised in winter and can often feel like my skin is stripped of hydration by the heating and hot baths I have. This was great at nourishing my body - I particularly focused on dry patches like my elbows and after using both products I felt silky smooth. I was really intrigued by the Cleansing Shampoo and Hydrating Conditioner. Although I have such thick hair that I only got one use out of each sample, I did find these left my scalp feeling soothed and hydrated, and my hair looked shiny and soft. All Dermikelp products use kelp sustainably hand-harvested from the west coast of South Africa, so not only are the products packed full of nutrients to benefit your skin, but they are kind to the environment too.

Find some sort of exercise that works for me

I'm rubbish at exercising. I've given myself a free pass for so long that I've almost started to believe the lie that I 'shouldn't have to do anything I don't want to'. Facts are facts though, and it is constantly being shown that exercise can be hugely beneficial for your mental health. Now, I'm not going to be running marathons any time soon or breaking any world records, but I know that there are certain types of exercise that do leave me feeling positive and inspired. That's why I've made it a mission of mine to climb a mountain a month (at least!) this year. I will be doing it incredibly slowly as I'm so unfit that walking upstairs causes me to feel out of breath, but I know that not only is it good for my body, it's good for my soul. I'm lucky enough to live reasonably close to many mountains that offer incredible scenery, and there's nothing that makes me happier than a beautiful view. At first, I think I'll find spending a day waking up early to spend hours feeling breathless and sweaty might be something I don't relish, but this is a form of self care that I know I'll be grateful for afterwards.

Taking more responsibility for the chores

I do pretty much none of the cleaning or cooking in my house, and then I sit feeling guilty when my husband does it. I already know that this will be something I won't really enjoy doing, and I don't see myself deep cleaning the kitchen with any kind of relish (sorry Mrs Hinch), but seeing as Blair has a full time job and I'm at home all the time, I really think that this is something I not only need to do, but will benefit from doing. I like it when my home looks nice, I like it when I'm not worried I'll get an unexpected knock on the door and have to ignore it cause the house is a tip, and it makes me feel good to feel useful. When I don't do these things (even though I hate doing them) I feel like a burden, and it is not at all good for my mental health to feel like that! If I can take an hour or two a day to bust out the Method or vacuum the stairs and avoid feeling like a waste of space, I definitely will be taking that option! And even when I'm mentally unwell, if I can try to achieve little things like picking clothes off the floor or taking out the bins, it could be the perfect stepping stone into feeling more productive and motivated (not to mention providing a much nicer living environment!).

Break the dependence on my phone

Every. single. time. I hang out with my brother and his boyfriend, they make me realise how addicted I am to my phone. It's not only embarassing, but it genuinely affects my mood. While I'm never going to stop checking social media completely, I do need to find much more of a balance. When looking at my screentime stats, I feel a bit sick knowing I could be working a full-time job with the time I spend just on a colouring app (don't ask). I often find my periods of poor mental health coincide with feelings of having 'wasted my 20s' or not achieved anything, and I'll never break this if I continue to stare at a tiny screen for half the week. I've set the downtime feature to turn my apps off from 11pm-7am to help me sleep better, and I've limited my total app usage to four hours a day - still a lot, but hopefully a step in the right direction.

Try to do more things on my own

I'm alone quite a lot. My husband works offshore and can be gone for months at a time. My anxiety also revolves around being out in public on my own, which is not a great combination. When Blair went to Australia for two months in 2017, I genuinely left the house three times - once with a family member, and twice to make the 20 minute walk into town to the library. That was all I could face. But being cooped up in my house doesn't actually make me feel any better; in fact I feel lonely, isolated and generally miserable. I am getting better with facing my fears and I recently went to the theatre alone as Blair was called offshore last minute. For once, I decided not to let the situation ruin the opportunity, and I ended up having a fantastic evening - even being brave enough to sit in a bar alone which would normally terrify me. I want to keep working on this and to get used to being alone when I'm out and about, as it really does make me feel so much better about myself!

Those are my self care goals for the year ahead; they're all a bit more practical and challenging than lying in bed with my cats but it's true that you do need to step outside of your comfort zone every so often in order to enact any real change. Hopefully by the start of 2020 (christ!) I'll have made some good progress with each of these.

Do you have any practical self care tips or goals? I would love to hear your suggestions!
*I was kindly sent the sample pack from Dermikelp, but all opinions are my own!

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