Self-care in lockdown
Self-care has never been more important
Suffering lockdown, worrying about finances, home schooling, concerns about health, isolation from support networks, spending even more time holed up with an abusive partner, these are challenging times for many people – good self-care has never been more crucial.
The challenges we’re facing currently will lead to low mood and depression in many. To get through it with the least trauma possible, we need to prioritise self-care. Self-care is the enemy of low moods – when we practise 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 ourselves that we are worthy of attention and care. We’re also
giving this message to those around us that we deserve to be treated with kindness and respect.
Self-care is the actions we take to look after ourselves, physically, emotionally and mentally.
It incorporates looking after our health by exercising and eating well, ensuring we get good-
quality 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 counting
our blessings. It might be that counselling would help. Reviewing our friends can also 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 practising this
mindfulness, we’re doing something for ourselves and improving our emotional health in the
process, which is arguably the most important area in our wellbeing.
Looking after our physical health not only makes us feel worthy by the very fact we’re doing something for ourselves, but it will also make us feel physically better. Experiencing lockdown is challenging but by exercising, we’re telling ourselves that we matter, we’re taking time for ourselves and 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. Thankfully we are still allowed a daily dose of outdoor exercise, it’s a shame not to use it. Joe Wicks has inspired many people to get active at 9am every morning, this might be the ideal feelgood boost to start your day.
Eating well is another important part of self-care relating to physical health. It could be that treating yourself to a cake 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 makes us healthier, makes us look and feel better and adds to our sense of positivity. Eating well, as with all other self-care practices, is more beneficial 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 going for a walk, painting nails, candlelit baths, reading, playing music, taking an online course or decluttering a sock 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’ 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.
However, we need to be aware of the difference between self-care and overindulgence,
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. Overindulgence comes with negative
consequences. Mindfully eating delicious and nourishing food will generally make us feel
good for longer afterwards – this is practising self-care. When eating a family bar of
chocolate, we may consider we’re treating ourselves, but 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’ is unlikely to be beneficial in the long
term. Self-care will feel good in the long term; overindulgence 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, particularly when home teaching is added to their daily tasks, but when you feel good, you’ll be able to give more to others as well as 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; whereas you have little control over the behaviour of others, and no control over what happened in the past, you do have control over your thoughts and actions towards yourself now. And if your actions show you are treating yourself well, others are more likely to treat you well, too.
Broxtowe Women’s Project are still supporting those affected by Domestic Abuse in Nottinghamshire. If you are experiencing Domestic Abuse or are affected by past Domestic Abuse, we are here to support you. You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call our mobile support line – 07914 634190.
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