self-care basics: a how to guide

I’ve written previously about self-care, but I thought the time was ripe to make a practical post. This is definitely not an exhaustive list! But it might serve as a great jumping off point for you. This is part one of two parts, focusing on the basics of looking after yourself.

  • Take a bath or a shower. This is self-care foundation. It’s very simple, but sometimes when you’re feeling very low in yourself, this step can feel like climbing a mountain. If you only have the emotional energy to do one thing, I recommend this one.
  • Get out of the house. This doesn’t have to involve seeing anyone, walking, driving, or going anywhere – it can be literally opening a door or window and just breathing in fresh air for five minutes. I don’t smoke, but I think of this as my smoke break. I go outside a couple of times a day, and do some deep breathing in a different space than I was in. If you’re able to focus on your surroundings, do that. Notice trees, fences, bricks, the wind, the rain or the sun, the feel of your feet against the floor or the ground.
  • Make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Going to bed at an hour that gives you plenty of time to wind down and get the right amount of sleep is really helpful in being able to take better care of yourself the next day. Sometimes, when you’re struggling, you might find that you’re unable to sleep, or sleeping too much.
  • If you are unable to fall asleep: Start having a think about your sleep hygiene. I don’t mean washing sheets and duvets (although that’s not a bad idea, too!), but rather, what is your process of going to bed? Are you spending a lot of time in bed on your phone or tablet? This can accidentally train your brain to associate bed with not sleeping. If you’re reading on your phone, think about what you’re reading – does it make you happy or stressed? During the national lockdown, I found myself reading the news late at night, and then being unable to sleep. I changed my habits to stop reading the news for at least one hour before going to bed. Try developing a relaxing bedtime routine. Think about how parents of young children help their kids learn that it’s bedtime – they do baths, a story, some cuddles, and then turn the lights off. What could your bedtime look like?
  • If you’re sleeping too much: Set an alarm to get yourself up out of bed. You might need to put it on loud but across the room or just outside your door, to force yourself to get up and turn it off. Schedule things to look forward to in the mornings – whether it’s making a cup of coffee, seeing a friend, or allowing yourself to watch one episode of your favourite TV show before work, whatever it is you need to give yourself motivation to get up. Try to go for a walk, even if it’s just around the street, to signal to your brain that you are awake during daylight hours, and asleep only at nighttime.
  • Make sure you’re taking any medications or vitamins you need. The medications that help your body run better are really important to take to keep yourself going. Sometimes we need vitamins to help make up any deficiencies – here in the UK, we often don’t get enough sunlight, but there are vitamins that help make up the difference.
  • Finally, if things just don’t feel right and you’re really struggling to help yourself with these basics, have a word with your GP and think about seeking therapy. Sometimes there are medical issues at play that your doctor needs to know about or at least be able to rule out. When there are no medical issues, it’s time to consider seeking therapy or counselling to help you work through whatever is blocking you from being able to manage.

I offer a free initial session for you to talk to me about what’s troubling you and for you to get to know me and find out how I can help you. If it’s time for you to talk to someone, get in touch.

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