Well, where to start?
Self care is, to me at least, a fairly recent concept, but my god it has made a difference in the way I cope with everyday life. When I was going through a fairly severe patch of depression a few years ago, I tended to look after myself pretty poorly, I would eat badly or not at all, exercise very little and let my living space turn into an absolute wreck. When I did look after myself I would scold myself for it afterwards, believing that I wasn’t worth being looked after or cared for. I think that part of what has helped me become better at coping with depression now is the way I look after myself, and let other people look after me when I am feeling bad. Whereas in the past I would have felt pretty guilty asking someone to meet up with me because I was feeling awful and needed to talk to someone, I now feel a lot more able to reach out, as i mentioned in my review of “The art of asking”, I think Amanda palmer had a bit of a hand in me learning the value to looking after yourself and asking for help, however having access to information online has also made a big difference, as I have been able to find definitions, techniques, and lots of people going through similar experiences to make me feel more educated and less alone.
The NHS describes self care as “looking after yourself in a healthy way”, and from this basic definition many people take self care in different directions. For example, to me, self care means making sure I eat healthily, exercise, keep up with personal hygiene, see people who influence me in a positive way, and acknowledge and work on my emotional and mental health. However this is only one definition, and I do not claim for one moment that my way is the best way or the only way. I have seen several people on the internet criticising other peoples methods of self care, saying “uurgh just taking a bath isn’t self care gheezus you’re just spoilt with all your bloody bath bombs”, and I think this attitude is really pretty unhelpful. If something helps someone cope with their life and doesn’t hurt anyone else or themselves, let it be. And if someone else’s self care methods would make you feel worse, don’t use them! There is no right or wrong way to practice self care, and while some people’s self care methods may be a bit more ‘pampering’ and a bit less essential, all of them are valid.
If your self care means making sure you keep up with your personal hygiene even when you can hardly get out of bed, that is valid.
If your self care means taking 3 baths a week with fancy bath bombs (as long as you’re not making yourself bankrupt in your bath bomb purchasing), that is valid.
If it keeps you going and makes you feel a little better, it is valid.
There is nothing wrong with feeling depressed or sad, however I think it is so important to try and find coping strategies for difficult events and ways to understand and cope with difficult feelings.
I will almost definitely be writing more about this at some point, but for now, here are a few resources that might be of help to anyone new to self care: