For me remembering to breathe (not literally), but remembering to just take a moment to calm down and settle is tricky. My mind seems to always be whizzing around and I struggle to just stop. I am a fidgeter. I can’t stop moving sometimes. I sit on the sofa trying to relax and watch the Bake Off but more often than not I am thinking about the next thing. I light a candle. I sit on the sofa. I get up and get my blanket. I sit on the sofa. I get up and get a drink. I sit on the sofa. I put my clothes in the wash. I sit on the sofa. I go to the toilet. I sit on the sofa…
This year I’ve been trying to take time for me. Self care. For me self care is about making time in the day or week to just do me. I don’t mean spending money on clothes to make myself feel better because inevitably it will make me depressed knowing how much I’ve spent and the strong dull cloud that will be forever present until the next payday. No for me self care is just that. Caring about myself.
For most years of my life I have never focused on me, and ways in which to make myself feel good. I’m not some selfless, angel-like being but it never seemed like a priority. I’m not one to make New Years resolutions but I did want 2020 to be a year of helping myself. I have always struggled with my mental health, specifically anxiety and more recently depression. I knew it was time to see what all this ‘Self Care’ talk was about.
Meditation. I’m no expert on this at all but I have been practising meditation for a couple years and I find it so beneficial in order to relax my thoughts and calm my busy mind. I am an over-thinker. A worrier. An anxious being. So, meditation helps me stop and focus on my breathing and centre myself. I find it calming to roll my blinds down in my lounge, turn the big lights off and put some fairy lights on and I use the rug to lay on. I put a calm playlist on my phone and just breathe. I lay there for about 20 minutes or so. If my mind is jumping around from unnecessary thought to unnecessary thought, this really helps. If I find myself feeling panicked wherever I am, I just try and focus on my breaths, closing my eyes with every inhalation and slowly opening my eyes to breathe out. I can almost feel the electrons in my brain slowing down.
Writing. This isn’t a new one for me, I have always put pen to paper if my thoughts were getting too busy. I do consider this self care. Writing my thoughts down gets them out of my head. It frees space up for things that should be there, rather than taking up sections of my mind on unnecessary unexplainable anxieties, I write them down. This works for self evaluation too, as I go back and reread entries from months previous and hopefully see how much I have grown mentally and areas I still need to work on. I try not be punish myself though, it is more of a learning quality than anything.
Exercise. Growing up I was always into sports and dance, joining every club possible, never thinking about how much this would have cost my parents (very grateful). Then entering teenage life and early adolescence, these clubs that I had joined just seemed to become less interesting to me so did exercise. However now I am in my mid-twenties I find exercise to be fun again. Last year I started going to Pilates at least twice a month for most of 2019 and this for me was so beneficial to my mental health. I found it so calming and centring, and helpful for balance and flexibility. The best part for me was the relaxation at the end. Just laying on the floor, shutting my eyes and listening to the teacher guide the class in a short meditation.
Massage. I had my first proper massage a few years ago at a spa with a friend. It was a full body one with hot stones. It was perfect; so calming. Since then I have had more with different therapists and they have all been beneficial to me. I carry a lot of tension in my shoulders and the top of my back, so targeting these areas really helps. Relaxing music is playing. Smelly oils fill the room. And I just feel at peace. When on holiday in Thailand, myself and my boyfriend treated ourselves to a massage, I got a traditional Thai massage and he got a head and neck one. For me it was amazing. A totally different massage than anything I had previously experienced before. I removed my clothes and wore a cotton top and shorts provided. I laid on the bed and next minute the woman is standing on top of me. Every knot and tension point in the back and shoulders was released. It was the best feeling. I heard everything click and ease straight away. I think getting massaged is not my boyfriend’s favourite activity. This was his first ever massage and at one point I looked up and saw the massage therapist straddling him on the bed trying to make him less tense…I believe this did the opposite. He also hates oils and creams on his body and face so this was kind of his idea of torture and my idea of heaven.
Audible. I have had a subscription to Audible for a few years now and I love it. I have listened to a great selection of authors and storytellers transport me to other worlds. The first book I listened to was Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone read by the beautifully eloquent Stephen Fry. This didn’t take me long to complete and then I was on the next book in the series. I would plug in my earphones whilst sat on the noisy aeroplane on the way to Spain or whilst I was laying by the pool. I was already in heaven, being in the sunshine and dipping my toes in the pool and then the added bonus of Stephen Fry narrating to me the wondrous, magical world that a young Harry Potter was just entering into. I find it hard to get into books when I am reading. I am a slow reader anyway, so having someone read stories to me is much more time efficient and I get hooked quicker. When it’s a rainy Monday morning and I’m walking to work, I switch on Audible and the rain doesn’t seem so heavy anymore. It is escapism, and sometimes that is all you need.