As we come to the end of Mental Health Awareness Week, here are some of my tips and mechanisms for self-care & mental wellbeing…
My “official” diagnosis for anxiety and depression came a little over a year ago but I had been dealing with the two conditions long before this, for much of my university life. Over time, and particularly in the last 6 months, I have come to realise that coping and living my best life starts with me. That does sound easier said than done, I know. When you’re depressed and anxious, your mind seems to have a life of its own. However, there are small things I now regularly do to counter these feelings or make it easier to cope. Of course, these will not work for everyone but I hope they can give some inspiration for your own version of self-care.
I have not slept as well as I sleep now in over a year. This is thanks to changing my sleeping habits and adopting a night routine that works for me. A well-rested mind is a healthy mind and I find when I’ve had a good night’s sleep, many of my symptoms are alleviated. I ensure that my bedroom and, in particular, my bed is used for sleeping. When you work, eat, study, and whatever else in your bed, it makes it difficult for the mind to associate it with rest.
I now aim to be in bed by 10pm. I will have a mug of peppermint tea first, do my nighttime skincare and listen to music until I’m sleepy enough to switch off my lamp and sleep.
For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you will know that I recently did a thread of tips I picked up from a workshop on the importance of sleep. It was incredibly eye-opening and I’m now making it my mission to take sleep even more seriously.
Start new hobbies/interests
Throwing yourself into a new hobby or interest can help to focus your energy on something positive, boost your self-confidence and get you out of the house!
The main interest I have (re)picked up is reading. As a child and growing up, I was an avid reader. I would get lost in books for days on end and was addicted to the feeling of diving into new worlds and meeting new characters. I fell out of love with reading when mental illness made it difficult to focus on anything, let alone entire novels.
It has been a struggle getting back into it in all honesty but a key in spurring me on has been the Black Girls Book Club (@bg_bookclub). This book club has become something of a cult sensation in recent months and the more I heard about it, the more I wanted to get involved. I have now been to two brunches and both have been wonderful (click here to see my vlog from a previous brunch). Something about being in a room full of black girl magic is so nourishing and uplifting and I’ve found a real sense of community.
Blogging has also been a great outlet as well as “photography” (I hesitate to call my automatic shooting photography…) and my recent residency with FWRDnow.
I have also begun to challenge and push myself beyond my comfort zone more in all areas of my life. One of the main things I’ve been doing, and now thoroughly enjoy, is attending concerts alone. A year ago the thought of doing this would have driven me to panic. But I have now seen James Blake, Pusha T, The xx and The Internet all in my own company.
It’s a great way to help deal with anxiety and big social settings (with the help of a drink or too of course) and you’ll find that a lot of people actually attend concerts on their own so you won’t stand out, as much as it may feel like it.
At work, I have also pushed myself by taking on projects independently, setting myself goals and introducing new ideas of my own.
I have seen a huge boost in my confidence and only see this getting better. My next challenge is to solo travel!
Last but not least, and probably the most tried and tested method of self-care is to pamper yourself. I am a huge fan of treating myself when I achieve a goal or challenge myself to try something new. Treating within reason, of course! My favourite way to take care of myself is skincare. Sundays are my particularly indulgent skincare days where I will do a peel or mask and lots of hydration and moisturising. A face mask and a glass of wine is also my favourite way to wind down at the end of a busy week. I also love to get my nails done and regularly change up my hair.
I recently went through a breakup and my wonderful little sisters put together a care box of things to cheer me up:
I am in tears 😭😭😭
I have the sweetest, most amazing sisters in the world. Came home to this care box on my bed! pic.twitter.com/3Tn00ZjBBr
— tinkerbell ✨ (@oliviazao) February 27, 2017
It was one of the most thoughtful gifts I’ve ever received and it really spurred me on to make more of an effort to take care of myself.
Simple things like a long bath with music or going for a walk somewhere scenic can make all the difference too. In these moments, I also like to switch off from social media / the internet and focus on the moment and feeling OK.
In the last few weeks, family and friends have commented on how happy and positive I seem and it is an amazing feeling to know the change I have felt internally is actually noticeable. Self-care can be whatever you want it to be, small steps or big but it’s all part of making your mental health journey just that little bit easier.
What are your coping mechanisms & best forms of self-care? Let me know in the comments 🙂