“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” ooooft, that’s a strong quote to start with, isn’t it? In all seriousness though, I want to talk about how self-care can be a preventative measure when it comes to our mental health and how we can get the most from it with a little preparation.
An act of self-care is, to me, an act that gives me energy, reduces stress and makes me feel fulfilled. All of these things help me manage anxiety and navigate dips in my mental health better when they come along.
Self-care doesn’t guarantee I won’t struggle and sometimes it is certainly not enough. There are times when many of us need professional support through therapy and/or medication to cope with poor mental health, but self-care has a role to play.
It helps you prioritise your health, tune into yourself and catch issues in their early stages. It can even help you steer away from a full on relapse.
Having a self-care first-aid kit can help here. Just like a regular first-aid kit, full of bandages and gauze, a self-care first-aid kit should contain everything you could need when you feel your mental health starting to dip.
Perhaps you’re feeling overwhelmed and are noticing a drop in mood, or maybe those physical anxiety symptoms are cropping up daily. Once you notice your red flags, having a self-care first-aid kit to hand can help.
This kit can be an actual box of physical objects, or a more theoretical kit. It might simply be a list of self-care acts that you know help you feel better. Whichever way you decide to go, here are a few tips to make your own:
Note your red flags
Knowing what your red flags are is an important first step. If you struggle with this, try increasing your self-awareness with practices like journaling and meditation. Think about what happens to you when you feel stressed and unable to cope – how does this manifest? Do you get physical symptoms like headaches? Do you snap at your partner? Do you struggle to sleep?
Keep a list of red flags and refer back to them regularly. Check in with yourself often and ask if you’re noticing any red flags and if so, consider what you can do.
Make a list of self-care acts and how they affect you
Create a list full of self-care activities, no matter how big or small. From ‘take a shower’ and ‘read a book’ to ‘book time off’ and ‘go to a therapy session’, write everything down.
Noting how they make you feel can also serve as a handy reminder when you feel like you can’t be bothered. For example, if you see ‘go for a walk’ on your list, but you’re not sure you want to head outside, seeing the way it makes you feel (i.e. ‘more energetic, freer and better able to sleep at night’) may motivate you.
At this point, you can add some physical items to your kit if you want. Maybe some bags of tea, your favourite film or a picture of someone you love. Use your imagination here and add anything you’ll think will help when you’re feeling overstretched.
Make a list of numbers you can call / text for support
This is an important one to add to the kit if you have or have had a mental health condition. The list of numbers could include family, friends and medical professionals. You can make a list of charity support numbers too (Happiful have a great list) and use them when you need a friendly ear.
Share your kit with those close to you
This last step is optional, but I think it can be really helpful. Share your kit (or elements of your kit) with partners, friends, family and even work colleagues. Show them what helps you when your mental health isn’t good and explain what you might need from them at that time.
Encourage them to make one too, hell – make an evening of it! Get some music on, open a bottle of wine and get crafty decorating your self-care first-aid kits.
I hope this was helpful and if you decide to make yourself a kit, do let me know. There is so much power in us taking control of our mental wellbeing and I think this is a great way to do just that. And if self-care is a subject you struggle with, whether you find it difficult to justify it or simply can’t find the time – my self-care strategy calls are designed to help you!
In the call we’ll chat about your obstacles to self-care and come up with a practical action plan to make self-care part of your routine. More information about how this can help and what’s included can be found on my coaching page.
That’s all from me this week, I hope the first few days of June are treating you well, roll on some sunshine.
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