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The Truth About Self-Care When It Seems Like a Struggle

Treat yourself like you would someone else — a little human you’re looking after for a while. Would you let them barely eat? Or would you encourage them, be gentle with them? Give them kind words and warmth and nourishment so their body and brain keep going. Don’t think of it as “self-care.” The times when you really need self-care — when you’ve been neglecting yourself — the very last person who seems important, worth bothering with, is you.

Don’t let yourself be overwhelmed by this. Today, you have one job. One thing to focus on. You’re looking after a little human being, you need to make sure they stay hydrated. You need to make sure they get some light, some fresh air. Have they taken their medication today? You need to make sure they eat something. Your responsibility doesn’t lie with yourself, but with this little being who’s relying on you. Allow yourself to recognize when your being needs some extra love, a cuddle, some kind words if they’re feeling low. You need to be kind to your human because sometimes other people won’t be. You need to show compassion to them, with them when others aren’t there to reassure them. Be proud of who they are and all they do. Your human is worth protecting. They’re limited edition.

What do they need right now? Do they need a friend? Are they lost, lonely, or isolated? Invite a friend round for them, allow them to smile. Show them the good in the world; find out what is useful for them to hear right now. Sit with them a while. If you’re struggling, remember this is about your little one, the one you’re tasked with looking after. You don’t need to think of it as looking after yourself. You’re looking after your friend. Do they need to get dressed, even if it’s just into a fresh pair of pyjamas?

I asked a group of my friends, some who have experience of mental illness, some who don’t, to think of someone who is important to them. Someone whose health and well-being, mind, heart and soul they care about. I told them they weren’t allowed to say that I was the person who came to mind. This wasn’t an ego exercise. I told them not to overthink it, to not spend too long on it, and not one of them said themselves. I don’t know if this was through not wanting to seem selfish. I hadn’t asked them to think of the “most” important person, I hadn’t specifically asked for someone “else,” just someone they deemed as important. You are important, and this is something we need to realize. We need to look after us. How can we look after anyone else before taking care of ourselves? You are the only you this planet has, the only one there will ever be. You are individually unique, special in so many ways, and you need to acknowledge that. You matter. No matter how low you feel, no matter how much you’ve achieved or haven’t achieved in your life so far, you are important. You will be you until the day you die. Be the best you can. Love yourself, accept yourself, whoever you may be. Allow yourself to grow. You are a beautiful, unique human being; you’re the only you this world will ever have. Aim for growth, explore every facet of who you are, and never be ashamed.

Look after yourselves.

Self-care has recently become a big thing online, which is amazing, but it needs to be acknowledged that it isn’t all fairy lights and candles and Enya playlists. It needs addressing that it’s not all pampering sessions and facemasks, fluffy blankets and positive quotes. Sometimes self-care is opening the curtains you’ve had shut for a month, letting some light in. Sometimes it’s brushing your hair for the first time in weeks, brushing your teeth, having a bath or shower. Changing the bedding you’ve slept in for months. Allowing yourself to breathe. Calm. Steady your breath and steady your mind. Listen to both your mind and your body. See where they are at the moment — the moment is the only time we are truly alive. Being kind to ourselves is the first step in being kind to others. Accept where you are right now. Forgive yourself, be compassionate towards yourself. Please don’t punish yourself anymore. See yourself beyond the brain fog — the gray, dark, heavy clouds surrounding you.

You are OK.

My lovely friend has an analogy I really like. Inside, we have a tiny flame. A pilot light. An unflickering steady flame that goes within us no matter what stormy winds are blowing around us. Breathe, connecting back to our flame and trusting it will always be there. Remind yourself that you have a lovely, warm, clean pilot light within you. You are a good person. Nurture your flame, give it oxygen and allow it to glow. Self-care can even be admitting you aren’t OK, that things need to change and that you are worth more to the world than this. You could be someone’s “important person” that they’ve put before themselves; you don’t get to choose how much you mean to someone.

I believe in you; you can do this.

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Thinkstock photo via lzf