Tiny Acts of Self Care for When You Just Can’t

I write about self care a lot. I started this blog to chart my decision to choose happiness, at a time when I didn’t feel like anything could ever make me feel happy again. I write to remind myself why I made that decision, and how I continue to make that decision. And sometimes I think maybe I’m helping other people to choose it too.

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A lot of people seem to be struggling right now. I think that happens a lot in the springtime. Things start to change and for better or for worse, change always dredges up the dirt that’s lying under the surface. And when you’re struggling, every single step you take feels heavy and impossible and pointless – even the ones that you know might help. How are you supposed to summon the energy to start an inspiration journal when you can’t even face taking a shower or cooking a proper dinner? I’ve been there, and I promise it gets better. But until then, here are a few teeny tiny little acts of self care for when you’re genuinely not up to joining a yoga class, starting a healthy eating plan or taking up knitting.

Put On Some Clean Socks

I’m not even joking, I feel like a new woman when I’m wearing clean socks. If I’ve been travelling or if I’ve had a really rubbish day at work, I come home and put on a pair of clean, comfy cotton socks. Boom. Ready to face the world again. I told you they’d be teeny tiny. But it helps.

Breathe

Go somewhere warm. Lie down on your back with your arms by your sides. Close your eyes. Concentrate on your breathing. Don’t try to alter your breath – you don’t have to be doing deep, mystic, yogic breathing, just let your body do its thing. Cry if you feel like you have to. Let your thoughts come and go and try to be gentle with them. If you feel like you’re working yourself into a frenzy, stop. Being still works for some people, being active works for others.

Make Your Bed

Okay, this can be a hard one, I know. I wrote an entire post shortly after starting this blog about how the hardest thing about feeling like the world is falling apart is dealing with the fact that it actually isn’t. You still need to wash your clothes and pay your bills and do your dishes. Pick just one thing. Decide to go and make your bed right now. Or empty your bins. Or wash your dishes. Let yourself take pride in having done it. Self care isn’t always a bubble bath or a trashy movie. Sometimes, it’s doing the thing that has to be done, even when it makes you hurt. You’ve got this. I promise, you’ve got this.

Cuddle Something

I’m a very tactile person and I sometimes feel like I get an actual high from a good hug. Hey, if people are allowed exercise highs, I’m allowed hug highs. But if you’re not into touchy feely people, it doens’t need to be a person. Cuddle your dog. Dogs are great, and they always know when you’re sad. Wrap your arms around a big pillow, or around your duvet and give it a big squeeze. I have no idea why this works, but it does.

Wash Your Face

This is similar to the clean socks in that it makes me feel like a brand new person. I’ve obviously internalised the idea of a clean, fresh start very literally. Grab a facecloth, run it under a very hot tap and place it over your face. Breathe in that steamy goodness. Enjoy the feeling of something warm and soft on your skin. Now wash your face in gentle little circles. No vicious scrubbing, we’re loving ourselves, remember?

Come take my hand, my darling. It’s okay not to be okay. Recovering from depression or anxiety doesn’t mean that you have to be a gigantic hose of positivity and hope all the time. It’s okay to feel rubbish sometimes. It’s okay to just survive, if that’s all you have the strength to do. Look after yourself, survive, give yourself the chance to fight again tomorrow.

Unhelpful Thoughts

So, as we’ve covered already, I haven’t been feeling too braw. I gave the British method of combatting everything with a stiff upper lip and steadfast denial a go, but when that failed to make me feel even a little bit better, I decided that maybe I should go get some help. So, for the past three weeks, I’ve been taking part in an online course designed to help you identify and combat unhelpful thoughts and behaviours.

As it turns out, I have quite a lot of those.

So, in the interest of science and mental health, here is a list of unhelpful thoughts that I have pretty much every single day.

  • “If my life was a horror movie, this is totally where I’d be murdered.”
  • “Is that man looking at me weird because he can hear my thoughts and is appalled by my weirdness?” *Screams inside head and watches for a reaction*
  • “Is my rabbit really fulfilled?”

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  • “Can I put peanut butter on that?”
  • “I wonder if I should quit my job and go audition for Frozen on Broadway.”
  • “Maybe I should go blonde.”
  • “Maybe I should cut my hair short.”

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  • “Maybe I should get a tattoo.”
  • “I like my new Facebook cover photo, but does it really say enough about who I am as a person?”
  • “Imagine there was an axe-murderer behind this door/in my wardrobe/behind the shower curtain/standing at my window/under my bed.”
  • “I’d probably make a pretty awesome spy.”
  • “Why does Phil make Hercules bulk up when he’s already super strong?”

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  • “Maybe I should take a nap.”
  • “It’s been a while since I encountered an enormous, terrifying spider. That’ll probably happen soon.”
  • “Maybe if I buy new stationery, my life will improve.”
  • “Maybe if I buy a blazer, I’ll become the type sophisticated girl who wears blazers.”
  • “I am so funny. I wonder if anyone would pay me just for being this hilarious.”
  • “Maybe Pinterest has the answer.”
  • “This situation will be better if I paint my nails again.”

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With all this junk floating around my brain, it’s no wonder I’m not functioning properly. Although the junk isn’t really a recent thing. Maybe I’ve always been a little bit crazy.

In all seriousness, the course I’m taking has been super-helpful so far and it’s free, so if anyone else is feeling low, check it out here.

Coming Out Of The Closet

Save your congratulations, folks, the title of this post probably doesn’t mean what you think it means.

A few months ago, I watched an amazing talk by Ash Beckham on coming out of the closet. If you haven’t seen this talk, go watch it right now. Seriously, there is nothing I am going to say in this post that will be as awesome as that talk is (Yes, that’s a link to Upworthy. Deal with it. I like Upworthy and their manipulative, cheery headlines).

She talks about the experience of coming out of the closet, and how for her, that experience was about revealing to people that she was gay. But she goes on to say that it’s not only gay people who experience being in the closet. Everyone has their own personal closet, and they should get the hell out, because a closet is no place for a person to be living.

I felt sort of angry and upset at this assertion, because I most certainly was not in the closet about anything. How dare anyone suggest that I had anything to hide.
*Spoilers* I was definitely in the closet.

An artist's impression of my very mature response.

An artist’s impression of my very mature response.

As I would imagine is the case with a lot of people in the closet, I was afraid to admit what I was feeling because I was terrified of messing with people’s perception of me, and with my perception of myself. See, for all my endearing self-deprecation (was that an oxymoron?), I am kind of addicted to this image of myself as A Success™. A long time ago, somebody told me that the best revenge on your bullies is to live well. I took that advice and ran with it. So when I found myself graduating with a degree from the University of Edinburgh, Dream Job already landed, I was feeling pretty chuffed. Except there was one tiny snag. Within a couple of months, I was miserable. But I reasoned that as long as nobody knew I was miserable, it would be okay. As long as I could keep pretending that everything was alright, I’d still be A Success™.

Some of you may point out that being utterly miserable is not really living well. To that I say, excellent point, reader! I will now pretend that I didn’t hear it.

After a few months of feeling like my soul was being stomped on by an angry toddler, I begrudgingly accepted that something probably wasn’t right and I should maybe talk to someone about it. So, two nights ago, I did the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my whole entire life. I talked to my dad.

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I planned what I was going to say for two days in advance, rehearsing scenarios in my head, imagining him casting me out onto the pavement upon the revelation that I was not the Success™ I had been portraying myself as. Because my dad is apparently the villain in a Thomas Hardy novel and I am an idiot.

Of all the things I’ve ever faced in my life, opening up and saying to someone “I am really struggling, I think I need your help” is by far the scariest. Or it would have been if I actually said that. In reality, I just wailed a bit, but he got the message okay.

And of course, it turns out that my dad couldn’t really give two shits about whether I’m A Success™ or not, beyond whether it makes me happy. We talked for hours, and for maybe the first time ever, I was completely honest with him. I wasn’t trying to be the me I thought he wanted me to be, and by the end of the conversation, I felt about a bazillion pounds lighter. Honestly, I don’t know why I didn’t just talk to him months ago.

Oh, just my dad being a boss.

Oh, just my dad being a boss.

Because *GLARINGLY OBVIOUS CONCLUSION KLAXON*, it turns out that the people who really love you will always love you, even if you turn out to be something different than what they were expecting. In being afraid to shatter people’s image of me, I ended up shutting myself away from them and hoping no one would notice.

This approach, to put it bluntly, is utter bollocks.

I’m not saying that talking about how I was feeling fixed it. I still feel like I want to do nothing but crawl under my duvet and watch Legally Blonde on a loop for the rest of my life. But the thing about closets is that they’re really tiny. It’s tough to get comfy in a closet. I might not be happy (yet), but at least I have some space to breathe. And I’m really glad to be out.