There are plenty of different ways to look after ourselves, and most of us amidst the hectic, busy lives we lead often forget how important it is to put ourselves first. Self-care and self-love isn't about ignoring and not looking after others in our lives, it's about making sure we look after ourselves so we can reduce stress, enjoy life and have the time, and strength to be there for those we love.
Admittedly I fall down a lot when it comes to self-care, but I'm learning - just like a lot, if not all, other humans on this big old world. Self-care isn't just important to those who are stressed or those with ill health, self-care is vitally important for everyone. Yes, that includes you too.
Like I said, I'm learning - and in my recovery I've been faced with some big challenges, but all of which are an act of self-care. Learning to love yourself, learning to look after yourself doesn't come easy - it's in our nature to take care of others, as parents, as friends, as daughters, sons, brothers, sisters, cousins, teachers, neighbours - there are so many others who we care for. Selflessly, and naturally. But we sometimes forget that we are the centre of our own universe, and we should definitely look after ourselves too.
Here are my favourite 10 self-care tips:
1. We all fall down (I fall down a lot), we have to learn to get back up, brush ourselves down and not dwell on what happened. I once fell up the steps when walking into a House of Commons event, I was pretty devastated, but the armed police found it hilarious - talk about having to recover quickly. I made a joke, and carried on - I had no choice.
2.Mistakes are actually achievements, if you learn from them. Making mistakes is what teaches us to do things differently. What may seem devastatingly embarrassing now, and what may seem like the end of the world is actually something we may be able to look back on and think "hey, that sucked, but if it didn't happen I wouldn't be where I am now."
3.Sometimes self-care isn't about doing what you want. It's about doing what's right for your body and mind. Try your hardest to eat well, to be active, to try new things - but don't beat yourself if you find things difficult. Stepping out of your comfort zone can be terrifying, but sometimes you have to move away from what you are familiar with - especially if your current habits and routines are impacting your wellbeing. Sometimes we need others to help us look after ourselves, and that's perfectly okay - you may feel uncomfortable asking for help, but asking for help is definitely, 100% okay.
4.Nature is wonderful, go find some nature. Animals can make you smile, cry and run for your life - but at least they are making you feel something. Any time spent outside is time well spent, explore things, try something new, remind yourself that the world is full of new, unseen stuff.
5.Write. I think writing is so important. Whether you're rubbish at writing or you are as skilled and awesome as J.K.Rowling, writing opens so many doors - doors into exploring your own self, in exploring the world, in exploring fantasy, in exploring your imagination, into exploring history, into realising that you are a genius, and that you are the next best thing since sliced bread.
6.Be there for somebody. I know this one goes against what I said earlier, but sometimes when you are giving someone advice you realise that you aren't treating yourself the way you wish for others to be treated. I cannot tell you the amount of times I've felt I've given someone some pretty ace advice, and then realised that maybe I should practice what I preach.
7. Ask lots of questions, about yourself, about the world, about your friends, about your situation, about what you want to eat, about where you want to go, about what happened in Harry Potter, about why J.K.Rowling isn't writing another Harry Potter book. ASK QUESTIONS. There is nothing wrong with being curious, asking questions can help you learn something new. It can also help you re-evaluate things in your life, it can remind you of what you love, and of what you've learnt.
8. Learning is incredibly important, and it's a vital part of self-care. Learning is wonderful, whether you learn a new recipe, learn a new route to work, learn a new song, sport, game, language or way to do your hair. Learning helps us evolve, it keeps us moving forward, it allows us to experience new things and it lets us learn more about who we are as humans.
9. It doesn't matter if you don't know 'who you are', accept that most humans on this big planet are actually just making things up as they go along. From my own experience I've learnt that stressing about not knowing who I am as a person is a complete waste of time. I've realised that others may actually know a little more about who I am than I do, and I've also learnt that others may be completely wrong. Letting yourself learn what you like and don't like is all part of growing. And it's weirdly very wonderful when you realise how much you have grown as a person. You may have become someone completely different to who you thought you'd be, but actually you're ten times more awesome than you ever thought you would be, and that's perfectly fine.
10. Resting is so so important. There are different ways to rest, and all us humans rest and relax differently. Last year I knew how hard I was working, how fast I was rolling along and taking on opportunities, but every time someone said 'have a day off, relax' I'd freak out. I tried watching films or having baths but everything just made me completely overwhelmed - I cried because I had no idea how to rest and how to look after myself. I then realised that for me resting and relaxing is just slowing down and doing more of what I love, i.e. writing, reading and surprisingly taking candlelit baths and dwelling over my past.
Dumbledore says and I often say that it does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live... yes we shouldn't live in the past, we shouldn't allow ourselves to constantly revisit our past, and feel all that pain again, but it IS okay to reflect on our past. Sometimes we cannot understand things, and sometimes we won't be able to make sense of things, but we have to accept and explore what we've learnt from these tricky situations, and I find for me the best place to do that is if I'm completely relaxed, listening to some ace music and pretending I'm a mermaid.
I write about and share personal experience of mental health and wellbeing over on my blog Dearest Someone, come and have a read!