Written by Lucia Kennedy
Self-care is a much-talked about topic in the media today. It’s the practice of any intentional actions you do to care for your physical, mental and emotional health. It’s not only for people who struggle with mental illness; it’s a practice that should be done by everyone. With the summer months coming up, I can imagine that many of you are finishing school and will have nothing solid planned for a rather long time, or perhaps you have a summer job that can unexpectedly leave you without any working hours for a week. Post-exam madness, the summer can seem like a sweet relief to laze about in bliss. However, for many people the summer can quickly turn into a source of endless boredom. These long summer days were a huge spring of anxiety for me as a school-goer; I’d slip into a rut where I was bored and lonely, but I didn’t want to do anything. I needed self-care the most during these long stretches of time where I was stranded and tediously bored. I was doing nothing to take care of myself, and the boredom made me snappy and irritable. I’m sure many of you can relate. I soon learned that including the small things in this list helped me feel better; making efforts to include them in my week gave me some much-needed structure and the boredom ebbed away.
I’m not saying that incorporating these things will cure depression or any mental illness; that would be an outlandish and very untrue statement. However, including self-care in your life can help you feel a little better, and feeling even a little better is something we all deserve. Where I live in Ireland, the concept of self-care and self-love is often brushed off as keen millennial behaviour. You might be someone who scoffs at the idea, but once you try out some self-care tips yourself, you’ll understand why it’s so talked about. The things I list here are the things that really made a big difference for me when I started practising self-care, and I hope you find them as impactful as I did.
1) Treat yourself by baking something
Even a small feat like making the perfect mug brownie for dessert is a wonderful way to reward yourself and gives you a small creative outlet. In fact, many occupational therapists use baking therapy to help their patients cope with depression and anxiety; baking gives you something structured to do with your time, and at the end you have some marvellous treats to eat and share with friends and family. If you have a furry friend in your life, you can even bake them special treats, like these puppy biscuits or one of these kitty snacks.
2) Get some air
You’ve heard this a million times before, but the importance of giving yourself 15 minutes or more every day to go outside cannot be stressed enough. Getting some fresh air every day has been proven to alleviate symptoms of depression and is a serious mood booster. Even if all you feel like doing is staying in bed, opening up your window and breathing in fresh air can help you feel a little better. You deserve to feel good; so allow yourself to have a walk outside or some fresh-air time. Even better, take a dog with you for a walk- either your own dog or a neighbour’s dog. Spending time with animals can be very entertaining, and bringing joy to a dog who loves to walk is very rewarding.
3) Spring Cleaning
Giving your quarters a little spruce-up has been shown to be a very effective pick-me-up. It’s easy to feel reluctant to face the messiness of our floors and the nooks-and-crannies where things seem to pile up out of nowhere, but do remember that you deserve to live in a space where you can breathe. Having a tidy room can help you feel less claustrophobic and can make you proud of the place you live in. It also means you can invite over some friends without worrying about the overflowing laundry basket.
Making small plans with friends is a wonderful way to take care of yourself. Even messaging a friend and asking if they’d like to watch some terrible TV with you can be a fun, low-maintenance thing to structure your day around. We can all slip into a confusing rut where we feel isolated and lonely, while actively avoiding social activities. You deserve to spend time with people who love you and make you laugh; so try to break out of this rut as gently as you like. If one-on-one meet ups feel daunting, try Skyping or Facetiming a friend for a few minutes to talk or tell dumb jokes to. If you’ve been spending a lot of time alone and ignoring your messages, your friends probably miss you a great deal and would love to talk.