Life lessons

9 self-care strategies I use

self care strategies

I have a melancholic personality. It’s not something new. It’s just who I am. It doesn’t mean I don’t laugh or enjoy good times but I’m just more prone to melancholy, to being cynical and pessimistic, to overthink. After struggling with major depression for eighteen months a few years ago, I have had to ensure I do something to prevent relapse. I still occasionally will have depressive episodes but am more aware of it than not. And I’m more likely to engage in behavioural activation before the black dog gets out of control. Similarly, being an anxious person takes its toll and so again, I need to ensure I look after myself. Finally, the job I’m in is not one without stress. I listen to a lot of difficult stories and while I am grateful to be in a privileged position where people share their rawest selves with me, it isn’t without its downfall.

Self-care has become something important to ensure I don’t completely lose my shit. That being said, I’m aware it’s not a ‘cure’ by any means and there are times when I can do all the self-care strategies in the world and still feel the darkness engulf me. In those times, it’s just about taking it one moment at a time, doing one thing after the next in the hope that eventually, the darkness will fade.

Here are 9 things I do for my own self-care:

Exercise

Without a doubt, exercise keeps me level-headed and functioning. In fact, the time I was quite depressed, I rarely exercised and I could tell the negative impact it had on my body and my mind. For me, it’s about exercise I enjoy because otherwise there’s no point. It’s why I engage in strength-training. But additionally, I occasionally run outdoors and also practise yoga when I can. Once again, when I am in a funk, exercise might not give me the high it usually does but as long as I persist, the mood eventually lifts. Maybe not that day, maybe not the next but at some point, it does.

Write

Writing is therapy for me. Be it on the blog or in a notebook, I enjoy writing. But the thing is, it doesn’t always have to be creative work either. Sometimes I just journal my thoughts and it helps me see the mess in my head. In any case, writing is cathartic. It gives voice to my emotions, creates space in my mind, and also brings clarity in my life when it seems like there is none.

Read

Oh books! What would I do without you?! I love being transported into different worlds, to feel all the feelings, to live different lives and to have my feelings validated. It doesn’t matter what type of book I read {i.e. I’ll still read books that make me cry} but I need to read! It soothes me and keeps me whole.

Listen to Music

Music is another thing that makes me feel all the feels. Spotify has been an amazing addition to my life because not only do I continue to listen to music I love, but I have also discovered new amazing music. Even as I type this, I have fantastic instrumental prog rock playing in the background. Other days, I will drive to music I can sing out loud to. Still other days, I’ll listen to music that hits me deep and brings tears to my eyes. I also make sure I go to live music events to experience all the things musical.

Be in nature

The beach is usually my go-to place to soak in the sights, sounds and smells but usually, anywhere with water such as the lake, or a river will do. Alternatively, I also enjoy the bush and the mountains though water remains my first choice. I find I can get rejuvenated either sitting at the beach, swimming in the ocean or hiking in the bush. While I don’t do it everyday, I definitely ensure I do it more often than not.

Be social 

Usually the last thing I want to do when I’m down or anxious is to be around people. I successfully withdrew from people back in 2015-2016 when I was struggling with my mental health. It was not good for me. It’s hard to be social and you also worry about bringing others down. But in recent times, I’ve realised I need to do the opposite of what I feel. That I have friends who care and who will be empathic but also will be good distraction for me from my own shit. Most importantly, though, it keeps me connected which is good for my mental health. And so, I make sure I make plans – whether it’s coffee, brunch, dinner or events, I’ll attempt to catch up in person but I’ll also message and keep the conversation going.

Cat cuddles

There is research to show the benefit of animals on our mental wellbeing. If I had a dog, I’d add dog cuddles and licks to this section but because I only have two cats who won’t permit me to get a dog, I am limited. That said, they are pretty perceptive regarding how I feel and I know having them cuddle me or sit on my lap and purr away is a really good feeling. Plus, they make me smile.

Show kindness

For me personally, helping others is a form of self-care. It gets me out of my own head and thinking about other people. Yes, I do it as part of work but when it comes to self-care, I also like it to be about being able to help friends or strangers. Maybe it’s also selfish because I do feel good when others feel good but I don’t mind. I’m sticking to it.

Keeping a gratitude journal

I started this last year and kept a notebook in which I jotted at least three things each night that went well that day or that I was grateful for. I also kept a weekly gratitude log on the blog. And I noticed a change in my outlook. There were certainly occasions when I was less cynical or at least able to see the silver linings amidst the dark clouds. This year, I’ve moved to a gratitude app that also allows me to store up to 6 photos and I am loving it. The weekly gratitude journal on the blog continues and once again, it helps me realise that despite my low phases, not everything is doom and gloom.

Like I said at the start though, self-care is not a miracle cure. It doesn’t eliminate anxiety or depression or other mental health issues. It can however, prove to be a bit of a buffer. And in the weeks and days and months it doesn’t, I still do it anyway {along with my daily routines} because I know eventually, the darkness will pass. Like everything in life, this too is transient.

What about you? 

Do you practise self-care? What are your thoughts about it?

Do share!

***Linking with Denyse for Life this Week***

Featured image by Anthony from Pexels

Until next time,

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  • Sammie @ The Annoyed Thyroid
    8 April 2019 at 8:58 pm

    I think self care is really important and I like to think I’m quite good at practising it! I was nodding along to your list – reading and exercising are two of my favourites. I find a little hug goes a long way (I’m never afraid to ask) and I love a bit of a cuddle although I’d have to swap the kitty cat for a puppy dog 🙂

  • Natalie
    9 April 2019 at 4:24 am

    Good for you to do self-care, Sanch. I do similar activities, except I don’t have cats. I also have ‘travel’ on my list. I have a Wellness Wednesday link up on April 10 on my blog. Optional prompt Healthy Mind. Please feel free to join in on the fun. I think this post is a good fit. #lifethisweek
    Natalie recently posted…Art Discovery in Ljubljana, SloveniaMy Profile

  • Sydney Shop Girl
    9 April 2019 at 6:04 am

    Sanch, beautifully put. Self-care is a buffer. Thank you for sharing your own journey from that period of depression into the good place you are now at.
    SSG xxx

  • Natasha
    9 April 2019 at 3:59 pm

    Self-care is key. I like all your tips and use them for myself too. I would also add music to the list as it is pretty therapeutic for me to tune in to some wonderful music. And probably also watching something funny, that would lift me up.

    May you always feel elevated and happy. Lots of love, Sanch.

  • Debbie
    9 April 2019 at 4:26 pm

    I like all these things on your list and try to do most of them myself – (no cat = no cat cuddles!!). I have a grandbaby who I love to cuddle when I get to see her instead of a cat!! I also like your honesty in writing this, it’s not always easy to tell people what we are thinking or feeling, but I think blogging is a great way to keep ourselves honest. Take care #lifethisweek
    Debbie recently posted…What’s the best book you’ve ever read?My Profile

  • Shalzmojo
    9 April 2019 at 5:09 pm

    Hugs dearest – the depression is not a good thing to have in one’s life and you are so so young and free to be wrestling with it. I am glad you are a mental healthcare professional as it lets you see the pitfalls quickly.

    I have been following your gratitude journal posts since you started and its so awesome to note your social dos, walks on the beach, swimming in the sea and hiking the woods – you have made me turn greener and greener till I started to look like a green Smurf 😉

    Self care is perfect antidote for it and am so happy to see you indulge in it! XOXO
    Shalzmojo recently posted…|| #Gratitutde | March MusingsMy Profile

  • Denyse
    10 April 2019 at 7:59 pm

    Thank you so much for your heart-felt and honest post. To know yourself well is to help yourself. It can feel a bit tricky when you sense the mood turning down because it can be easy to ignore it. The fact that you have measures of self-care in place is testament to your self-knowledge.

    Thank you for linking up for #lifethisweek 14/51. Next week’s optional prompt is 15/51 Share Your Snaps #3. 15/4/19 Hope to see you then. Denyse.
    Denyse recently posted…My Zen Is Found In The Garden. Part One. 37/2019.My Profile

  • Shilpa Gupte
    12 April 2019 at 4:40 pm

    Precisely the activities I do to take good care of myself and shut out the anxiety that can cause pain.
    Hugs, Sanch, for being brave and vulnerable, too, and sharing it all with us.
    Shilpa Gupte recently posted…K – Be Kind to Yourself. #AtoZChallenge.My Profile

  • Parul Thakur
    14 April 2019 at 1:34 am

    Self care is extremely important and like you, I also work out, travel, listen to music, read and write. I also enjoy watching the moon, clouds and the sky.
    Parul Thakur recently posted…#ThursdayTreeLove – 61My Profile

  • Vinitha
    21 April 2019 at 9:23 am

    A couple of months ago I made a self-care list. It’s just a list of activities that makes me happy. I have been practicing self-care since my break down last December (actually breakdown happened a while, only in December I realized about it). I am hoping that my self-care list would help me the next time my happiness level drops. Many of the activities you have listed here are in mine like exercise, writing, reading, be in nature, talking with friends, listening to music, and writing on my daily gratitude journal.
    Vinitha recently posted…Gratitude List – FebruaryMy Profile