How special do you make yourself feel?
Are you struggling to get over your past? Have you moved on from an abusive relationship but can’t shake off low moods? So many survivors of domestic abuse are left with low moods and depression. They’ve often lost touch with what they want, what they need and what makes them happy. Sadly, many survivors don’t feel worthy of good things having spent years being abused and demeaned. Does this sound familiar? There is a way out, self-care is the enemy of low moods. When we practice self-care, we’re actively fighting depression.
Depression is cruel, it tells us we don’t matter. But by prioritising self-care, by doing things for ourselves, we’re showing depression that we are worthy of attention and care. We’re also giving this message to those around us,
Self-care is the actions we undertake to look after ourselves, physically, emotionally and mentally. It incorporates looking after our health by exercising and eating well, ensuring we get good sleep, improving our living space by decluttering and creating a beautiful home. It also includes mindfully challenging negative thoughts and being self-compassionate. Self-care never stops being a work in progress, as soon as we stop, things can slide downhill, but it is so worth the effort. We just need to find out what works for us, take it one step at a time and never neglect ourselves again.
So where do we start? It can be difficult to know where to begin but starting small and building up is a good strategy. Self-care can fall into various categories. If we’re caring about our emotional health, we might become aware of negative thoughts and learn self-compassion. Keeping a journal to remind us of our strengths can be helpful, as can practicing gratitude. It might be that counselling would help. Reviewing our friends can be useful. Some friends make us feel bad by subtly undermining us, other friends make us feel worthy. Self-care might mean spending more time with our true friends and distancing ourselves from the others. It can be helpful to categorise friends as either drains or radiators, the drains sap our energy, encourage negativity and cause us to doubt ourselves, the radiators make us feel valued and worthy. Make more time for the radiators! When learning mindfulness, we’re doing something for ourselves and improving our emotional health in the process. Self-care around emotional wellbeing is arguably the most important area.
Looking after our physical health not only makes us feel worthier by the very fact we’re doing something for us, but it will also make us feel physically better. By exercising, we’re telling ourselves that we matter, we’re taking time for ourselves, we’re also improving our health in the process. Exercise has the added benefit of encouraging the release of feel good hormones such as endorphins. Regular exercise has often been cited as more effective than medication for depression, particularly when the exercise is outdoors and with friends.
Eating well is another important part of self-care relating to physical health. It could be that treating yourself to a cream tea with friends or enjoying a cake at your favourite café might be an expression of self-care but eating unhealthy ‘treats’ on a habitual basis will often have the effect of undermining our sense of self-worth. By largely eating healthy food, we are assuring ourselves that we’re worth taking care of. Healthy food will tend to improve health, make us look and feel better and add to our sense of positivity. Eating well, as with all other self-care practices will be more beneficial to us when we’re mindful that we’re taking this care because we are deserving of it.
Self-care necessitates discovering what comforts, calms and makes us feel good. It’s very personal and will vary widely. Examples of self-care are as diverse as playing sport, painting nails, candle lit baths, reading, playing music, taking a course or decluttering a socks drawer. Small rituals can be built up and added to. Know that when you’re building up these habits, you’re doing them because you’re worth the trouble, and in doing so you’re also warding off depression. Being conscious of why you’re making this effort is so important.
Keeping a small self-care ‘tool kit’ in either your car or handbag might work for you. A beautiful bag filled with small luxury products such as perfume, lip balm, hand cream and essential oil might make some people feel pampered. Meditating in front of a light changing humidifier may do it for others. An act of self-care can be as simple as making yourself a pot of tea in a beautiful tea pot while fully engaging in the experience, being mindful of the pleasure this gives you. Even when carrying out completely essential tasks such as taking off make up or cleaning teeth, it’s a good habit to do these things with more care while being mindful that you’re looking after yourself.
We need to be aware of the difference between self-care and over indulgence, although there is sometimes a fine line between the two. Essentially though, self-care should make us feel good for some time after the act. Over indulgence comes with negative consequences. Mindfully eating delicious and nourishing food will generally make us feel good afterwards, this is practicing self-care. When eating a family bar of chocolate, we may consider we’re treating ourselves, however it’s not a treat likely to make us feel good once we’ve finished eating and is likely to make us feel worse in the long term. Similarly, while buying a lip balm that we’ll enjoy using may be a demonstration of self-care, spending more than we can afford on ‘retail therapy’ will be unlikely to be long-term beneficial. Self-care will feel good long-term, over indulgence won’t have this effect.
It almost seems too simple, can carefully applying lip balm while remembering you’re doing this because you’re worth it really fight low moods? The answer is yes it really can! Whatever your starting point, there’s always more you can do to take care of yourself. Women often struggle to prioritise themselves, but when you feel good, you’ll be able to give more to others as well as being an excellent role model to your children. Self-care really can be life-changing, it’s accessible to everyone, and even the smallest acts make a big difference. The way you treat yourself is more important to your self-worth than the way others treat you, and whereas you have little control over the behaviour of others, and no control of what happened in the past, you do have control of your thoughts and actions towards yourself now. And if your actions demonstrate self-worth, others are more likely to treat you well too.