Guest blog – What do you do for self care?
We extend our thanks to Tracey for her guest blog for #UniMentalHealthDay on 18th February 2015. The event is co-ordinated by the University Mental Health Advisers Network (UMHAN) and promotes disclosure of mental health issues to reduce stigma and increase access to support.
This year the theme for University Mental health and Wellbeing Day is Choosing to Disclose
Tracey accesses study skills tuition and mentoring support funded by Disabled Student Allowances (DSA) from Diverse Learners to support her to re-frame her thoughts / manage the impact of depression and anxiety on her daily and academic life.
A vital part of our support is promoting self care and emphasising the importance of maintaining daily tasks: eating, drinking, exercise, getting outside and talking to others. We also encourage, praise and reassure to help build confidence and raise self esteem that in turn can lead to disclosure.
Here is Tracey’s post of Self Care:
“Self care is an indulgence”
“Self care is a waste of time”
“Self care is unnecessary”
Which of these statements about self care do you think to be true? Actually, none of them are true. Self care is essential; it gives you the space, time and care that may be missing from other aspects of your life. We, as humans, spend too much time ‘doing’ rather than ‘being’ and we can lose who we are without even knowing it.
Realising Its Importance
Finding self care has been the largest component to my mental health recovery. I had spent so much of my life aspiring to be this person that I thought I ‘should’ be – dressing in a certain way, talking about certain subjects in company, overthinking the smallest of things – like which dishes to wash up first because of the amount of grease in the washing up bowl. So much so that when my mental health deteriorated last year I also went through a stage of questioning “Who am I?”
Reframing Your Mindset
With the help of Kerry and Andrew at Diverse Learners, I was able to reframe how I saw self care as I would overthink the whole process. What is self care? How do I do it? Surely there’s a deeper purpose to doing it? What are the finer details to ensuring this works? What if it doesn’t work? When actually it was as simple as to stop ‘doing’, start ‘being’ whilst listening to my body and my body’s needs. My head would scream at me to study continuously even though I had no idea what I was doing, in terms of study plans, so I would simply step back with some self care. When I returned to study the answers felt as though they magically appeared.
Take today for example, I had plans. To be honest I had self care plans which sadly didn’t pan out. The plans included having a study skills session with Kerry, where my head was telling me that it was an appointment; I cannot not turn up for an appointment. After that I was to meet a friend for a relaxing meal at a posh restaurant in town, as a self care treat to unwind after the exams. Sadly, on top of adjusting to new medication which causes drowsiness, man-flu hit. It was Kerry’s kind and caring tweet saying that if I wasn’t well enough I could rearrange the appointment that caused me to stop, realise she was right, and burst into tears. At this point self care plan B came into action; I walked (in the rain which I don’t really like), fed the ducks, listened to some music, meditated and relaxed with a lovely homemade lunch. The day was then able to continue, unfortunately without the meal with my friend though. So even if you need someone else to tell you to rest, listen to them. Their views are just as important and valid as your own mind set.
It is important to plan in self care time, not just when things feel stressed and anxious. If you plan in advance some down time, then you can help reduce any anxieties later down the line. This is especially so when studying else you could end up doing nothing but read, write and pull your hair out from not quite understanding what is being asked of you. It will become second nature to look after yourself and it develops self worth of your mind and body. Put it in your diary when you plan to do some self care plus listing what you are going to do, then do it. No excuses, do it (or plan B-it if need be).
I always have a plan B for self care in case the original plans don’t quite work out, like with what happened today. Even if it’s a walk in nature, a long hot soak in the bath or by turning off all social media while you read a fictional book, keep them in your self care tool box for emergency use.
My personal favourite is to walk along the river with the camera and take photos of what is around me and even have a little natter to the cows in the farmers’ field; they’re good at listening!
Share Your Experiences
Remember, everyone’s self care is different and it’s important to explore yourself and find what works for you; just like finding your own study technique. By sharing your experiences you can help others who may be struggling with the idea of stopping from the world and taking time out; reframing how they see self care. Your tips can also help those with less experience of self care to try something new and invigorating.
So here’s the all important question, what do you do for self care?
Tracey has just re-started her blog here
Tracey tweets here
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