It’s Mental Health Awareness Month, so let’s talk about self-care. If you’re already rolling your eyes, I get it, believe me. Self-care has been popularized like crazy these days, but it’s been turned into this weird idea that if you take a bubble bath all your problems will disappear. If you’ve ever struggled with your mental health – you probably agree that this idea is total bullsh*t. Don’t get me wrong, I love a bubble bath as much as the next person, but real self-care just isn’t as glamorous as an extravagant at-home spa evening. Not to mention the only thing it’s guaranteed to make disappear is your dry skin.
The basis of self-care was always meant to be exactly what it sounds like… literally caring for yourself in the most fundamental of ways. You’re not trying to cure your depression overnight or banish your social anxiety for good. You’re also not trying to give yourself the self-care that always looks cute on Instagram. Anyone who faces mental health challenges is literally just trying to survive. It might sound bleak, but it’s true, and self-care can and should be a survival tool. Realistic self-care can sneak its way into your everyday life if you let it, no boutique yoga membership needed. Here are my two cents on legit self-care ideas, and they might sound pretty basic but again, that’s the point.
Clean Something (Yourself, Your Room, Whatever)
It’s no secret that when we’re going through it, many of us neglect the cleanliness of our space and ourselves. Clutter makes me anxious as hell, but when I’m feeling anxious the last thing I want to do is clean. It’s the worst kind of vicious cycle. If you’re in the same boat, take the smallest baby step you can think of and start there. When I’m feeling mentally and physically drained, sometimes just taking a hot shower can be the tiny reset my body needs. If you’re finding yourself in a messy space, spending just five minutes and putting even a couple of things away can make a world of difference. You might find yourself feeling motivated to keep at it once you start. Even if folding three shirts is all you have in you, it’s three fewer shirts to look at tomorrow.
Yes, You Need to Drink Water and Nourish Yourself
If you’re reading this, go drink some water. You’ve probably heard it from your mom, from your doctor, from a random influencer on Instagram, but it’s because it’s true. Most of us need more of that sweet H2O. It’s literally the most fundamental self-care we can give ourselves. While you’re at it, make sure you nourish yourself too. Cooking can often feel like an impossible task when your mind feels like sh*t, and skipping meals to lay in bed can be a common occurrence (been there, trust me). You don’t need to cook yourself a gourmet meal. If all you have the energy for is ordering in or microwaving a frozen meal, perfect. It’s easy to feel like you need to be drinking 3L of water a day and eating perfect nutritious meals but that’s just not the reality for most. Again, baby steps. The bare minimum is more than okay, but you deserve at least that.
Yep, You Also Need to Move Your Body
I know, I said no yoga required but before you come for me, moving your body can look a million different ways. When we feel down we often feel lethargic, and exercise in any form just feels out of the question. I get it. The annoying part of the equation is that the endorphins we get from exercise actually do make us feel better. The good news though is that movement can take so many different forms. Sometimes, a walk around the block is all you’ve got, and even that might take some serious forced motivation to make happen. It’s all good. You can only do so much sometimes, but I’d encourage you to give it your best shot. I know the days I don’t feel like moving my body at all are usually the days I need to do it the most. I’m almost always happy I forced myself into movement, with the exception of the few times I still feel like garbage, and that’s okay too.
Fresh Air? Go Get Some
Sunshine and fresh air. Seems overrated, I know. But, some of the best self-care you can give yourself is some time in the great outdoors. For me, sometimes this looks like walking out onto my patio, standing there for a couple minutes, then coming back inside. It doesn’t seem like much, but it is. Even on my worst of days, sticking my face directly to the sun and taking some deep breaths gives me that sweet Vitamin D that my body needs to feel a tiny bit less terrible. Even if it’s raining, the outside air is still a much needed break.
Check-In With Yourself, For Real Though
You can do any combination of the above and that’s great, but in order to realize what you truly need, you’ve got to check in with yourself. I’m talking a real check-in, not the classic “I’m fine” response that you might be giving to the people around you. It’s not always easy to admit you’re struggling, especially to yourself, but how you talk to and treat your own mind is more important than anything else. Treating yourself like your own BFF, and spending the time to dig a little deeper and give yourself a little extra TLC while you’re at it is really the ultimate self-care. I know I tend to avoid this one the most, so don’t be like me! You deserve your own love.
If every single one of the things listed above makes you want to deep sigh and/or crawl under your covers and never return, rest might be what’s on the menu. At the end of the day, you come first. When we show up for ourselves, we show up for the other people in our lives too. If you’re just not quite at a place yet where you can do that, be gentle with yourself. Hide under those covers and binge Netflix. Read a really good book to feel that escape from this weird world. Then, when you’ve taken the rest that you need, take things one step, shower, or sip of water at a time. You got this.